Explore early modern ideas, values, and experiences through the lens of health and healing with this robust bibliographic database of English-language medical texts published from 1480 to 1700.

Search or Browse the Corpus

Search by keyword, and explore by genre, topic, and more.

Data Visualizations

Interactive tools for exploring the Reading Early Medicine data.

Explore Visualizations

Adding Context

Greate Herball title page

Health and healing encompass many aspects of the human condition — we all get born, live in our bodies, get sick, and ultimately die. Medical works provide moments of high drama, as in epidemics, and quieter ones, as when a midwife sits for hours by the bed of a laboring woman.

Reading individual sufferers’ experiences creates an immediacy that makes the distant past real. Seeing how healers treated patients at the bedside provokes reflections upon clinical encounters today. Understanding a society’s responses to epidemics tells us much about values and politics.

Medical works provide context and insight into figures of speech and twists of the plot; to say “a plague on you” was a powerful curse when that ailment carried off thousands in a matter of days. Such texts are crucial primary sources for analyzing gender, sex, and the body in the past, especially in the early modern period when healers’ medical knowledge was often not so very different from that of their patients.

Contextual Content

Essays exploring historical context in early medicine

Classroom exercises to support teaching with Reading Early Medicine

We may include selected student work from classes taught using REM. Please contact us for more information.