Heal Thyself: Nicholas Culpeper and the Seventeenth-Century Struggle to Bring Medicine to the People

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Harper Collins, Jun 29, 2004 - Biography & Autobiography - 402 pages
3 Reviews

The first full biography of Nicholas Culpeper, the English seventeenth-century pioneer of herbal medicine whose actions and beliefs revolutionized medicine and medical practice

In the mid-seventeenth century, England was visited by the four horsemen of the apocalypse: a civil war that saw levels of slaughter not matched until the Somme; famine in a succession of failed harvests that reduced peasants to "anatomies"; epidemics to rival the Black Death; and infant mortality rates that emptied crowded households of their children. In the midst of these terrible times came Nicholas Culpeper's Herbal -- one of the most popular and enduring books ever published.

Culpeper was a virtual outcast from birth. Rebelling against a tyrannical grandfather and the prospect of a life in the Church, he abandoned his university education after a doomed attempt at elopement. Disinherited, he went to London, Milton's "city of refuge, the mansion house of liberty." There he was to find his vocation as an herbalist -- and as a revolutionary.

London's medical regime was then in the grip of the College of Physicians, a powerful body personified in the "immortal" William Harvey, anatomist, royal physician and discoverer of the circulation of the blood. Working in the underground world of religious sects, secret printing presses and unlicensed apothecary shops, Culpeper challenged this stronghold at the time it was reaching the very pinnacle of its power -- and in the process became part of the revolution that toppled a monarchy.

In a spellbinding narrative of impulse, romance and heroism, Benjamin Woolley vividly re-creates these momentous struggles and the roots of today's hopes and fears about the power of medical science, professional institutions and government. Heal Thyself tells the story of a medical rebel who took on the authorities and paid the price.


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Heal thyself: Nicholas Culpeper and the Seventeenth Century struggle to bring medicine to the people

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

Chances are, there's a version of Nicholas Culpeper's CompleteHerbal on your library's shelves. In well over 300 years, it has never been out of print. But check an encyclopedia, and you will find at ... Read full review

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Melancholy Thistle
Rosa Solis or SunDew
Bryony or Wild Vine
Lesser Celandine Pilewort
Arrach Wild Stinking

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Popular passages

Page 272 - England, in parliament assembled, being chosen by, and representing, the people, have the supreme power in this nation : . . . that whatsoever is enacted, or declared for law, by the commons, in parliament assembled, hath the force of law; and all the people of this nation are concluded thereby, although the consent and concurrence of king, or house of peers be not had thereunto'.
Page 381 - A physicall directory: or, A translation of the London dispensatory made by the Colledge of Physicians In London.
Page 191 - Gentlemen, I am sorry for this occasion of coming unto you. Yesterday I sent a sergeant-at-arms, upon a very important occasion, to apprehend some that, by my command, were accused of high treason, whereunto I did expect obedience, and not a message...
Page 277 - To be put to death by the severing of his head from his body...
Page 228 - Peace, and would passionately profess, 'that the very agony of the war, and the view of the calamities and desolation the kingdom did and must endure, took his sleep from him, and would shortly break his heart'.
Page 35 - ... common artificers, as smiths, weavers, and women, boldly and accustomably take upon them great cures, and things of great difficulty, in the which they partly use sorcery and witchcraft...
Page 381 - A Physical Directory ; Or a Translation of the Dispensatory Made by the College of Physitians of London, And by them imposed upon all the Apothecaries of England to make up their Medicines by.

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About the author (2004)

Benjamin Woolley is an award-winning writer and broadcaster. He is the author of the best-selling The Queen's Conjuror: The Life and Magic of Dr. John Dee and Heal Thyself: Nicholas Culpeper and the Civil War for the Heart of Medicine in Seventeenth-Century England. His first book, Virtual Worlds, was short-listed for the Rhône-Poulenc Prize and has been translated into eight languages. His second work, The Bride of Science, examined the life of Ada Lovelace, Lord Byron's daughter. He has written and presented documentaries for the BBC on subjects ranging from the fight for liberty during the English Civil War to the end of the Space Age. He has won the Arts Journalist of the Year Award and an Emmy for his commentary for Discovery's Three Minutes to Impact. He lives in London.

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