Mountebanks and Medicasters

A History of Italian Charlatans from the Middle Ages to the Present


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About the Book

Italian medical charlatans, wandering quacks who traded in remedies, accompanied real medicine like a dark shadow during its slow progress. Over the centuries, these cunning individuals infuriated orthodox physicians with their ability to capture audiences in village squares. While licensed physicians imperiously ordered torrential enemas and pitiless bloodletting, charlatans sold cheap remedies accompanied by consoling promises. Not merely merchants committed to swindling the gullible, the charlatans often disguised a form of opposition to an arrogant new science. New and courageous ideas were hidden beneath their exaggerated posturing.
This work recounts the history and adventures of ingenious Italian medical quacks who were sought after and imitated all over Europe. The research is culled from judicial proceedings, newspaper articles, Italian State Archives, and books and manuscripts from all over the world. Ostensibly an account of these characters covering five centuries, the book also examines the relationship between doctor and patient and the placebo effect. The final chapters explore the reasons for their success and the necessity for a re-evaluation of the relationship between doctor and patient today, a period in which the practice of medicine is often confined to laboratory examinations and brief, impersonal encounters.

About the Author(s)

Radiology professor Piero Gambaccini has published many medical papers and lives in Florence, Italy.

Bibliographic Details

Piero Gambaccini
Foreword by Giorgio Cosmacini
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 256
Bibliographic Info: photos, glossary, notes, index
Copyright Date: 2004
pISBN: 978-0-7864-1606-6
Imprint: McFarland

Book Reviews & Awards

“recommended”—Choice; “fair-minded…fascinating…highly recommended…well-researched…well-written”—CancerDecisions Newsletter Archives; “extremely interesting…astonishingly original”—Libero; “precise and well-documented…entertaining…a history that has until now never been told”—Giornale; “excellent…detailed…enviable prose”—La Nazione; “extremely amusing…important”—Toscana Medica; “erudite research, rigorous in method but amusing”—La Repubblica; “Not to be missed, fascinating, impeccable”—Giuliano Prezzolini, President of the Giuseppe Prezzolini Foundation. “Remarkable importance…first-rate prose.”—Giorgio Luti, Italian literary critic and Professor Emeritus of literature at the University of Florence.