Sunday, October 23, 2011

Early history of hospitals ... Happy Deepavilli!

Historically the care for the sick tended to occur within temples and other religious establishments. This I believe was largely related to the tendency to associate illness and healing with spiritual events. Thus the early concept of hospitals in Europe was nothing like what we encounter nowadays.

The earliest evidence of a specially constructed facility for the care of sick was apparently in Sri Lanka. This was early as the 3rd to 4th Century BC. According Wikipedia, the Carakasamhita (Compendium of Caraka) and descriptions by the travelling monk Fa Xian, India probably had the first "organized cosmopolitan system of institutionally-based medical provision" in the world. This was approximately at the turn of the first millenium. Europe continued to develop their hospital concept largely as part of the religious establishment, the modern hospital concept seen in Asia and Persia never really took root until the social and civic reforms following the French Revolution.

This perspective is important to have as we look at the continued evolution of health care provision. The usually eurocentric portrayal of medical history tends to convey the fallacious idea that all things good flowed out of Europe. This is only true to a certain extent because of the renaissance and the industrial revolution. But it is important to recognize that that renaissance was deeply rooted in wisdom that had originally flowed westwards from Asia.

This is a good account to read:
Medicine and Society in the Medieval Hospital by Tatjana Buklijaš (2008)

India was very much where the action was in the development of the modern hospital concept. And they were more than half a millenium ahead of Europe.

Nice to know that....especially as we head towards the Deepavalli celebrations.

Happy Deepavalli all!


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gigamole said...

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