October 1, 1997

Health and Healing in Eighteenth-Century Germany

Author Affiliations

University of California San Francisco


by Mary Lindemann, 506 pp, with illus, $49.95, ISBN 0-8018-5281-1, Baltimore, Md, The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996.

JAMA. 1997;278(13):1121-1122. doi:10.1001/jama.1997.03550130095047

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Medical history has shifted focus from the accomplishments of great doctors and nurses to a closer examination of the cultural context in which all health-related activities necessarily take place.

The view "from below" prominently involves patients and their families as well as less formal healing networks populated by individuals often branded as opportunistic quacks or magicians.

This form of cultural history is difficult to research and write. It requires extensive archival research and an open mind, ready to jettison some of the most cherished preconceptions held by contemporary practitioners of the craft. Lindemann's study centers on the north German duchy of Braunschweig-Wolfenbuttel during the 18th century, but her conclusions address broader issues in European and medical history. Her multiple sources are mostly individual narratives of illness and healing, collected for bureaucratic reasons from parish records, case histories, and investigations of quacks. In a reflection of corporate mentality derived from the