Tag Archives: History Essays

Applause, Honours and Mortification: Admiral Pellew’s psychology of achievement in combatting slavery

Stephen Martin United Kingdom & Thailand Aidan Jones United Kingdom   Opening section of letter. Photo © Cat Ring Books, Amherst, Massachusetts. A revealing, unpublished letter was written by Edward Pellew two months after commanding the Bombardment of Algiers to suppress Mediterranean slave traders. Short, sensitive, and emotional, it is an insight into the psychology […]

Emblems and psychological medicine on the Sutton Hoo purse

Stephen Martin Durham, England, and Thailand   The recent film The Dig1 has brought into the wider public eye the story of an Anglo-Saxon ship burial.2 The burial mound, at Sutton Hoo, in Sussex, England,3,4 contained a high-status figure, almost certainly Royal. The most expensive of the grave goods5 are high-craftsmanship gold, set with very […]

The derailment of Franklin Pierce

Jacob Appel  New York, New York, United States   Pres. Franklin Pierce. neg. from original ink by Brady. [between 1855 and 1865]. Part of Brady-Handy photograph collection. From the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Few subjects have attracted as much attention from medical historians, both well-founded and speculative, as the health of United States presidents. […]

Agricola’s De re metallica: an early description of industrial diseases

The “Father of Mineralogy,” Georgius Agricola. Via Wikimedia. Georg Bauer was born in Saxony in 1494 and went by the name of Georgius Agricola because in his time academicians often latinized their name, so that Bauer in German translated into Agricola, meaning peasant or farmer. He was a medical practitioner in a small mining town […]

American ginseng as an herbal emissary influencing Qing-American trade relations

Richard Zhang Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States   Panax quinquefolium, as featured in a book by physician-botanist Jacob Bigelow, late 1810s. Public domain courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. On February 22, 1784, the Empress of China set sail from New York Harbor.1 Destined for the eponymous country, the American ship carried thirty tons of a wild root—ginseng. […]

Ivan Illich after almost half a century

Photo of Ivan Illich. Via Wikimedia. Ivan Illich died in 2002 and is now in danger of being forgotten. His famous book, Medical Nemesis,1 appeared in 1975 and captured the imagination and approbation of many. He was a vehement critic of the “medical establishment,” which he regarded as a threat to people’s health. He was […]

Obesity in the Middle Ages: Sancho el Craso

Nicolás Roberto Robles   Badajoz, Spain   Figure 1. Imaginary portrait. Sancho I El Craso. José María Rodríguez de Losada. between circa 1892 and circa 1894. Public domain. Via Wikimedia. “Severe obesity restricts body movements and maneuvers . . . breathing passages become blocked and do not pass good air . . . these patients […]

General Robert E Lee’s myocardial infarction: did illness impact the Battle of Gettysburg?

Lloyd Klein San Francisco, California, United States   Robert E Lee in March 1864. Julian Vannerson, photographer, after 1875. No known restrictions on publication. From the Library of Congress. Ascribing the loss of the Battle of Gettysburg to an illness of General Robert E. Lee became common among historians thirty years ago. The legend of […]

Medical and other memories of the Cold War and its Iron Curtain

Hugh Tunstall-Pedoe  Dundee, Scotland, UK   Iron Curtain as described by Churchill 1946. Edited from original. Original by BigSteve via Wikimedia. (CC BY 1.0) In 1946, Winston Churchill named the political barrier appearing between the Soviet bloc and the West the “Iron Curtain.” It lasted until 1991. I met or crossed it several times. The […]

Too many doctors: the death of Friedrich III

Nicolas Roberto Robles  Badajoz, Spain   Figure 1. Kaiser Friedrich Museum (currently Bode Museum) on the Monbijou Bridge in Berlin, 1905. Public domain. Via Wikimedia Un médico cura; dos, dudan; tres, muerte segura. One doctor, health; two, doubt; three, certain death. -Spanish saying.   Friedrich III of Hohenzollern was the second Kaiser of Germany and […]