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  • Interview: The Quack Doctor December 3, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Interview: The Quack Doctor

    Caroline Rance set up her website, The Quack Doctor, in 2009 as a way of cataloguing historical medical advertisements and stories of health fraud. Since then, her book The Quack Doctor: Historical Remedies for All Your Ills has been published by The History Press and she also recently compiled a pocket trivia compendium, What the […]

    The Poison Duel 4#: The Medical Origins of the Poison Duel? September 23, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    The Poison Duel 4#: The Medical Origins of the Poison Duel?

    The earliest nineteenth-century poison duel seems to have been that almost fought in 1821 in Virginia. However, there are pre-nineteenth-century records and strangely they concern doctors. The earliest record anywhere that Beach has been able to dig up was an alleged reference in the Iranian poet Nizami (obit 1209). Nizami in one poem (Treasury of […]

    Boy Genius Washed Up from Shipwreck In Wales? June 25, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Boy Genius Washed Up from Shipwreck In Wales?

      ***thanks to Wade and Andy who sent this amazing story in** Consider the following tale. Two young children are found in mysterious circumstances without their parents: they look different from the locals and speak another language. They are adopted by a family in the neighbourhood. One child dies but the other prospers and shows […]

    Rabies and Dog’s Liver Cure April 11, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Rabies and Dog's Liver Cure

    Rabies vanished from Britain in the very early twentieth century and bar some unlucky exceptions has not returned since: just 22 have died since 1902. But in the nineteenth century it was a serious menace and people, particularly children died on a fairly regular basis. Here is a rabies account from the 1860s and deep […]

    Expert Opinion on Deadly Free Fall March 28, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Expert Opinion on Deadly Free Fall

    Of course, medical and scientific opinion more generally has been proved wrong time and time again over the centuries with red faces enough all around. But Beach stumbled on an early twentieth-century example that had entirely escaped his notice. He quotes from Peter Hearn’s excellent Sky High Irvin: The Story of a Parachute Pioneer. Strange […]

    Why Didn’t the Vikings Bring Disease to the Americas? March 17, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Why Didn't the Vikings Bring Disease to the Americas?

    It is well known that viruses proved absolutely essential in the colonization of the Americas. Unlike in Africa and Asia native populations died on a massive scale as they came into contact with viruses from animals and people, viruses that had been blunted by human immune systems over several thousand years in Europe. By some […]

    The Most Beautiful Folk Cure: An Epilepsy Ring February 25, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Most Beautiful Folk Cure: An Epilepsy Ring

    ***for Tacitus on sabbatical*** There is a little to be said for many folklore cures in terms of efficacy unless we call out placebo. However, some cures are winners, even spectacular winners in an aesthetic sense. I recently ran across this very curious nineteenth-century Welsh cure for epilepsy (‘the cure of fits’): it appeared in […]

    Small Pox: the Native American Version February 10, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Small Pox: the Native American Version

    The greatest weapons that European colonists had at their disposal when they disembarked in the Americas in the sixteenth through the eighteenth centuries were not their muskets or their swords or their armour. They were, of course, their viruses (and those of their animals) with which they inflicted (at least at first unknowingly) devestation on […]

    Hooping Cough Cures September 11, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Hooping Cough Cures

    We are in 1862 A correspondent transmits the following account of a superstitious ceremony which took place the other day at Neilston [Lowland Scotland]. The jolly blacksmith there is in possession of a fine young she ass, which, with her frolics, has caused great amusement amongst the boys of the town, while some calculating old […]

    Weird Birth Omen and the Youngest Roman Emperor September 10, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Weird Birth Omen and the Youngest Roman Emperor

    ***Thanks for David M for pointing out this fascinating piece*** Diadumenian was one of the unluckiest Roman emperors. He was made emperor by his father when he was about nine and he was dead within just over a year (obit 218), when one of those apparently endless third-century revolts pulled the rug from under his […]

    Hydropathy: Roby Comes Through August 31, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Hydropathy: Roby Comes Through

    Hydropathy was one of Victorian England’s most interesting errors, the belief that by ‘taking the waters’ various serious conditions could be cured. Stuff and nonsense? Well, according to modern medical science, yes: and Darwin in the nineteenth century himself experimented with hydropathy (for his mysterious health condition) concluding that any success was really just a […]

    The Amphibiotic Ablutionists August 22, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Amphibiotic Ablutionists

    *** Sorry late, Beach family reunited today*** Diving in the freezing water is now a fairly common guarantee of guts and eccentricity. But in early nineteenth-century England it was the height of weirdness. Beach stumbled on these healthy souls while searching for more information about hydropathy.  Beach is going to put up a five dollar […]

    Witches and Brambles May 9, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Witches and Brambles

    This is a summary borrowed from Owen Davies’ excellent Witchcraft, Magic and Culture. In December 1924, Alfred John Matthews, aged forty-three, a small-holder of Clyst St Lawrence, Devon, appeared at the Cullhompton petty sessions for scratching and drawing blood from Ellen Garnsworthy, a middle-aged, married woman of the same village. Matthews had a sow which […]

    Vision Quest 1#: Blood Loss April 17, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Vision Quest 1#: Blood Loss

    Around the world different peoples have pioneered different methods to ‘open the doors of consciousness’ through what doctors call hallucinations. Possible keys to said doors include mushrooms, toad poison and smoked grasses (of various descriptions). Beach knew about all these but he was surprised, recently to read about blood loss causing hallucinations. The science behind […]

    CCSVI: The Limits of Placebo January 5, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite
    CCSVI: The Limits of Placebo

    CCSVI is a medical condition that may or that may not explain one of the most mysterious and debilitating illnesses on the planet, Multiple Sclerosis. We look at it here because it is yet another example of a strange-history theme, the difficulty that new knowledge has in emerging against a strong orthodoxy, something that is […]

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