New Book by Bert Roest

Congratulations to Bert Roest! His new book “Franciscan Learning, Preaching and Mission c. 1220-1650” has just come out with Brill.

To quote from the description: “Returning to themes first discussed in his book A History of Franciscan Education (Brill, 2000), Bert Roest discusses in this volume a wide range of issues pertaining to the organization of learning in the Franciscan order in the late medieval and early modern period, and the ways in which this order engaged in pastoral and missionary activities in confrontation with the rise of Protestantism. The essays in this volume break new ground in their treatment of school formation, the chronology of educational developments, and the transformation of Franciscan schools between the mid fifteenth and the mid seventeenth century. They also challenge ingrained scholarly verdicts on the efficacy of sixteenth-century mendicant homiletics, and on the role of the Franciscans in the Dutch mission from the early seventeenth century onwards.”

For more information see the publisher’s website.

Of healing and henbane: what a medieval sedative says about modern medicine

Aug 21, 2014
Author: Jim Oldfield

Martino Gabra and Nicholas Everett

“In fact, the history of medical treatment, until recently, has been essentially the history of the placebo effect.”

— Arthur and Elaine Shapiro*

For Nicholas Everett, the future of medicine may lie in the past.

Everett is an Associate Professor in the University of Toronto’s Department of History and an expert in the history of medicine. He argues that many ancient and medieval treatments, which were often mixtures of plants, minerals and animal products, were neither ineffective nor placebos — although he admits a few were lethal.

“A lot of experience and medical practice formed over millennia of trial and error underlie many historical recipes and recommendations,” says Everett. “In fact, the most commonly used medicines today derive from folk traditions, and many of the active ingredients in plant medicines are still the subject of intense research for new medicines.”

Everett has been busy uncovering practices that might spark new medical research.

In 2012, he published The Alphabet of Galen: Pharmacy From Antiquity to the Middle Ages. The book is an English translation, with critical notes, of a Latin text that describes almost 300 traditional medicines and why people used them.

And this summer Everett and Martino Gabra, a graduate student in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, published a paper that describes the chemical composition and probable effects of a medieval medicine called the “Great Rest,” which included opium, henbane and mandrake.

The pair calculated the likely effective dose and toxic dose for the popular sedative. The study represents the first assessment of a medieval drug using the principles of modern pharmacokinetics, which measures how the body processes drugs.

“One interesting finding about the Great Rest was that henbane may have reduced the potential for overdose or addiction by creating a sense of disassociation within 20 minutes, making repeated self-administration unlikely,” says Gabra. “The morphine in the opium would have kicked in later, providing pain relief for about 12 hours.”

Gabra says the idea that henbane can temper morphine abuse could be useful to researchers today, and that the history of medicine offers many possible avenues for new research. He and Everett plan to apply their approach, which they’ve dubbed “historical pharmacology,” to other medieval and ancient treatments.

Gabra also hopes their methodology will aid another coming area of research: how plant-based dietary supplements and food interact with drugs.

Many plant ingredients react with drugs and food to adversely affect health. For example, chemical compounds in grapefruit juice can change the activity of blood-pressure medications. Ginseng can increase bleeding in people taking aspirin.

“Some researchers view plant medicine as fringe science, but many people are using plant-based supplements,” says Gabra. “There’s almost no regulation of these products, and patients often have no idea what’s in them. As pharmacologists, we have an obligation to study alternative medicine.”

Gabra will begin graduate research on cancer and tumour suppression this fall in the lab of Assistant Professor Leonardo Salmena. He also plans to keep reading beyond his main area of study — a habit that led to him to Everett’s history of medicine course as a first-year undergrad in life sciences. (The two have stayed in touch since.)

Everett continues to step outside his discipline as well. He registered for a B.Sc. at U of T in 2011, and has taken several life sciences courses. He says the course work has confirmed his belief that humanities scholars can reap huge benefits from studying science — and that medicine has a lot to learn from the humanities.

“Scientists today are under great pressure to look forward and to create new knowledge, but there is huge value in looking at past traditions,” says Everett. “People in the past were not stupid. There was logic in many of their practices.”
*Shapiro, Arthur K, and Elaine Shapiro. The Powerful Placebo: From Ancient Priest to Modern Physician. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997. Print.

Cologne-Toronto Graduate Student Colloquium 2014

University of Toronto – 5-7 December 2014

Friday, Dec. 5 (Centre for Medieval Studies)

1:15 pm Welcome

1:30-2:45 pm Session 1
Chair: Suzanne Akbari
Patrick Breternitz: The Collectio Herovalliana – A canonical collection from Boniface’s circle?
Commentator: Nick Everett

3:00-4:15 pm Session 2
Chair: Lane Springer
Alessia Miriam Berardi: The Localization of an 8th-Century Commentary on the Song of Songs. The Case of the Anonymous of Orléans-Wolfenbüttel
Commentator: Karl Ubl

4:30-5:45 pm Session 3
Chair: Joe Goering
Andreas Berger: De his, qui contra naturam peccant. The ‘sin against nature’ in early medieval legal sources
Commentator: Peter King

6:00-7:15 pm Session 4
Chair: Bogdan Smarandache
Andrew Dunning: Personal Correction Practices in the Manuscripts of Alexander Neckam and Samuel Presbiter
Commentator: Andreas Speer

 Saturday, Dec. 6 (Sessions 5-7: Centre for Medieval Studies; sessions 8-10: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies)

9.00-10.15 am Session 5
Chair: Martin Pickavé
Simon Liening: Envoys and Diplomacy in Early 15th-Century Strasbourg
Commentator: Lawrin Armstrong

10.30-11.45 am Session 6
Chair: Lochin Brouillard
Leah Faibisoff: Trademarked Testaments: Paper from Venetian Morea to Rialto
Commentator: Sabine von Heusinger

12.00-1.15 pm Session 7
Chair: Isabelle Cochelin
Christopher Berard: King Arthur and the Canons of Laon
Commentator: Udo Friedrich 

2.15-3.30 pm Session 8
Chair: Kirsty Schut
Jitka Ehlers: Word – Image – Object: Negotiating Inscriptions of the Romanesque Art
Commentator: Jill Caskey

3.45-5.00 pm Session 9
Chair: Dorothea Kullmann
Zinaida Uzdenskaya: Thomas Beckett – an Ideal Martyr. Studies in the Iconography of Canterbury Pilgrim Souvenirs.
Commentator: Susanne Wittekind

5.15-6.30 pm Session 10
Chair: Elaina Lysack
Michael Schwarzbach: Telling the Truth by Telling Lies: Beast Fables in Medieval Chronicles
Commentator: Suzanne Akbari

Sunday, Dec. 7 (Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies)

10:00-11:15 am Session 11
Chair: Jake Wakelin
Christopher Liebtag Miller: Virgin Virago and Devil’s Bride: The Female Warrior and the Economy of Honor in Middle High German Epic
Commentator: Monika Schausten

11:30-12:45 pm Session 12
Chair: Andreas Speer
Julia Stiebritz: dâ begunden herze und ôren / tumben unde tôren / und ûz ir rehte wanken. Gottfried of Strassburg’s Literary Depictions of Courtly Music Life and the Latin Court Criticism of the High Middle Ages
Commentator: Markus Stock

The event is free and open to the public.

Sponsors: Faculty of Arts and Science, Centre for Medieval Studies, Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures, and Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, a.r.t.e.s. Graduate School for the Humanities Cologne.