Will Coster - Justice to the Maimed Soldier: Nursing, Medical Care and Welfare for Sick and Wounded Soldiers and Their Families During the English Civil Wars and Interregnum, 1642-1660 (review) - Journal of Military History 67:1 The Journal of Military History 67.1 (2003) 227-228

Justice to the Maimed Soldier: Nursing, Medical Care and Welfare for Sick and Wounded Soldiers and Their Families During the English Civil Wars and Interregnum, 1642-1660. By Eric Gruber von Arni. Burlington, Vt.: Ashgate, 2001. ISBN 0-7546-0476-4. Maps. Illustrations. Tables. Appendixes. Bibliography. Index. Pp. xv, 283. $ 69.95. [End Page 227]

The image of Florence Nightingale has been so dominant over the profession of nursing, and even more so the care of soldiers, that it is easy to assume that before the mid-nineteenth century there was little or no organised treatment of the casualties of war. This volume provides an important reminder that organised medical care has a much longer history. Taking the era between the outbreak of the First English Civil War and the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660, this study deals with provision in both the royalist and parliamentary forces, before turning to the British dimension and the wars abroad that dominated towards the end of the era and finishing with an examination of diverse topics, including military hospitals and nursing personalities.

The author is highly successful in illuminating the differing natures of care in the opposing forces and finding the emergence of a more systematic organisation in the victorious army of Parliament that prefigured later developments. The study is based on a wide range of sources, all treated with considerable care and scholarship. These bring into sharp relief the neglected world of hospitals, surgeons and nurses, both on land and, much to the credit of the author, at sea.

It is rare these days that a work can genuinely be said to have opened up an almost unexplored aspect of early modern warfare, but this study manages to do so, and, in so doing, is a significant contribution to the histories of both medicine and warfare. Clearly written and without the hindrance of overcomplicated language, this is a well-constructed book, even if it occasionally betrays the author's less than total familiarity with the period. However, the work does not suffer significantly for that. The need to run through the course of the wars repeatedly from different perspectives is a little repetitive, but will be invaluable for increasing the comprehensibility of the work for those unfamiliar with the period. It is a pity that the relatively high cover price is likely to dissuade general readers from buying a copy of this work, but those who wish to understand the interaction of civil war and society in the seventeenth century could do a lot worse than to read this fascinating and illuminating study. For experts in the field the cover price may be an unavoidable expense.


Will Coster
De Montfort University
Bedford, England

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