Medicine: The Middle Ages

In GCSE History, the world of medicine and the advancements that have been made over time, is one subject that is looked at. One period studied is that of the Middle Ages.

The collapse of the Roman Empire damaged medicine, but Islamic scholars, for example, continued to develop medical knowledge and techniques both in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world. Medical schools flourished in continental Europe, in the latter part of the Middle Ages, but the profession was wrong-footed by the arrival of the Black Death.

See how much you know about the world of medicine in the Middle Ages by playing this quiz.

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  1. Which city in Southern Spain became a major centre of Islamic scholarship, including the study of medicine?
    Much of Spain was under Muslim control until the fifteenth century
  2. Surgeons were, for a long time, combined with another profession. Which one?
    The prevalence of warfare encouraged developments in surgery
  3. Which drink was used as an antiseptic in the Middle Ages, especially in the cleaning of wounds?
    The application of strong drink was painful, but medical practitioners swore by it
  4. Christianity had its own explanations for illness. What advice did priests typically give the sick?
    The advice of the Church rarely involved doctors or medicine
  5. Which of the following "causes" of the plague is the most plausible?
    Ignorance of the precise causes of the Black Death explains to a large extent the huge death toll
  6. Which of the following European cities was famous for its university medical faculty from the thirteenth century?
    It was common for students from one country to study in another before returning home to practise
  7. When the Romans left Britain around 410 AD, medicine suffered a severe setback. Villas were often covered up by the remaining Ancient Britons. What was the main reason why they did this?
    Three of these possible reasons concern water supply and sewerage systems, a speciality of the Romans that was lost for centuries after their downfall
  8. What proportion of Europe's population was killed by the Black Death from 1348-1349?
    There was no cure for the plague. Most of the remedies applied from time to time were either useless or downright harmful
  9. The French and English monarchs were believed to have curative powers when they touched subjects ("touching for the King's Evil"). Which skin ailment was this practice said to cure?
    The practice survived into the eighteenth century, but it was not followed in Scotland. James I was taken aback by it when he travelled down to London to claim the English throne in 1603
  10. Which Roman medical scientist of Greek extraction was influential in medieval Europe, on account of his numerous published works, and his theories on the need for clinical observation, dissection and the need to maintain a balance among the four humours?
    The books were widely translated, and remained standard texts for centuries

Author: Edward Towne

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