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Health in the 18th century

Eighteenth-century recipes

This is the first half of a paper given at the Roehampton Postgraduate Conference, 17 June 2010.

What were the main health problems in the 18th century? The plague was no longer an issue (although there were occasional outbreaks even as late as the 20th century in the tenements of Glasgow). Smallpox and typhus were almost as bad, though, and there were also high death tolls from measles, scarlatina, diphtheria and tuberculosis, then called consumption. Particularly among the poor rickets and whooping cough were both dangerous, as was diarrhoea in infants. Skin and eye diseases and parasitic infections were common, as were rheumatism, ulcers, kidney and bladder stones, and bad teeth, which led to internal infections. Recipe books include remedies for everyday complaints such as coughs and colds, stomach upsets and headaches, as well as spots, warts and dandruff, cuts, bruises and burns.

When we’re ill in the 21st century…

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