Individual Artists

History and the Social Web by August C. Krey

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By August C. Krey

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The British Isles were hardest hit but only a little more than western France, Italy, and eastern Germany. Thus was inaugurated the iron age of feudalism, which lasted for nearly two centuries, from 850 to about 1050. Such medicine as was practiced was strictly of the homemade variety—obstetrics and pediatrics being the concern of the older women, the wise women of the neighborhood, and surgery done by the man in the community most skillful with a knife. " A few rays of light began to appear in this darkest part of the Middle Ages toward the second half of the tenth century.

The diet of most persons was little above the starvation level most of the time, and since each neighborhood was chronically at war with every other neighborhood that touched it there was no commerce. The sword and battle-ax were the chief, almost the only, medium of exchange in all transactions whether of land, possessions, family relations, or personal grievances. No records were kept. Any help that experience might give was confined to the oral transmission between three generations, grandparents to grandchildren at the most.

There was no organized profession of medicine. There were no medical schools. The books were still there but the only persons who could read them were the clergy, and their intellectual interests were directed toward theology. But people still suffered illness and needed help. Gregory the Great, unquestionably the most highly educated man in Italy at this time, was elected pope in the midst of an epidemic which had carried off his predecessor. Almost his first act was to order the people to repair to the churches to pray for divine intervention and the faithful to march in religious procession to the various shrines in the city.

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