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Military Surgery 1300-1600 -Review

Military Surgery: 1300-1600
Caution, surgery operations are of two kinds, those which benefit the patient and those which usually kill him

By Jonathon Davies & Michael Harbinson

There are some excellent in-depth medieval surgery titles out there, such as
The Major Surgery of Guy De Chauliac, but for those who just want a quick, painless overview of the subject, there’s Davies and Harbinson’s Military Surgery: 1300-1600. At under $15, this punchy little pamphlet from Stuart Press, of Green Valley fame, weighs in at just 25 pages from title to bibliography.

What is there is excellent. It’s too short to go into great detail but that also means that there’s little waffle. Every sentence is an economical and useful slice through the topic.

There are brief descriptions of the various tools used by medieval surgeons, the various types of surgery that were performed, and the various types of wounds that a military surgeon might see. Burns, bruising and fractures are all covered.

Being focused on military surgery particularly, the kind of medical services available to soldiers is considered, and the type of wounds they sustained from the evolving weapons of the medieval battlefield. We follow the development of diagnosis and treatment as armour piercing infantry weapons, then firearms became commonplace.

This pamphlet is too basic for anyone already well studied in surgery or medieval military wounds, but it is an excellent primer. There’s no shortage of blood-curdling detail and grim realities of the horrors of medieval warfare for the curious, without gratuity.
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Hildegard Von Bingen’s Physica – Review

Hildegard Von Bingen’s Physica
Translated from the Latin by Priscialla Throop.

It can be hard, as a re-enactor interested in cosmetics and herbal medicine to find texts on how people in past healed themselves and adorned themselves with cosmetics. We know that they did. Wanting to appear beautiful is an old human concept. But some traditions appear to have been verbal, passed down in stories from parent to child. And more are written either in the medieval language or in Latin – even then known as the scientific language.

Hildegard Von Bingen’s Physica, is one written in Latin. It was written in the 15th Century and describes in great detail what plants were good for healing. There’s not much actual cosmetic use within the book, it’s about healing. While the plants uses could still be applied today, it also uses the medieval concept of the humors in the description (For instance, Calendular is referred to as cold and moist. It’s used as a way to heal scabies and calendular today is known for it’s properties in healing skin issues.)We sell a calendula ointment, based on a different medieval text, that’s quite good for skin issues. Calendula Ointment

For anyone interested in Medieval herbs and healing, this is a must have book to add to the collection.

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[tabs] [tab title=”Publishers Blurb”] Saint, mystic, healer, visionary, fighter, Hildegard von Bingen stands as one of the great figures in the history of women in me. At a time when few women could write and most were denied a formal education, Hildegard von Bingen became a legendary healer, visionary, musician, artist, poet, and saint. Her works include twenty-seven symphonic compositions; Scivias, a compilation of her visions; and her two major medical works, Causae et Curae, a medical compendium, and Physica, published here in English in its entirety for the first time. Physicahas a strong affinity with the Eastern medical approaches gaining great respect today. The modern reader interested in natural healing will recognize the enormous truth in the theories of this 12th-century physician, which remind us that our cures for illness depend on our natural world and our place in it. [/tab] [/tabs]

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The Medieval Kitchen – Review

The Medieval Kitchen, Recipes from France and Italy

Odile Redon, Franciose Sabban & Silvano Serventi

[dropcap style=”no-background”] T [/dropcap]he Medieval Kitchen is a collection of recipes from 14th and 15th French and Italian sources.?It separates the recipes into the various categories – Soups, pasta, meats cooked in sauce, pies etc. This?makes it a lot easier for a cook who knows what kind of food they want to cook, but not what exactly they want to cook.

Each recipe has a modern English translation and the original source text. There is often a brief explanation to put the dish in context and explanation of?any unusual words that don’t have a straight translation..

The redactions are quite good and Redon et al take care to provide the most typical version of?recipes when more than one source has a version.
They have also made things a bit easier on themselves by choosing not to show some recipes which are particularly jarring to modern sensibilities (like a?sweet creamy dessert made with fish broth – ick!) but the redactions that they have provided are all simple and straightforward and they work reliably. I would still recommend Pleyn Delight over The Medieval Kitchen for a beginning cook but The Medieval Kitchen is a good one for cooks looking to try dishes slightly more exotic. Like Pleyn Delight, The Medieval Kitchen provides easy alternatives to ingredients that the modern supermarket is unlikely to stock.

My all time favourite recipe is one I first found in this book. Haricot of Lamb. Originally from Le M?nagier de Paris, this is a fairly simple lamb recipe (well, mutton. ?You can’t really buy mutton any more though, ?only lamb. Delicious, tender lamb.) with only a few other ingredients. That makes it an easier dish?to cook on a campfire and the simplicity can be a very?welcome change to some of the other more involved recipes.

There are some colour pages in the middle showing various cooks in manuscripts miniatures. I use my copy a lot and these colour pages have now fallen out as the glue couldn’t keep up with my use. So some care should be taken here.

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[tabs] [tab title=”Publishers Blurb”] The Medieval Kitchen is a delightful work in which historians Odile Redone, Fran?oise Sabbon and Silvano Serventi rescue from dark obscurity the glorious cuisine of the Middle Ages. Medieval gastronomy turns out to have been superb- a wonderful m?lange of flavour, aroma, and colour. The recipes are expertly reconstructed from 14th and century sources and carefully adapted to suit the modern kitchen. The Medieval Kitchen vividly depicts the context and tradition of authentic medieval cookery [/tab] [/tabs]

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Cooking & Dining in Medieval England – Review

Cooking & Dining in Medieval England – Peter Brears


Ah Brears. Brears, Brears, Brears. This is my all time favourite cooking book. While it helps that the time period I re-enact is 14th Century English and this book is bang on for what I do, it is also a fantastic resource.

While I recommend Pleyn Delight to beginning cooks and those who just want recipes, Cooking and Dining is the one I recommend to anyone wanting a bit more depth and knowledge to their medieval cooking. Brears goes through all aspects of cooking and dining, describing in detail the places where cooking and dining happened and separating out by categories of food. The Dairy, the brewhouse, the bakehouse, the pastry, the kitchen etc. Brears goes through each one detailing finds and written sources to bring the areas to life.


Although it has recipes, it is not a recipe book. Brears does not provide the original transcript of the recipe before his redaction but does have a comprehensive bibliography. (Which is an excellent place to find the primary sources) and the recipes make up only a small fraction of this book. First and foremost it is one of the most knowledgable books about all aspects of cooking and dining and is a good information source to anyone wanting to take their medieval cooking to the next level.

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[tabs] [tab title=”Publishers Description”] This new work by Peter Brears, perhaps Britain’s foremost expert on the historical kitchen, looks at these important elements of cooking and dining. A series of chapters looks at the cooking departments in large households: the counting house, dairy, brewhouse, pastry, boiling house and kitchen. These are illustrated by architectural perspectives of surviving examples in castles and manor houses throughout the land. There are chapters dealing with the various sorts of kitchen equipment: fires, fuel, pots and pans. Sections are then devoted to recipes and types of food cooked. The recipes are those which have been used and tested by Peter Brears in hundreds of demonstrations to the public and cooking for museum displays. Finally there are chapters on the service of dinner and the rituals that grew up around these. Here, Peter Brears has drawn a strip cartoon of the serving of a great feast (the washing of hands, the delivery of napery, the tasting for poison, etc.) which will be of permanent utility to historical re-enactors who wish to get their details right. [/tabs]