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

Wonder-workers and styptics

When your Magic Chicken is suffering from cholera, there’s no need to panic. This bottle for the Magic Chicken Cholera Cure is one of around 195 medicine bottles in the collection of Michael Till, a retired GP from Gloucestershire. Michael became interested in historical remedies after looking into the story …

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‘Come for the skin book, stay for the history!’ An interview with Dr Lindsey Fitzharris

The image of the 18th-century anatomist is a shady one, redolent of midnight forays into graveyards and dissection in front of a rabble of students. The cadavers in these scenes are anonymous and devoid of character; mere objects fuelling a relentless craving for knowledge. But everybody who ended up on …

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No glister-pipe, bum-peeping apothecary

The following speech appeared in a comic 18th-century booklet called The Harangues or Speeches of Several Famous Mountebanks in Town or Country, which makes fun of high-profile medical salesmen by attributing to them wild claims about their remedies. Later editions (under the title The Harangues, or Speeches, of Several Celebrated …

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Hearty and Vigorous to the Last

I wrote recently on the new Royalty Free Fiction blog about how a handwritten note in a historical source inspired me to write my novel, Kill-Grief. The note was what started me thinking about how many interesting lives (and lives are all interesting, aren’t they?) have passed by without leaving …

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Pockey Warts, Buboes and Shankers

As the old saying goes, ‘A night with Venus, a lifetime with Mercury,’ and Dr Newman’s Anti-Venereal Pills were just one of a plethora of clap and pox remedies advertised in 18th-century newspapers. The relatively anonymous purchase of a pea-sized bolus offered the customer a level of secrecy, but that …

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The Worm-Doctor of Shoreditch

John Gardner, Image Courtesy of Wellcome Library, London

It’s a while since we last heard from our old friend Ascaris lumbricoides, so it’s time he made another appearance on The Quack Doctor together with a few of his helminthic chums. I’m putting together a talk about the career of John Gardner, a former soldier and picture-framer who became …

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Dr Rock’s Political Speech to the Mob in Covent-Garden

This is a short excerpt from a speech attributed to Dr Richard Rock in a satirical mid-18th-century pamphlet called The harangues, or speeches, of several celebrated quack-doctors, in town and country. Rock, whose Viper Drops have previously appeared on this site, is sometimes referred to as an itinerant quack, but …

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Angelick Snuff

This noble composition was on sale for most of the first half of the 18th century but enjoyed a moment of fame 200 years later when an American news editor stumbled on the advert and found it entertaining enough to fill a space in his paper. Other papers lifted the …

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The Poor Man’s Friend

Source: Trewman’s Exeter Flying Post, 20 July 1826 In 2003, the Daily Mail ran a story titled: Beeswax is ‘miracle’ cure. The article referred to an 18th/19th-century ointment called The Poor Man’s Friend, a popular remedy for wounds and skin conditions. The reason it hit the 21st-century press was that its …

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