Humid Humours: Children’s Bodies and Diseases

Hannah Newton

in The Sick Child in Early Modern England, 1580-1720

Published in print April 2012 | ISBN: 9780199650491
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191741647 | DOI:
Humid Humours: Children’s Bodies and Diseases

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This chapter examines early modern perceptions of children’s bodies, minds, and diseases, from the viewpoints of doctors and laypeople. It argues that, contrary to common historiographical opinion, children were distinguished fundamentally from adults in this period: their bodies and brains were filled with moist and warm humours, which made them weaker than their elders, and vulnerable to a different set of diseases. Children were thus defined by their distinctive humours: all contemporary medical ideas about children were rooted in this ancient Galenic belief. This humoral understanding of children persisted over the course of the early modern period, and was embraced by physicians of diverse theoretical perspectives. The chapter is divided into two parts: the first part examines medical perceptions of children’s constitutions, bodies, and minds; the second section considers children’s diseases, discussing the causes of these maladies, and ideas about prognosis.

Keywords: child; humours; Galen; age; bodies; minds; diseases; paediatrics; doctor; practitioner

Chapter.  16665 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)

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