SH18 BARBER-SURGEONS: A DOOMED GUILD OF MASTERS AND MISTERS IN THE MIDDLE AGES.

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    • Abstract:
      In the Middle Ages, a Papal edict by Innocent III (1215) forbade physicians, mostly clerics, from performing surgical procedures considered ‘contaminating’. The clerics handed over their surgical responsibilities to the barbers, hence the advent of Barber-Surgeons. Surgery was relegated to the status of a manual trade, acquired by apprenticeship, designed to maintain a monopoly on services provided, but also to ensure standards. This paper reviews the reasons for the eventual separation of barbers and surgeons across Europe during the thirteenth to eighteenth centuries. The guilds advanced their professions and grew in reputation and influence forming Companies. James VI granted a royal charter for a Barber-Surgeons Company in Edinburgh (1505) and Henry VIII approved an act of parliament to establish a Barber-Surgeons’ Company in London (1540). However, within the guilds of Barber-surgeons existed a pervasive dichotomy, fueled by the surgeons’ growing knowledge of anatomy and development of practical skills. Outside the guilds, Lanfranc of Milan (died 1315), Henri de Mondeville (France 1260–1320), Guy de Chauliac (France 1300–1368) and Vesalius (Padua 1514–1564) held discriminatory views towards Barber-surgeons, but produced great surgical advances. Ambrois Paré (1510–1590), a French military surgeon, revolutionised the surgery of wounds based on observation, results and practical experience. During the 18th century most guilds dissolved under pressure imposed by their own surgical graduates, including William Cheselden in London. The Middle Ages was a crucial period in which surgical knowledge evolved far beyond the teachings of Galen. There was no longer any place for Barbers in the Companies of Surgeons. [ABSTRACT FROM AUTHOR]
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