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Medicine in the Medieval West - HIST 356

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  • Christopher [dot] Lyons [at] mcgill [dot] ca (Email) 514-398-4475 x09847
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Reference Sources (Encyclopedias/Dictionaries)


  • Dorland's Illustrated Medical Dictionary This is a good source for information about medical terminology. If you can't find a term in it, or need more information, try Oxford Reference Online or Xreferplus.
  • Cambridge Historical Dictionary of Disease. This reference work has detailed entries for 161 diseases, describing both their histories and characteristics.
  • Dictionary of Medical Biography. This work has over 1,000 entries of practioners, primarily in the western medical tradition, but also including those in alternative and traditional Chinese, Indian and Islamic medicine.
  • Encyclopedia of the Middle Ages Published by Oxford University Press, this is a good source for information about the Middle Ages. There are more than 3 000 articles focusing on Medieval Europe. Information from a greater variety of sources, such as general history, medicine and the sciences, can be found in Oxford Reference Online.
  • Oxford Reference Online This source searches multiple reference books, providing definitions and brief information in medicine, history and other fields of knowledge, drawing upon works such as the Oxford Companion to the Body and the Encyclopedia of the Middle Ages. This resource can be searched in total or by specific subject areas or individual works.
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    • The Cambridge World History of Human Disease. Osler Ref folio QZ 11.1 C178 1993
      Introductory essays on medical history plus essays on various medical topics (e.g. public health, specific diseases) which include the classical period. Entries have bibliographies.
    • Companion Encyclopedia of the History of Medicine. Osler Ref WZ 13 C737 1993. This work has many good essays with bibliographies.
    • A Dictionary of the History of Medicine. Osler Ref folio WZ 13 S443d 1999
      Short entries on individuals, diseases, movements and medical terminology for all historical periods written for the layperson.
    • Encyclopedia of Plague and Pestilence: from Ancient Times to the Present. Osler Ref folio WA 13 E565 2001
      Epidemics listed alphabetically, but also indexed by area and chronologically.
    • Medieval Science, Technology and Medicine: An Encyclopedia Osler Ref folio WZ 13 M4895 2005; Humanities and Social Sciences Ref Q124.97 M43 2005. An excellent reference source. Entries include bibliographies.

    Article Indexes and Databases

    History of Medicine

    • History of Science, Technology and Medicine (HSTM) The HSTM database, from the Research Libraries Group, provides access to journal articles, conference proceedings, books, book reviews, and dissertations in the history of medicine and allied fields, science and technology.

      NOTE Most of the medical entries date from 1991 to 2004, so to locate earlier works on the history of medicine it is best to consult the Subject Catalogue of the History of Medicine and Related Subjects (Osler Ref folio ZW 1 W447s 1980 - 18 volumes), published by the Wellcome Library, for the period 1900-1978. Material from 1979-1991, and a great deal more, can be found in the The Wellcome Library online catalogue, which contains records for books, journals, reports, pamphlets, theses, patents and images.

    • MEDLINE Produced by the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM), MEDLINE is a major bibliographic index of journal articles covering the fields of medicine, nursing, dentistry, veterinary medicine, and the pre-clinical sciences going back to before 1950, including some historical articles. One can limit a search to material specifically about the history of medicine.

    General History and Related

    • Humanities Full Text (Wilson). Humanities Full Text indexes a wide range of historical material, including Medieval history. Older material (published before 1984) can be found by selecting Humanities and Social Sciences Index Retrospective in the database selection area.
    • International Medieval Bibliography. This database indexes articles from 4 500 periodicals, plus essays in collections and conference proceedings. It has over 300 000 citations of material on Medieval Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. It is particulary good for finding recent material. NOTE: there can only be three simultaneous users so you may experience delays getting on.
    • Iter: Gateway to the Middle Ages and Renaissance. Contains close to one million citations to books, articles, essays and conference proceedings dealing with the period from 400 to 1700.
    • Web of Knowledge Web of Knowledge allows for searching for articles by topic, author, source title, and/or author address, as well as by cited author and/or cited work. Citations are drawn primarily from science publications going back to 1900, but more recent social science and humanities references are included.

    Book Review Indexes

    In addition to book reviews you may find in historical databases, it is recommended that you look for more complete lists in the indexes below:


    • McGill University's WorldCat Library Catalogue lists almost all of the printed holdings in the various branches of the McGill Library, as well as electronic, microform and audio-visual material.
    • LocatorPlus This is the catalogue of the National Library of Medicine in the United States, containing records of books, book chapters (individual essays) and audiovisual material.

    Directory of Websites

    • MedHist, a searchable index of medical history websites maintained by the Wellcome Library, organised by topic, period (including Medieval) and location. The sites contain such material as reproductions and translations of classical works, exhibitions and e-journals.

    Historical Medical Images

    • Images from the History of Medicine There are nearly 60 000 scans of images in this database from the collection of the History of Medicine Division of the National Library of Medicine.
    • Index of Medieval Medical Images and the Graphic IMMI This searchable databases contains references and scans of digital images found in Medieval medical manuscripts held in North American libraries. Images are accompanied with a greater than usual amount of explanatory text.
    • Wellcome Images The Wellcome Trust has scans of over 160 000 historical and contemporary images. Use Advanced Search to look specifically for historical images.

    Other Useful Information

    More information on Medieval History

    Guide to Turabian Citation Style


    Library Information


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