23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
Astounding and Incredibly Researched - A Fine Addition to a History Lover's Library
, December 22, 2011
This review is from: Mummies, Cannibals and Vampires: the History of Corpse Medicine from the Renaissance to the Victorians (Paperback)
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.
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".
Beautiful passages from plays that haven't been seen by audiences in 400 years.
Pope Innocent VIII - 16 illegitimate children *and* the bloody scene on your deathbed? Wow - go big or go home, I guess.
Beheadings and the crowd gathered to fill vessels with warm spirit-brimming blood. So many things - I didn't know epilepsy was such a problem, I'm fascinated by the spirits people thought roamed the body and I had no idea that Germanic bloodlust went back so many hundreds of years. Well - I guess not just the Germans - how about *everyone's* blood lust?
The entire chapter "Dirty History, Filthy Medicine" is astounding. It has also ruined any and all cinematic period pieces that I will ever watch, as I would constantly be pointing out the actor's white teeth, clean clothes, kempt hair and tidy homes. The daily living conditions documented in this book coaxed an audible reaction from me several times, but I couldn't put it down because I was so fascinated. Descriptions of the bones, feces, rubbish and dirt that scattered even the most stately manor floors completely changed my perception of the way people lived in the past.
King James I - you *filthy* bastard.
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