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History

Renaissance doctors

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Medicine in Early Modern times was making some progress - but most people's doctors had little or no training.

Early physicians

The Early Modern Age saw advances in theory, but not in practice. The most advanced Early Modern physicians were usually town-based, and also:

  • were well educated and trained
  • did 'scientific' research
  • were prepared to contradict the accepted authority
  • disseminated their findings
  • relied on royal support
  • had limited success

However, they charged very high fees and only the richest people could afford them.

16th-century woodcut, depicting (right) medical treatment of a skin disease and (left) blood letting, by barber surgeons in a barber shop

16th-century woodcut, depicting (right) medical treatment of a skin disease and (left) blood letting, by barber surgeons in a barber shop

The medicine available to ordinary people relied on the amount they could afford. The people they turned to for medical advice included:

  • country doctors - lower fees than town doctors, but not well-trained
  • barber-surgeons - who were paid to perform small operations
  • apothecaries (chemists) - no medical training, but sold medicines and groceries
  • quacks - travelling barbers, tooth-pullers, who sold medicines which were supposed to cure everything
  • wise women, neighbours and local 'witches'

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