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Fakers and Charlatans in English Medicine

By (author) Roy Porter
Format: Hardback
Publisher: The History Press Ltd, Stroud, United Kingdom
Imprint: NPI Media Group
Published: 1st Apr 2000
Dimensions: w 195mm h 250mm d 23mm
Weight: 862g
ISBN-10: 0752417762
ISBN-13: 9780752417769
Barcode No: 9780752417769

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Kirkus UK
This excellent history of popular medicine in Restoration and Georgian times is neither a chronological account of significant events nor a scientific medical history of 'quack' practices, but a look at the social and economic landscape against which fraudulent doctors flourished. Quacks came in all shapes and sizes, from those who treated Kings and nobles to those who journeyed from town fleecing the unsuspecting with sugar- and alcohol-flavoured water. In between those two extremes there existed a range of medical entrepreneurs - 'nostrum' vendors who offered potions that cured everything, 'strokers', the equivalent of today's faith healers, and those who wrote books and pamphlets on 'self-help' health. The medical establishment, whilst united in its public condemnation of quacks, had neither the power or (in many cases) the will to regulate them, especially as many doctors sold their own potions in the medical marketplace. In a book rich with information and fine detail, Roy Porter shows that the image of the quack as a peddler of worthless cures and fly-by-night conman is not completely deserved and owes a lot to subsequent historical interpretations. Porter takes us back to an age when life was precarious and most illnesses still had no known cure - a fact that made the healthy far more conscious of the need to remain so and the sick increasingly desperate as established medicine failed them. Porter recounts at length the publicity material used by the quacks, much of which is highly comic to us now, with maladies such as 'Rheumatick Defluctions', 'Immoderate Fluxes' and 'Kings Evil Falling Sicknesse' that might well prompt one to reach for Radcliffe's Purging Elixir, Smyth's Scouring Drops or Spirits of Scurvy Grass. Beautifully illustrated and presented, this book almost makes one wish that doctors today still came complete with clowns, snakes and performing monkeys. (Kirkus UK)