The Herbalist: Nicholas Culpeper and the Fight for Medical Freedom

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9780007126576: The Herbalist: Nicholas Culpeper and the Fight for Medical Freedom

From best-selling author of The Queen’s Conjuror, the story of Nicholas Culpeper – legendary rebel, radical, Puritan, and author of the great Herbal. This is a powerful history of medicine’s first freedom fighter set in London during Britain’s age of revolution.

In the mid-seventeenth century, England was visited by the four horsemen of the apocalypse: a civil war which saw levels of slaughter not matched until the Somme, famine in a succession of failed harvests that reduced peasants to 'anatomies', epidemics to rival the Black Death in their enormity, and infant mortality rates that left childless even women who had borne eight or nine children. In the midst of these terrible times came Nicholas Culpeper's Herbal – one of the most popular and enduring books ever published.

Culpeper was a virtual outcast from birth. Rebelling against a tyrannical grandfather and the prospect of a life in the church, he abandoned his university education after a doomed attempt at elopement. Disinherited, he went to London, Milton's 'city of refuge, the mansion-house of liberty'. There he was to find his vocation in instigating revolution.

London's medical regime was then in the grip of the College of Physicians, a powerful body personified in the 'immortal' William Harvey, anatomist, royal physician and discoverer of the circulation of the blood. Working in the underground world of religious sects, secret printing presses and unlicensed apothecary shops, Culpeper challenged this stronghold at the time it was reaching the very pinnacle of its power – and in the process helped spark the revolution that toppled a monarchy.

In a spellbinding narrative of impulse, romance and heroism, Benjamin Wooley vividly recreates these momentous struggles and the roots of today's hopes and fears about the power of medical science, professional institution and government. The Herbalist tells the story of a medical rebel who took on the authorities and paid the price.

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Review:

‘This is a wonderful book – a delight to read, fast-moving, informed and passionate in its advocacy. It is a vivid and compelling portrait of the world turned upside down, of people-power run riot, of a great city dissolving into chaos, a place where the irrational had become the norm as ordinary people responded to Lilly and Culpeper’s prophecies and prognostications.’ Roy Strong, Sunday Times

'Taking medicine as a lens on English society at a critical fulcrum between the medieval and the modern, it reveals some of the muddled half- steps by which political thought, science and the understanding of the human body have stumbled towards their modern condition. The research is superb – rich, detailed, and original – and the lives Benjamin Woolley describes are as passionate as the great events of the English Civil War around which they orbit.' Adam Nicolson

'Woolley handsomely captures a society torn between rationality and romance, cynicism and hero worship'. New Scientist

'An informative and enlightening book… immensely enjoyable, its narrative exciting and inexorable. I have not read as stimulating a study of the Elizabethan period since Charles Nicholl's book on Marlowe, The Reckoning'. Thomas Wright, Daily Telegraph

From the Back Cover:

In the mid-seventeenth century, England was visited by the four horsemen of the apocalypse: a civil war which saw levels of slaughter not matched until the Somme, famine in a succession of failed harvests that reduced peasants to 'anatomies', epidemics to rival the Black Death in their enormity, and infant mortality rates that left childless even women who had bourn eight or nine children. In the midst of these terrible times came Nicholas Culpeper's Herbal - one of the most popular and enduring books ever published.

Culpeper was a virtual outcast from birth. Rebelling against a tyrannical grandfather and the prospect of a life in the church, he abandoned his university education after a doomed attempt at elopement. Disinherited, he went to London, Milton's 'city of refuge, the mansion-house of liberty'. There he was to find his vocation in instigating revolution.

London's medical regime was then in the grip of the College of Physicians, a powerful body personified in the 'immortal' William Harvey, anatomist, royal physician and discoverer of the circulation of the blood. Working in the underground world of religious sects, secret printing presses and unlicensed apothecary shops, Culpeper challenged this stronghold at the time it was reaching the very pinnacle of its power - and in the process helped spark the revolution that toppled a monarchy.

In a spellbinding narrative of impulse, romance and heroism, Benjamin Wooley vividly recreates these momentous struggles and the roots of today's hopes and fears about the power of medical science, professional institution and government. The Herbalist tells the story of a medical rebel who took on the authorities and paid the price.

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Benjamin Woolley
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ISBN 10: 0007126573 ISBN 13: 9780007126576
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