Unlike previous encyclopedic works about this subject that deal broadly with infectious disease and its social or historical contexts, including the author's own, this interdisciplinary work synthesizes much of the research on the plague and related medical history published in the last decade in accessible, compellingly written entries. Controversial subject areas such as whether "plague" was bubonic plague and the geographic source of plague are treated in a balanced and unbiased manner.
Joseph P. Byrne, PhD, is an historian and professor of honors humanities at Belmont University, Nashville, TN.
The entries in this two-volume set are organized into 10 sections of 25 alphabetically listed entries each. Among the broad sections are art, fashion, family and gender, food and drink, housing and community, politics, recreation and social customs, and war. The "See Also" sources for each article are listed by section for easy reference, a feature that students and researchers will greatly appreciate. The extensive collection of contemporary documents include selections from a diary, letters, a travel journal, a merchant's inventory, Inquisition testimony, a metallurgical handbook, and text by an artist that describes what the author feels constitutes great work. Each of the primary source documents accompanies a specific article and provides an added dimension and degree of insight to the material.
Examining the medical systems of Europe, Asia, Africa, and the colonial world, this comprehensive study covers a wide array of topics including education and training of medical professionals and the interaction of faith, religion, and medicine. The book looks specifically at issues related to women's health and the health of infants and children, at infectious diseases and occupational and environmental hazards, and at brain and mental disorders. Chapters also focus on advances in surgery, dentistry, and orthopedics, and on the apothecary and his pharmacopoeia.