Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-viii
  2. Alanna Skuse
    Pages 1-19 Open Access
  3. Alanna Skuse
    Pages 20-39 Open Access
  4. Alanna Skuse
    Pages 40-60 Open Access
  5. Alanna Skuse
    Pages 74-93 Open Access
  6. Alanna Skuse
    Pages 121-153 Open Access
  7. Alanna Skuse
    Pages 154-158 Open Access
  8. Back Matter
    Pages 159-219

About this book


This book is open access under a CC-BY licence.

Cancer is perhaps the modern world's most feared disease. Yet, we know relatively little about this malady's history before the nineteenth century. This book provides the first in-depth examination of perceptions of cancerous disease in early modern England. Looking to drama, poetry and polemic as well as medical texts and personal accounts, it contends that early modern people possessed an understanding of cancer which remains recognizable to us today. Many of the ways in which medical practitioners and lay people imagined cancer – as a 'woman's disease' or a 'beast' inside the body – remain strikingly familiar, and they helped to make this disease a byword for treachery and cruelty in discussions of religion, culture and politics. Equally, cancer treatments were among the era's most radical medical and surgical procedures. From buttered frog ointments to agonizing and dangerous surgeries, they raised abiding questions about the nature of disease and the proper role of the medical practitioner.


Cancer early modern medicine early surgery mastectomy canker canker-worm cancer-worm cancer wolf cancer diagnosis early modern period England English literature growth history surgery

Authors and affiliations

  • Alanna Skuse
    • 1
  1. 1.Folger Shakespeare LibraryUSA

Bibliographic information