Breastfeeding or Nursing with Wet Nurses in the Eighteenth Century

Visit to the Wet Nurse by Belgian painter Basile de Loose. Public domain.

Breastfeeding or nursing with wet nurses in the eighteenth century was a common occurrence. That was because by medieval times the idea of breastfeeding was often regarded as too menial a task for royal women and they began to use wet nurses. Other reasons for the use of wet nurses was that mothers sometimes were unable to produce enough milk, died during child birth, or suffered some physical ailment. There were also some women who claimed breastfeeding was time consuming or they argued that it ruined their figures. Sometimes a woman’s husband might not support her breastfeeding activities, or sometimes a woman wanted to quickly get pregnant again and thought it would happen faster if she didn’t nurse. Continue reading

Cholera and Its Suggested Remedies in the Mid 1800s

Cholera and Its Suggested Remedies
Cholera Preventative Costume. Public Domain.

Cholera comes from the Greek word kholē. Transmission of Cholera usually occurs through the fecal-oral route because of contaminated food or water caused by poor sanitation. The first cholera pandemic began in 1816 in India and eventually spread by trade routes infecting China, Europe, North American, and the remainder of the world. It was a deadly disease that killed tens of millions of people.

Because it was so dangerous, people were concerned. This resulted in group of British gentlemen being appointed by the Poor Law Commissioners to examine the conditions of the London Poor Houses. After their examination, they provided the following 22 tips that were published in an article titled, “Remedies Against the Cholera.” Their 22 tips are provided here almost verbatim: Continue reading

Rules for Preserving Health in Victorian Times

health in Victorian times
Victorian ad for Smedley’s Chillie Paste that cured all sorts of ailments. Author’s Collection.

Victorians considered themselves to be health conscious. Because of their concern for their health, one Victorian publication provided a list of rules for Victorians to help preserve their health. Here is that list almost verbatim:

Habitual cheerfulness and composure of mind, arising from peace of conscience, constant reliance on the goodness of God, and the exercise of kindly feelings toward men. Peace of mind is essential to health as it is to happiness.

Strict control over the appetites and passions, with a fixed abhorrence of all excess, and all unlawful gratifications whatsoever. He that would enjoy good health must be “temperate in all things,” and habitually exercise the most rigid self-government; for every sort of vicious indulgence is highly injurious to health; first, directly, in its immediate effects on the body; and next, indirectly, in the perpetual dissatisfaction and anxiety of mind which it invariably occasions. Continue reading

Cold Sea Bathing in the Georgian Era

Sea Bathing in Mid Wales c.1800. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Cold sea bathing in the Georgian Era was thought to have curative or therapeutic properties and be more than merely a cold bath. The salt made it a “medicated bath,” and as salt was considered to be a stimulant, it was also “an efficacious cleanser of the glands of the skin.” Cold bathing was also thought to be the most helpful and useful when a person required a strong shock. In addition, one person noted that cold sea bathing was also required

“where the humours are too much dispersed, and a counteracting revulsion of the solids, to promote the circulation of the blood and humours impeded, becomes necessary, and where the surface of the body requires bracing up to a more tense degree.”

Continue reading

Mineral Springs and Watering-Places of Georgian Times

Mineral Springs and Watering-Places of Georgian Times
Unidentified Mineral Springs from the 1600s. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

From early times, mineral waters were used to remove or alleviate disease. Waters at watering-places were often ascribed to the occult and sometimes said to be miraculous in their abilities to cure disease, both chronic and acute. Some people had such belief in the mysterious agency of mineral waters they entertained exaggerated notions of their capabilities and power and used mineral waters whenever they were ill. However, other patients found that mineral waters did not alter or alleviate their sufferings, and these people tended to claim that such waters cured people because of a “mere change of air, scene, and mode of life.” Continue reading

Masturbation Among Victorian Youth in Boarding Schools

Masturbation Among Victorian Youth in Boarding Schools: The Secret Companion
“The Secret Companion” by R J Brodie, 1845, Courtesy of Wellcome Images.

The term masturbation was first introduced in the 18th century. At the time, however, the terms onanism or self-pollution were more frequently used to describe masturbation, terms that Victorians also used. Additionally, in the 19th century, masturbation was more politely referred to as self-abuse or sometimes manualization, as it was done by hand.

One article published in 1870 noted that the practice of masturbation among Victorian youth in boarding schools was “much more frequent than … generally imagined.”[1] According to the article there was nothing more “detestable or ruinous.” Masturbation was also called a “baneful habit,” and it was noted that such a pernicious habit could easily spread from one student to another until the whole boarding school was affected. Moreover, the effects of it could supposedly result in the following:

“Health, intellect, morals — all purity, dignity, and self-respect — sink beneath it in promiscuous and hopeless ruin. When carried to excess it produces idiotism in the most deplorable and disgusting form, accompanied by impaired vision and hearing, paralysis, and other distressing infirmities, and terminates in death.”[2]

Continue reading

Regency Poisons

regency poisonsPoisons were an important topic in the Regency Era and because of the interest in poisons, a lengthy article was published in 1828 that provide all sorts of information about poisons, including class III poisons designated as “Sedative, or Narcotic Poisons.” All of these poisons could be ingested or applied to the body and were reported to cause “drowsiness, stupor, paralysis or apoplexy, convulsions, and death when the dose [was] sufficiently large.”

Among this list of Regency poisons designated as “Sedative, or Narcotic Poisons” were nine items from the vegetable kingdom — camphor, hemlock, henbane, laurel water, opium, prussic acid, stramonium, strong scented lettuce, and tobacco — and one mineral sedative and narcotic poison known as carbonic acid gas. To understand these poisons and counter their deadly consequences, a list was provided. Here it is almost verbatim: Continue reading

Death By Peas and Other Foods

Death by Peas: ice cream
Ice Cream, Courtesy of

Food was not always safe in the 1800s, and all sorts of foods could cause death. For example, a 22-year-old woman decided to eat raw rice mixed with milk, and afterwards drank her hot tea. A few hours later she fell ill and complained of severe stomach pain, which was caused from the rice swelling. “Emetics were given with great relief,  a large quantity of rice being expelled from the stomach.” Yet, the emetics did not completely solve the problem.

The following morning, the young lady’s pain increased. Then she suddenly showed other symptoms. She had “cold extremities, a small feeble pulse, and great abdominal tenderness.” She died about twenty-four later from having eaten the raw rice. Although eating raw rice may have not been the smartest thing to do, other foods in the 1800s sometimes caused death. Among the foods from which people died were ice cream, chocolate creams, orange peels, watermelon seeds, and peas. Continue reading

Georgian Rules to Promote Long Life

Georgian Sir John Sinclair, Courtesy of Wikipedia
Sir John Sinclair, Courtesy of Wikipedia

Sir John Sinclair, 1st Baronet, was a Scottish writer who primarily wrote about finance and agriculture but is perhaps best known for writing the 21-volume, Statistical Account of Scotland. Sinclair, like other people of Georgian times, was also interested in how to achieve a long life. This resulted in him writing a brief article in which he listed seven rules that he believed would help Georgian people achieve a long life. He classified these rules under the following headings: diet, clothing, habitation, exercise and labor, habits and customs, medicine, and disposition of mind.

Here are his seven rules in their entirety and almost verbatim:

  • Diet. The importance of wholesome food, for the preservation of health and long life, and the avoiding of excess, whether in eating or drinking, need not be dwelt upon. Some instances, indeed, are mentioned of persons who have continued to commit excesses, and, have lived long; but these are to be considered in no other light than as exceptions from a general rule; and it may reasonably be contended, that if such persons lived to a great age, notwithstanding their intemperance, they would have lived much longer had they followed a different course. Continue reading

Curing Headaches in Georgian Times

The Headache by George Cruikshank, Headaches
The Headache by George Cruikshank, Courtesy of Wikipedia

Georgian physicians claimed there were all sorts of causes for headaches. Some of the stranger causes included atmospheric changes, bile in the blood, too much iron, bowel issues, thunderstorms, and indigestion. Just as Georgian physicians believed there were many causes for headaches, physicians also offered a wide variety of solutions to headache sufferers. Some of the more popular recommendations are listed below:

ANIMAL MAGNETISM. This was an invisible force within animals based on a mysterious magnetic fluid that produced physical healing. It was discovered by a German doctor named Franz Mesmer. Mesmer provided treatments for individual patients as well as groups of patients at the same time. Single patient treatments included the patient facing him, touching knee-to-knee, while Mesmer made “passes” with his hands down the length of the patient’s body. Sometimes, he would press a patient’s hypochondrium region (just below the diaphragm) to effect a cure and his pressing could last for hours. Mesmer’s techniques came under scrutiny in 1784 when King Louis XVI established a commission to examine his work. The commission agreed Mesmer had cured patients, but they also determined there was no such thing as magnetic fluid. Because of their findings, they attributed the cures to either charlatanry or patient imagination, thereby debunking Mesmer. Continue reading