Saturday, May 16, 2015

Being sick 200 years ago

It has never been more unpleasant to be sick, or more dangerous, than during the nineteenth century. The ailments that people suffered were very often infections with highly disagreeable symptoms and serious risk of mortality. The remedies employed against tuberculosis, smallpox, cholera, typhus, and the rest were, furthermore, generally useless. . . . [E]ven the good remedies had deleterious effects. . . . Physicians recognized the toxic nature of their drugs, but used them nonetheless because they believed the to work, and reasoned (as do oncologiests today) that temporary poisoning was a small price to pay for staying alive.
James C. Whorton, The Arsenic Century: How Victorians Britain Was Poisoned at Home, Work, & Play (New York: Oxford, 2010), pp. 229-30

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