Mummies, Cannibals and Vampires charts in vivid detail the
largely forgotten history of European corpse medicine, when kings,
ladies, gentlemen, priests and scientists prescribed, swallowed or
wore human blood, flesh, bone, fat, brains and skin against
epilepsy, bruising, wounds, sores, plague, cancer, gout and
One thing we are rarely taught at school is this: James I
refused corpse medicine; Charles II made his own corpse medicine;
and Charles I was made into corpse medicine. Ranging from the
execution scaffolds of Germany and Scandinavia, through the courts
and laboratories of Italy, France and Britain, to the battlefields
of Holland and Ireland, and on to the tribal man-eating of the
Americas, Mummies, Cannibals and Vampires argues that the real
cannibals were in fact the Europeans. Medicinal cannibalism
utilised the formidable weight of European science, publishing,
trade networks and educated theory. For many, it was also an
emphatically Christian phenomenon. And, whilst corpse medicine has
sometimes been presented as a medieval therapy, it was at its
height during the social and scientific revolutions of early-modern
Britain. It survived well into the eighteenth century, and amongst
the poor it lingered stubbornly on into the time of Queen Victoria.
This innovative book brings to life a little known and often
disturbing part of human history.
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