Sober up the nineteenth-century way

remedies for drunkennessAs Christmas celebrations fade away and battered livers dubiously await the assault of New Year’s Eve, now is a good time to consider one of medicine’s oldest questions: how to counteract the effects of alcohol. Nineteenth-century medical writers seem to have been more concerned with prevention than cure: journal articles say little about curing a hangover, but contain several methods … Read more

A Victorian hospital Christmas

Christmas day in the London hospitalsAs a seasonal antidote to all the misery and medical disasters usually documented on this blog, here is something genuinely heart-warming. The Victorians were particularly good at Christmas – they invented most of the domestic Christmas traditions we enjoy today, from the meal to the tree.  A story published in the British Medical Journal in December 1869 shows them extending … Read more

The hidden dangers of a Victorian Christmas

Narrative accidentIn the last (I promise) of my trilogy of Christmas disasters, here is a warning of the dangers of festive decorations. This Christmas tree-related incident from 1849 was documented in The Household Narrative, the almanac published by Charles Dickens between 1850 and 1855.  In the section tastefully entitled ‘Accident and Disaster’, Dickens reports the following incident: 

An accident, fortunately Read more

The perils of the Christmas pudding

plum puddingContinuing this blog’s recent Christmas theme, here’s a short article originally printed in the Medical Adviser in 1825.  It was at about this time that one of the staples of the modern Christmas dinner – the Christmas pudding – began to be a regular feature of festive meals. More usually referred to as a plum pudding, this boiled pudding containing … Read more

There was an old woman who swallowed a fork…

swallowing of a forkIn 1868 the Medical and Surgical Reporter contained a report of an unusual case received from the physicians of the insane asylum at Zutphen, a town in the Netherlands.

The patient was a woman 64 years old, affected with lypemania…

Lypemania is an archaic term, meaning an excessive fondness for melancholy. Today a patient suffering from these symptoms would probably … Read more