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Lessons from the past: preventive medicine in early modern England
  1. L Hill Curth
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr L Hill Curth, Department of History, University of Exeter, Amory Building, Rennes Drive, Exeter EX4 4RJ;


The history of English medicine used to consist of chronicles of medical progress and great ideas culminating in twentieth century biomedicine. Unlike earlier generations whose medical beliefs and practices were seen to be both futile and dangerous, modern medicine was thought to be able to eradicate illness with a “magic bullet”. During the later part of the 20th century, however, the general public began to have doubts about the efficacy and safety of modern medicine. In turn, both the institution of medicine and the biomedical model began to be challenged by the media. These events led to a spreading desire for people to take a greater responsibility for their own health. One of the areas of greatest interest and growth is that of preventive medicine which focuses on a good diet and exercise. Far from being a new concept, however, the idea of a daily health “regimen” goes back to the ancient Greece and was further developed during the Middle Ages, and by the early modern period (1500–1800).

  • complementary medicine
  • early modern medicine
  • Galenic medicine
  • health regimen
  • non-naturals
  • preventive medicine

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