Marilyn Nicoud

Health, sickness and healing. The ideas of doctors and the viewpoints of patients

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Health, sickness and healing are apparently simple terms that turn out to be more complicated than they first appear. Today health almost seems to be imagined in a sphere removed from the medical profession. In the past, however, doctors struggled to provide a definition or, better, to define what were called «states of health». Focusing on late-medieval Italy, this essay aims to understand how these various notions were thought about and represented by both experts and patients. Through examining medical texts as well as practical documents (letters, diaries, and notarial contracts), the goal is to recover how various levels of knowledge circulated. This knowledge could constitute an object of appropriation within a relationship in which the power of a doctor, linked to his mastery of a specific form of knowing, was often limited by his position as an «employee» of a paying patient.

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