Victorian asthma cigarettes: who was Dr Batty?

Dr Batty's Asthma Cigarettes

While browsing your local newspaper in the 1890s, an asthma-cure advertisement might distract you from tales of the latest sensational crimes. ‘Agreeable to use, certain in their effects, and harmless in their action, they may be safely smoked by ladies and children,’ ran the promotional copy. The product was Cigares …

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A breath of maggoty air

Maggot sheds at Jerusalem Farm, pictured in the Leeds Mercury, 31 July 1911. (British Newspaper Archive)

No one likes to be the hapless person who wanders into the garage and finds a forgotten turkey carcase humming with maggots and surrounded in a fug of pungent effluvia. I suppose it would be a great story if this had been a defining moment of my teenage years, inspiring …

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Beyond the asylum: a review of the Wellcome Collection’s Bedlam

Bedlam exhibition graphic design

A review of the Wellcome Collection’s exhibition, Bedlam: The Asylum and Beyond, which runs from 15 September 2016 – 15 January 2017. I’ve never spoken here about having depression and anxiety because, after all, no one wants to hear about yet another obscure writer pretending to be some tormented genius. But it’s why …

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Forthcoming events

Join me for some quack-filled talks in London this summer! I’ve been invited by the London Fortean Society and Antique Beat to share my stories of fraud, advertising and the occasional gruesome death. I’ll cover different material each time so do come along to both – it would be great …

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To raise false hopes

Antidipso British Monthly Dec 1903

I appeared on Great British Railway Journeys, series 7, episode 11, on 18 Jan 2016. The episode is available on BBC iPlayer, and here’s some more information about one of the remedies featured:   ‘Tears and prayers are of no use,’ warned the eyecatching pictorial advertisement in the Penny Illustrated …

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The Amateur Anatomist and the Amputated Finger

19thC Finger Saw

Injuries acquired in unusual circumstances, spurious news stories of medical happenings, bizarre or gruesome reports from doctors’ casebooks… Strange cases is an occasional feature on the Quack Doctor that reproduces these tales. In this excerpt from the London Courier and Evening Gazette of 4 December 1824, we meet a young poulterer whose ‘itching for …

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New book: The History of Medicine in 100 Facts

The History of Medicine in 100 Facts book

The history of medicine is a vast subject, encompassing the whole of humanity in every region of the globe. For millennia, our ancestors have sought to combat disease, relieve pain and postpone the Grim Reaper’s inevitable victory, doing so with a fortitude and humour that makes their experiences resonate with …

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The mysterious Doctor Du Brange

Du Brange mentioned in The Times, Sat 30 Oct 1869 (www.newspapers.com)

While researching in the British Newspaper Archive, Kilburn historians Dick Weindling and Marianne Colloms discovered a practitioner with the unusual name of Du Brange. They were intrigued to find that he appeared in court several times. I’m intrigued too, as Du Brange has a lot of similarities with other London …

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Vodcast: The Great Pox in Early Modern Europe

Fellow history blogger The Groovy Historian invited me to do a vodcast about syphilis. Here’s the result! You can sign up to The Groovy Historian’s Youtube channel for regular history videos, and follow him on Twitter at @GroovyHistorian

Dr Wheeler and the Bacillus of Death

In May 1895, a low-key but intriguing advertisement appeared in British local newspapers. What could this ‘death microbe’ be? Did it refer to the lethal pathogens such as anthrax and tuberculosis that had been identified within the past two decades? Announcements of newly isolated bacilli regularly reached the general population …

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