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March 13, 1987

Patients and Practitioners: Lay Perceptions of Medicine in Pre-Industrial Society

Author Affiliations

Temple University Philadelphia

Temple University Philadelphia

JAMA. 1987;257(10):1397-1398. doi:10.1001/jama.1987.03390100135041

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This is a series of 11 studies, all but two of which focus on England in the 17th and 18th centuries. (One contribution is concerned with classical antiquity and another with traditional Arabic medicine.) The studies are based on diverse sources, examine different individuals and communities, and analyze separate fragments of a larger question—the interplay of health, culture, and society. Although diverse, the studies share a common goal: the understanding of health, sickness, and therapy from the perspective of the patient and the layman.

This is not a book in which physicians command center stage. Even Galen is reduced to the status of a minor sycophant. Indeed, it is a central theme of this volume that physicians in preindustrial societies—and healers in general—appeared and served only at the beck and call of patients and their families. In these studies, the laity take an active and, at times, dominant role in