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The Social History of Surgery in Ottoman Syria

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Documentary Evidence From Eighteenth-Century Hamah

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Little is known about the role of surgery in pre-modern medical practice in general, and in the lands under Muslim dominance in particular. There is an acknowledged gap between theoretical knowledge and medical practice, but evidence of the latter is difficult to find. Many fundamental questions therefore remain unanswered. For example, was there a division of labour between surgeons and physicians? We are also mostly ignorant about who practiced surgery, the legal context surrounding this practice, and its financial aspects. This article offers an analytical edition of two documents from the Syrian town Hamah dating from 1212/1798, which can help answer some of these questions. They concern a respected and learned physician who also personally performed the removal of bladder stones and was paid well for his services.

Affiliations: 1: Orientalisches Institut, Universität Leipzig, Germany,


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