Medicine, Disease and Society in Britain, 1750 - 1950. The Golden Age of Quackery?:Unorthodox practice. Lecture 3. Lecture Outline. 1. Definitions of a ‘quack’ and ‘quackery’ and problems 2. The market and types of ‘quack’ - General vs specialist - Famous and successful ‘quacks’
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A boastful pretender to arts which he does not understand.
A vain boastful pretender to physic, one who proclaims his own Medical abilities in public places.
An artful tricking practitioner in Physic
Doctor Humbug, an itinerant medicine vendor, selling his wares from a stage with the aid of an assistant. Coloured etching, 1799.
He seems to understand the anatomy of the eye perfectly well; he has a fine hand and good instruments, and performs all his operations with great dexterity.’
Dr William King, Tunbridge Wells.
An example of ‘how far impudence may carry ignorance.’
The Celestial bed at the Temple of Health, London c.1775
Graham lecturing at Edinburgh
James Morison (1770-1840) made a fortune with his Vegetable Universal Pills.
A patient being ‘mesmerised’ late c18th/early c19th
Led to hypnosis in the c19th
1863: Joins family business in Nottingham selling herbal remedies.
1884: Opens shop In Sheffield
1892: Opens larger manufacturing site
1909: Jesse Boot knighted
1913: 560 shops in Great Britain
1920: Boots Company is sold to an American for £2.25m.
Nottingham flagship store, opened in 1904
Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1833
Laws of homeopathy
Let like be cured by like (exemplified in the folk wisdom that hot compresses were good for burns, or that cowpox vaccination immunized against smallpox).
Use of infinitesimals (serial dilution) - the smaller the dose, the more efficacious the medicine.
1842 - articles and responses
There are two kinds of quacks:
1. the quack who advertises remedies which can do no good to anyone beyond transferring money from one pocket to another
2. the quack, so-called by the medical profession, who, though he cures pain and eases suffering, has the audacity to do it by methods of which the faculty is ignorant and is too superior to look into
“I am in a Hydropathy Establishment in Cheltenham (the only one in England conducted on pure Priessnitzian principles. I have had four crises (one larged than had been seen for two or three years in Gräfenberg – indeed I believe the largest but one that has been seen). Much poison has come out of me, which no physic would have brought to light…I have been here already upwards of two months. Of all the uncomfortable ways of living surely and hydropathical is the worst: no reading by candlelight, no going near a fire, no tea, no coffee, perpetual wet sheet and cold bath and alteration from hot to cold: however I have much faith in it.”
It is inaccurate to think of the c18th as a ‘golden age of quackery’
Many practices/services/products continued into the c19th and even increased
New systems of medicines emerged: attacked by profession, accepted by patients
Problem with definition of ‘quack’ - associated with fraud
Difficult for patients to distinguish
Some had a genuine belief in medicine/services they offered and were effective, just not qualified e.g. community local healer
Only way to practice specialism e.g. oculists
Who was calling who a quack? Regular practitioners and competition
‘Quackery’ demonstrates the failure of the profession to cure and consolidate