Medical Texts in Old English

Historical Context Essay

Debby Banham (University of Cambridge)
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England was unique in western Europe in having a medical literature in its own tongue in the early middle ages. Why this should be is not clear, but there is probably a connection with the programme of translation from Latin to Old English conducted under the aegis of King Alfred (871–99). Like other early medieval medical texts, the Old English (OE) ones contain little original composition, but consist mainly of compilations and recompilations. Most of their contents, mainly recipes with some charms and prayers and a limited amount of theoretical material, go back ultimately, and in some cases immediately, to Latin sources, but there is also native Anglo-Saxon material in most of them. Apart from the major collections discussed here, medical material is also found in computistical…

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Citation: Banham, Debby. "Medical Texts in Old English". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 14 August 2009 [, accessed 08 December 2023.]

7187 Medical Texts in Old English 2 Historical context notes are intended to give basic and preliminary information on a topic. In some cases they will be expanded into longer entries as the Literary Encyclopedia evolves.

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