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Children’s physic: medical perceptions and treatment of sick children in early modern England, c. 1580-1720

Newton, H. (2010) Children’s physic: medical perceptions and treatment of sick children in early modern England, c. 1580-1720. Social History of Medicine, 23 (3). pp. 456-474. ISSN 1477-4666

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1093/shm/hkq006


Historians of medicine, childhood, and paediatrics, have often assumed that early modern doctors neither treated children, nor adapted their medicines to suit the peculiar temperaments of the young. Through an examination of medical textbooks and doctors’ casebooks, this article refutes these assumptions. It argues that medical authors and practising doctors regularly treated children, and were careful to tailor their remedies to complement the distinctive constitutions of children. Thus, this article proposes that a concept of ‘children’s physic’ existed in early modern England: this term refers to the notion that children were physiologically distinct, requiring special medical care. Children’s physic was rooted in the ancient traditions of Hippocratic and Galenic medicine: it was the child’s humoral makeup that underpinned all medical ideas about children’s bodies, minds, diseases, and treatments. Children abounded in the humour blood, which made them humid and weak, and in need of medicines of a particularly gentle nature.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > Early Modern Research Centre (EMRC)
ID Code:45113
Additional Information:Journal published on behalf of The Society for the Social History of Medicine.
Publisher:Oxford University Press


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