I’ve written a book! It is out now and I must embark on the excruciating task of self-promotion, about which I ought to have learnt something from the quacks by this time. Unfortunately I can’t promise that this book is made from rare ingredients known to ancient tribespeople, that it is used by the royal family, that doctors hate it because they’re jealous, or that it must be good because no one likes me and no one liked Semmelweis either.

Instead, I’ll just have to rely on it having a nice cover.

The Quack Doctor book
Perfectly harmless and tasteless! Cures insomnia! Scientifically proven to be a book! Has pictures in! Several mildly amusing bits!

The Quack Doctor: Historical remedies for all your ills features remedies, practitioners and patients from 19th- and early 20th-century Britain. I aimed to stick fairly closely to the style and tone of this website, so the book contains 25 stand-alone articles, each focusing on one theme in the history of patent medicines.  Some are expanded versions of my favourite blog posts but there is plenty of new material too, including these delights:

Antidipso, a powder to cure alcoholism without the patient’s knowledge

Mer-Syren, the sea-sickness cure that turned out to be very down-to-earth

Baron McKinsey, purveyor of dodgy literature

Maria Owen, the ‘bogus lady doctor’

Dr Henery, offering new life and manly vigour to nervous men.

Figuroids, the scientific cure for obesity.


Detail from Antidipso advertisement.
Detail from Antidipso advertisement.

If you would like to buy the book, you may do so at The History Press website (currently says pre-order but it is actually in stock), at AmazonBook Depository and numerous other online retailers.


  1. I am looking forward to a cold, dark mid-winter as I have just ordered your new book as a Christmas present for my wife to give me.

  2. Received your book last week and and enjoying it now — good work. Am up to Chapter 8. So far each chapter is a gem! — after I finish it I will comment again.

      • Finished reading your book some time back but am late in adding more comments. “The Quack Doctor” did not disappoint! Fans of this blog should not be disappointed either. What is especially valuable are the 27 pages listing sources for the ads and information in the 25 chapters … plus an index. Very well done.

  3. I went on the Internet to check for Mer-Syren as I am currently trying to preserve some crumbling 1910 copies of the Daily Mail and collecting the Adverts. A bit shocked to find an Adult Entertainer by the name of Syren De Mer come up but pleased to find your book. Disappointed that, as a nurse of 40 years standing, and a journalist, I was toying with the idea of researching the mountain of quack remedies with a view to producing a book – only to find that you have just done it! You’d be amazed at the number of times this has happened to me! Will be buying the book and I am sure it will be of help if I can get a few articles out of it – with appropriate credits given of course. Looking forward to it.

    • I, too, discovered some unexpected views of Ms De Mer when I was researching the chapter! Thanks for buying the book and I hope you enjoy it.

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