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‘A doctor in the house’? The context for Anselm of Canterbury’s interest in medicine with reference to a probable case of malaria

Gasper, G.



This paper discusses the nature of Anselm of Canterbury’s interest in medicine, an interest that has been noticed in passing before but never properly explored. The evidence comes mainly from the 1070s and 1080s when he was prior of the abbey of Bec in Normandy. His interest consistently arose from the duties and responsibilities of community life. It is in part a textual interest revealed by requests for medical books from Canterbury. It is also related to a dynamic web of monastic relations between Canterbury and Bec bound together by friendship. Anselm’s letters reveal a deep concern for the physical well-being of members of his community and his practical medical care is noted. A letter detailing symptoms of two monks sent to him from Canterbury exemplifies this. One of the cases is highly suggestive of malaria. This not only demonstrates the clarity of Anselm’s observations, but also is significant evidence in its own right for the history of malaria in Britain between the Anglo-Saxon period and the fourteenth century. Anselm’s interest in medicine lies on the cusp between theological thought and practical action. It also offers wider perspectives on the nature of monastic medical care and the theme of friendship in the eleventh and twelfth centuries.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Sep 1, 2004
Deposit Date Nov 4, 2008
Journal Journal of Medieval History
Print ISSN 1304-4184
Electronic ISSN 1873-1279
Publisher Taylor and Francis Group
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 30
Issue 3
Pages 245-261
Keywords Friendship, Malaria, Anselm, Canterbury, Bec, Monasticism.
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