Late-Medieval Perception of Abnormal Behavior
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[ACCESS RESTRICTED TO THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI AT AUTHOR'S REQUEST.] This study looks at late-medieval medical texts as well as Inquisition manuals and other ecclesiastical sources to explore the reactions of late-medieval medical and Church authorities to abnormal behavior. Although early twentieth-century scholars, such as Gregory Zilboorg, argued that medieval medicine, like the medieval Church, considered most if not all cases of abnormal behavior to be instances of demonic involvement and possession, an analysis of late-medieval medical and ecclesiastical literature shows that such belief is, for the most part, untrue. In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries as more universities were founded in Europe, both medieval medical and ecclesiastical authorities considered abnormal behavior to be a symptom of physical illness in accordance with the Hippocratic and Galenic humoral theory. Sometime in the fourteenth century, with the increasing preoccupation with heresy and the widespread calamities, such view slowly began to change in the eyes of the Church officials. Abnormal behavior was seen as evidence of heresy, rather than bodily illness. In the fifteenth century, at the height of the witch trials, abnormal behavior was strongly associated with demonic involvement and possession for the Inquisition. Although like the medieval physicians they fully recognized the possibility of a physiological illness causing abnormal behavior, they only considered such occurrence to be possible for those with good social reputation.
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