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History of Medicine

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Title: History of Medicine (All That Matters series)

Author: Tim Hall

Publisher: Hodder and Stoughton

Reviewer: Jane Brocksom. urology/continence nurse specialist at Leeds teaching Hospitals trust.

What was it like?

Don’t let the size put you off, apparently “good things come in small packages”. This book packs a real punch, a rapid romp through the Ages - from antiquity & darkness to Ages of “early modern” medicine, to modern medicine through to the Age of today.

Opening the book and in 45 minutes I had gone from Mesopotamia, Egypt, India, China, Greece, America’s and wider Europe: Covered Arabic, Islam and Christianity: Spent time with cows & fleas and plagues & witches: From Physicians to Pharmacy, hospitals to public health, microbiology to anaesthesia  and onto surgeons. Phew……….. I was left breathless!

The book is written in a great relaxed and informative style by an NHS consultant wildly travelled and with a diverse medical career.

What were the highlights? 

Far too many to mention - “without cows civilisation might not have survived at all” Yep it’s full of such facts and quirky interesting information. Plus it has the wonderful Sir Quentin Blake illustrative cartoons, illustrating the nuances of medicine. How has modern medicine developed? From classical Greek, French and Latin language? To the inclusion of the 4 humours? Syphilis too gets plenty of mentions! On to characters like St Benedict of Nursia? James Phipps? John Hunter? I could go on…

100 ideas end the book, I pick just one list, “obviously” five nurses - which are - matron, staff nurse, specialist nurse, healthcare assistant and finally…. nurse shark? Yep! It’s a wonderful quirky book. Here’s one more nugget for you – Bathing? Marie Antoinette & Elizabeth I bathed once a month, Louis XIV went most of his life without….. And infections were everywhere, people stank everywhere.

The prevailing view - Where everybody stank, nobody stank……

Strengths & weaknesses?

Minor annoyances - no bibliography and references, no contact details for the author or social media contact details.

Biggest strengths - I didn’t find it a descriptive read or a dry read, a wonderful eclectic and catholic mix of information. Pocket size, easily picked up and carried for moments of reading. A wonderful quirky, concise and humorous read.

Who should read it?

I suppose it will interest those more inclined to historical reading, which is a shame as it should appeal to anyone who enjoys reading, its relaxed style gives you foundation upon which to base further reading and exploring. It does remind me of John O’Farrell’s book “An Utterly Impartial History of Britain”. It has humour, historical facts and most of all an interesting subject matter.


History of Medicine

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