About Me


I'm Samantha Sandassie (@medhistorian), an early modernist and historian of medicine.  My research and teaching interests combine the history of medicine and early modern Europe with splashes of the history of science and environment.

I was first introduced to the history of surgery by an erstwhile undergraduate professor a long, long time ago.  After reading surgical treatises that discussed using boiled puppies to cure gunshot wounds and stories about pre-germ theory surgery and infection, I turned to my (very) wise professor and exclaimed, "this is terrible! Why would anyone go to a surgeon?"  His response? "I don't know, Sam.  Why don't you find out  and tell me?"

And so began the journey.

I finished my undergraduate degree in History and Political Science in 2007 (McMaster University), a History MA in 2008 (York University), and a PhD in 2014 (Queen's University).

My doctoral thesis, entitled “‘Half-gods, Good Surgeons May be Called,’” explored the growth of surgery in England during the long seventeenth century (roughly 1590-1715).  At its heart, the project looked at the issue of trust and answers the question I posed so many years ago: Why would anyone willingly undergo surgery or see a surgeon in the seventeenth century?   There were few developments in surgical techniques or the patient experience of surgery during the course of the period, yet, counterintuitively surgery’s reputation improved.  To that end, my thesis explored the ways surgical practitioners (not "surgeons"!) worked with and within their changing socio-cultural context to gain social and occupational credit.

Acknowledging that we all have health, my mission is to share the stories of early modern people - how they lived within, and coped with, their changing world - to hopefully make the past a bit less incommensurable than it so often seems.

Panacea is my attempt to share the - often wonderfully bizarre - medical and social history of England with you.

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