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Mummies, Cannibals and Vampires: the History of Corpse Medicine from the Renaissance to the Victorians Hardcover – August 9, 2011
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'This book is full of rich detail, making you both recoil and yet read on, fascinated by our ancestors’ imaginative ways to try and heal the sick. ' – Cotswold History Blog
"I do not write this lightly - Mummies, Cannibals and Vampires: the History of Corpse Medicine from the Renaissance to the Victorians is one of the most eye-opening and phenomenal books I have ever read. It is incredibly well researched, well written and states the case of medicinal cannibalism throughout the ages with great detail and reference. There is no other book like it and I feel so fortunate to have it upon my shelf...It would be a fantastic book to accompany a college class of the same subject." - Amazon.com Customer Review, 5 Stars
"Sugg's book offers iteself as a 'history' of corpse medicine. Though it is the work of a well-known literary scholar, Mummies, Cannibals and Vampires invokes imaginative writing only to augment the evidence it draws from medical and scientific texts... Sugg's interest in corpse medicine reaches well beyond mumia to inspect all those strange concoctions of human tissue and waste favoured by early modern pharmacology"– Michael Neill, London Review of Books.
Top Customer Reviews
Some may find the writing style dry, as the subject matter must be backed up with lengthy references, but it is worth reading through to get to the evidence - which is a revelation for anyone who is a lover of history. It would be a fantastic book to accompany a college class of the same subject.
Drinking human blood, snorting powdered human skull, suspending a thieves' finger in a barrel of ale, birthing straps made from tanned human skin, pressing the spiced human loam of mummies into open wounds - yes, it happened and Richard Sugg has exhaustively referenced these shocking yet common cures of the past.
But why? Why would someone think that drinking the blood of a freshly beheaded person would cure them of epilepsy? Richard Sugg answers that too, explaining the past's cultural belief of the spirit and body in such a way that I completely understood it. With the church forbidding any delve into the science of the body, it was only natural that even the most educated people of the day would believe all kinds of far-fetched things about our anatomy and in turn, how to treat disease and sickness.
Surely, this is a book not to be missed for anyone who is a lover of history.
Highlights for me include:
The origin of the word "mummy".Read more ›
As I wrote in my review of Emily Cockayne's `Hubbub: Filth, Noise and Stench in England, 1600-1770,' there is something singularly off-putting about commercially published works that started life as postgraduate dissertations. What puts one off is the apparently irresistible urge of an author to include every scintilla of data collected during the research process and then flog it to an inch of its useful informative life.
Although Sugg does not acknowledge any such genesis, the hallmarks are, in my opinion, unmistakable. The entire book reads like a footnote. Dense, repetitive, and intrusively speculative, the narrative time and again evidences the author's refusal to let the story tell itself. And just so there's no doubt about the research required to produce it, there follows seventy (70) pages of endnotes. Good gracious.
In short, the inherent story holds great promise which the author manages to squelch. Let me give you some alternatives. If you would like to read about the history of British medicine, and medicine in general for that matter, try the several masterful survey treatments by the late, and much lamented, Dr. Roy Porter. If you're intrigued (and who isn't?) by the appallingly filthy living conditions of our forebears (a section of the book Sugg actually manages with some dexterity), give a look to Katherine Ashenburg's wonderful `The Dirt on Clean: An Unsanitized History.'
As for `Mummies,' two stars for the research, none for the, uh, dissertation.