Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Trotula: An English Translation of the Medieval Compendium of Women's Medicine Edited and Translated by Monica H. Green

Since graduate school The Book of Trotula, as the professor referred to it, has fascinated me. A class text I used had only brief fragments and sparse explanation about the origin and author of the book.

This thorough and comprehensive study of an important medieval collection of writings on women’s health, diseases, and remedies might startle the modern reader. The cures for sexual problems, birth control, abortion, and other gynecological issues truly amazed me. Such an enlightened view of these topics, from about 900 years ago, contrasts with the sexist attitude today. Apparently, birth control and abortion did not pose any moral dilemmas, because of the writings of the early church fathers, who believed the soul was breathed into the body by God after birth, as the Bible relates following the creation of Eve.

As long as women deferred to their husbands on these matters, no moral issue arose for the medieval church. With the rise of the women’s movement in the 19th century, men, fearing loss of control over women and their reproductive rights, mounted a campaign to condemn and forbid these practices.

Quite scholarly, but highly interesting nonetheless. 5 stars.

--Chiron, 2/12/09

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