Books on medieval medical history by Johan B.

Johan R. Boelaert has written 3 books, so far, about medieval medical history

This important contribution to historical medicine and in Flemish literature was prepared by our member, retired MD from Bruges, Johan R. Boelaert. Here is a brief insight and readers' digest of his work.

Johan r boelaert s books presented on blueground 1

The books:

  • Zes eeuwen infectie in Brugge, ed. ACCO, 2011.

      = Six Centuries of Infections in Bruges

  • De medische renaissance van de twaalfde eeuw: zoektocht naar kennis en vernieuwing in de ziekenzorg, ed. Garant, 2014.

      = Medical Renaissance of the 12th Century: Search for knowledge and innovation in medical care.

  • Lichaamskwalen en hun verzorging, van Karel de Grote tot de eerste kruistocht (768-1099), ed. Garant, 2017.

      = Body Ailments and their Care, from Charlemagne to the First Crusade


Written from a medical-historical perspective in a broad sense, these books are dealing with evolutions in the organisation of health services and episodes of famine. In particular, they focus on dramatic infectious diseases.

The first book (Zes eeuwen infectie in Brugge) reviews all possible infectious diseases Johan could find reported in the city of Bruges over 6 centuries (from 1200 to 1800).

The second (De medische renaissance van de twaalfde eeuw) and third books (Lichaamskwalen en hun verzorging, van Karel de Grote tot de eerste kruistocht) focus more particularly on specific infections, i.e. leprosy, smallpox (variola), tuberculosis and malaria, as documented in North-Western Europe respectively during the 12th century and the Carolingian era.

Concerning these infections, Johan focussed on the interpretation of both textual sources and bioarchaeological findings. While osteological pathology is represented in the books, it is not dealt with in depth. The themes discussed in these books were found in a great variety of literary source material and he made a synthesis of the most relevant items.

In these books, he's tried to avoid the medical jargon and explains any medical terminology so the text should be quite easy to understand by everyone, even individuals with no - or little - (para)medical background.

He's currently preparing a new book on illness and care during the Merovingian period. So, if you're interested, be sure we'll keep you informed!


If you want to purchase (one of) his books, or just ask him a question, you can contact Johan by mail:




Johan s book 2011


Johan s book 2014 3


Johan s book



About the author

Johan R. Boelaert worked as an internist in the Algemeen Ziekenhuis Sint-Jan in Bruges. He specialized in nephrology (kidney diseases, dialysis and transplantation) and infectious diseases. Alongside his clinical work, he developed several research activities in collaboration with Belgian, European, American and African universities. The topics of this research involved mainly:

  1. The epidemiology, pathophysiology and prevention of serious infectious diseases in dialysis patients (such as those caused by Staphylococcus aureus and by particular fungi, called zygomycetes), with emphasis on the negative role played by iron overload in the development of these infections and their prevention;

  2. HIV-infection, the role of an excess of iron in its progression, the search for a prevention of the mother-to-child transmission of the virus during breastfeeding, etc. This research resulted in about 500 publications (including peer-reviewed abstracts) and a Biomed research grant from the European Commission.

Since his retirement, he moved his interests toward medical history and is an accomplished author within medical history.

medieval medical history Johan Boelaert