The reformation of English military medicine and the army of Elizabeth I in Flanders, 1585-1603 : a thesis presented in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Philosophy in History at Massey University, Albany Campus, New Zealand
Queen Elizabeth the First committed an army to Flanders in 1585 to support the cause of the Protestant Provinces of the Low Lands against the Spanish. It had become established that medical 'practitioners' should accompany armed forces. The practitioners were a polyglot group levied from village healers, licensed and unlicenced practitioners, as well as apothecaries and barber-surgeons. Despite significant medical and surgical advances on the Continent of Europe, particularly from the advanced concepts espoused by Paracelsus, there is little evidence to support widespread use of new initiatives in the English army. Wounds of a kind new to most 'practitioners' were encountered, due to the introduction of gunpowder-fueled firearms and cannons. Severe and deforming wounds caused by the impact of low velocity bullets were the results of the new battle tactics. Burns from gunpowder mishaps needed new approaches in treatment. Some changes to initiate new concepts in military medicine did occur but were the result of informal pressures, probably learned in the field, and not by formal teaching. Significant changes in the recognition of the basics of hygiene in the armed forces occurred in the late sixteenth century and some attempts to implement these was found in the army disciplinary codes. The attitudes towards prisoners and wounded were also changing with compassionate treatment being shown to the victims of war. The need for hospitals for the wounded did not develop in England until after the Flanders campaign The English forces suffered extreme privations due to bad leadership resulting in loss of morale, starvation and desertion. Lack of pay for the troops was a major issue throughout the campaign.