Systems of Classification in Premodern Medical Cultures puts historical disease concepts in cross-cultural perspective, investigating perceptions, constructions and experiences of health and illness from antiquity to the seventeenth century.

Focusing on the systematisation and classification of illness in its multiple forms, manifestations and causes, this volume examines case studies ranging from popular concepts of illness through to specialist discourses on it. Using philological, historical and anthropological approaches, the contributions cover perspectives across time from East Asian, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cultures, spanning ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece and Rome to Tibet and China. They aim to capture the multiplicity of disease concepts and medical traditions within specific societies, and to investigate the historical dynamics of stability and change linked to such concepts.

Providing useful material for comparative research, the volume is a key resource for researchers studying the cultural conceptualisation of illness, including anthropologists, historians and classicists, among others.

chapter |44 pages


Sickness, cultural classifications and local epistemologies
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part I|62 pages

Disease concepts and healing

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chapter 2|27 pages

How to read a recipe?

Working backwards from the prescription to the complaint
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part II|151 pages

Disease classifications in premodern medical texts and traditions from the Near East, Mediterranean and East Asia

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chapter 8|15 pages

The delicacy of the rabbinic asthenes

Sickness, weakness or self-indulgence?
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chapter 9|14 pages

The Paradise of Wisdom

Streams of tradition in the first medical encyclopaedia in Arabic
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part III|48 pages

Mental illness in ancient medical systems

chapter 11|18 pages

Disturbing disorders

Reconsidering the problem of ‘mental diseases’ in ancient Mesopotamia
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chapter 12|28 pages

Classification, explanation and experience

Mental disorder in Graeco-Roman antiquity
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