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Why surgery and barbering were one occupation in the Middle Ages

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Beginning around the 12th century CE, the professions of barber and surgeon were combined into a single occupation throughout much of Europe. And, as this animation from TED-Ed explores, while being on the receiving end of a medical procedure performed by one of these ‘barber-surgeons’ was certainly an unideal place to find oneself, this class of generalists did make notable contributions to the medical field. This slice-of-history video tracks the profession’s rise within monasteries to its dissolution in the 18th century as surgery became more specialised, and how the red-and-white barber pole is a symbol of the barber-surgeon’s legacy.

Video by TED-Ed

Directors: Arvind Singh Jeena, Anantha Krishnan

Writer: Stephanie Honchell Smith

Website: Totem Creative

31 January 2024
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