Medicine, Health and Society

Death in Vienna and the City of Salt

by Helen King April 10, 2014
Death in Vienna and the City of Salt
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The Experience of False Pregnancies in Early Modern France

by Lisa Smith March 30, 2014
The Experience of False Pregnancies in Early Modern France

By Lisa Smith, W&M Contributor I was rustling through some old research notes on strange pregnancies when a detail in a case addressed to the Société Royale de Médecine from 1787 suddenly caught my eye. The case was one of unexpected pregnancy in which an unnamed forty-four year old woman (sterile for twenty-three years, one […]

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The ideal midwife?

by Helen King February 10, 2014
The ideal midwife?

By Helen King What do we look for in a midwife? Short nails feature a lot in the history of midwifery! Many images of midwives from the past are very negative, like this one from around 1800. In a previous post, I looked at midwives as murderers. Let’s return to the good sort now. Back […]

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Lady Mary Wortley Montagu and the Destroying Angel

by Lucy Inglis January 14, 2014
Lady Mary Wortley Montagu and the Destroying Angel

Lady Mary Wortley Montagu would not only introduce London to innoculation against smallpox, but also her series of ‘Turkish Embassy Letters’ make up the first secular work on the Muslim Orient by a Western woman. Her life of adventure began when she escaped an arranged married with the astonishingly named Clotworthy Skeffington by marrying Edward […]

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Ancient libraries and their dangers

by Helen King January 10, 2014
Ancient libraries and their dangers

By Helen King Galen was, to put it politely, a bit of a show-off. Since our main source for Galen is Galen himself, this can make it difficult to work out whether he was as great a physician as he makes out. I think the answer has to be that he was; his second-century AD […]

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Pregnancy between East and West

by Helen King December 10, 2013
Pregnancy between East and West

By Helen King (image courtesy of Archives and Special Collections, Library and Center for Knowledge Management, University of California, San Francisco) Sometimes you come across an image that really sticks in your mind. I recently attended a workshop on the representation of the womb across time, and one of the papers introduced me to this […]

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The Plague of Athens: dying like sheep?

by Helen King November 10, 2013
The Plague of Athens: dying like sheep?

By Helen King I like sheep. When I was staying in the Netherlands some years ago, I was very excited because we were invited on a trip to what I heard as the ‘Sheep Museum’. Puzzled as to how there could be enough material to fill such a place, I went along enthusiastically, but was […]

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Ancient Roman Girl Athletes

by Elizabeth Goldsmith November 2, 2013
Ancient Roman Girl Athletes

by Elizabeth C. Goldsmith   (W&M Contributor) When I was a girl in high school back in the ‘60s, the only team sports available to me were swimming and field hockey. By the time my sister hit high school they had added Cinderella softball and Powder-Puff football. After Title IX, things changed. That’s the modern history of […]

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One-sex and two-sex bodies?

by Helen King October 10, 2013
One-sex and two-sex bodies?

by Helen King   Tomorrow is a big day for me; finally, my latest book is published. It’s about the claim that there was a clear division in the history of Western Europe between two models of the body: ‘one-sex’ and ‘two-sex’. In the first model, men and women were seen as having exactly the […]

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Menotoxin – when menstruation can kill?

by Helen King September 10, 2013
Menotoxin - when menstruation can kill?

By Helen King (W&M Regular Contributor) In the 1920s there was a serious medical debate about an invisible substance called ‘menotoxin’. This was believed to exist in menstrual blood; it could blight flowers and prevent jam from setting, and bread from rising. The theory can be seen as a surprising throwback, in the age of […]

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The Sex Life of Dogs in the Eighteenth Century

by Lisa Smith August 30, 2013
The Sex Life of Dogs in the Eighteenth Century

By Lisa Smith I started out rifling through old animal husbandry books on a whim, looking for references to beagles. (See The Art of Beagling and Buffon and the Beagle here at W&M.) Along the way, I discovered more than I’d ever guess about the canine sex life: mating tips, aphrodisiacs and birth control, and […]

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“Call the Midwife” – or knit your own womb

by Helen King August 10, 2013
"Call the Midwife" - or knit your own womb

By Helen King (W&M Regular Contributor) (this post develops an earlier version that first appeared in July 2013 on http://departu.org.uk)   It was one of those moments that only happens when academics and practitioners are in the same room… For about a year, I had been thinking about the history of visual representations of body […]

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Should physicians treat their enemies?

by Helen King June 10, 2013
Should physicians treat their enemies?

 By Helen King   There are a lot of mistaken ideas about the ‘Hippocratic oath’; for   example, that it was written by the real Hippocrates (deeply unlikely – probably written way after his supposed lifetime); that it bans abortion (no, it bans giving an abortive pessary to someone asking for one, so other methods […]

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Masturbation and the Dangerous Woman

by Lisa Smith April 30, 2013
Masturbation and the Dangerous Woman

By Lisa Smith, W&M Contributor Remember all those playground stories about masturbation causing hairy palms and blindness? Those tales go way back. During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, much ink was spilled on the devastation that masturbation would cause. Men’s frequent self-pleasuring would destroy the fibres of their penis, and the masturbator would become effeminate, […]

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An Old Doctor, a Convent Apothecary, and an Eighteenth-Century Medical Dispute

by Lisa Smith March 2, 2013
An Old Doctor, a Convent Apothecary, and an Eighteenth-Century Medical Dispute

By Lisa Smith, W&M Contributor In December 1718, Dr. Tolozé, who styled himself an ‘Ancien Medecin’ (Old Doctor), wrote to physician Étienne-François Geoffroy.[1] Tolozé wanted Geoffroy to settle a dispute between him and the nuns of St. Eutrope near Chartres. Geoffroy, he believed, was well-placed to help, being the doctor of a Mme Cossins who […]

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