The emergence of syphilis in Europe at the end of the fifteenth century had a profound influence on the history of Western civilization during the Renaissance. The author's assertion that syphilis was as widespread in England as in the rest of Europe challenges generally accepted views in the field. Working from primary sources, he shows how syphilis spread across the country, what its effect was, the range of cures that were used, and what preventive measures were taken against it. He shows how syphilis brought about a profound change of manners and morals during the Renaissance, leading to an emphasis on monogamy, premarital chastity and absolute fidelity within marriage.
He suggests that, in many ways, the emergence of syphilis has numerous parallels with our latest venereal epidemic, AIDS. There are many indications that a similar change is taking place in our modern world, and that a moral reaction rivalling that of the Reformation may be on its way.
The book begins with an excellent survey of the rise of the disease on the Continent, its spread to Britain and of the medical profession's efforts to cure it... Fabricius examines the evidence for the arrival of the disease in Britain, the social conditions which were conducive to its spreading, and the measures taken to combat it...one of the virtues of Fabricius's book is the sheer breadth of his approach, examining the issues in the wider context of the work of other writers of the period, medical literature and other legislative measures... Clearly there is stuff here to fuel prolonged debate. -- Times Literary Supplement