Gin, Beer, and Chicken: Hogarth’s Art and More

A new piece of art commissioned by the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) re-imagines William Hogarth’s classic 1751 cartoon Gin Lane. It depicts a society preoccupied by junk food rather than gin.

This is pretty amazing timing, considering this is the focus of my Disease and Society lecture this week!

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Reimagined Version by Thomas Moore

According to the BBC, the original showed the damaging effects of a gin craze sweeping London as well as a population suffering from deadly infections common at the time. Cholera. Syphilis. You name it. In contrast, Thomas Moore‘s new picture shows how obesity and mental health issues are today’s big health threats.

The updated version shows a mother salivating over yummy junk food, which she is also feeding her child. In contrast, Hogarth’s 18th century version focuses on a mum more interested in gin and snuff, who is suffering from syphilis sores.

Another stark difference is the prominent payday lender shop, replacing the pawnbrokers of 1751. (Just need a betting shop in there!) Moore’s modern version highlights the popularity of high street chicken shops today, while Hogarth’s work shows people almost skeletal with starvation.

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Gin Lane by William Hogarth

And…Beer Lane

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FULL BREAKDOWN OF CHANGES

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The overall scene is the same street as presented in the original, but has been developed and modernized so that it is representative of a typical street scene in London, or indeed anywhere in the UK today.

  1. The central character has been reinvented. Where the original depicts a mother who is drunk and too pre-occupied with taking snuff to care for her baby, Gin Lane 2016 instead shows the mother preoccupied with eating junk food, which she has also fed to her child.
  2. A pawnbroker is one of the significant and thriving businesses in the original piece. In the modern version, this has been replaced by one of the payday lenders which have become a feature of many high streets, and are perhaps a 21st century equivalent. The desperation of one of the customers leaving the payday lender represents the mental ill health associated with debt.
  3. The chicken shop is a representative feature of the obesogenic environment which is at the heart of Gin Lane 2016 – busy, vibrant, and packed full of glum looking customers.
  4. The man contemplating throwing himself off the top of a building is a nod to the original in which a barber is seen hanging, having committed suicide because his customers could no longer afford to have their hair cut. Suicide is now the single biggest killer of men under 45 in the UK.
  5. The original arch has been converted into Gin Lane tube station, with commuters glued to their smart phones – a depiction of the busy, potentially lonely existence of many Londoners today.
  6. Junk food adverts provide another reflection of the ubiquitous power of marketing in our obesogenic environment.
  7. The distillery from the original piece has become a busy pub, replete with rowdy drunk customers.
  8. A news vendor hands out a paper with another headline about the threat posed by obesity.

Courtesy of https://www.rsph.org.uk/about-us/news/gin-lane-2016-iconic-artwork-reimagined-for-the-21st-century.html

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My lecture this Friday will definitely be connecting the past with the present…

GIN AND JUICE

 

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THE FUTURE OF UK MEDICAL MARIJUANA REMAINS BLURRY

BUT THERE ARE LESSONS TO TAKE AWAY FROM CANADA

From 2014–2016, Canadian health authorities were forced to address the issue of medical marijuana, even as activist groups and industry sought to influence the decision-making process and its place in the medical marketplace. First, the system was privatized, then issues of use and access, not to mention the full-on legalization of recreational marijuana, dominated headlines.

In light of last week’s shocking medical marijuana report, the policy debate will certainly grow more heated here in the UK. The All Party Parliamentary Group on Drug Policy Reform stated there is “good evidence” cannabis can help alleviate the symptoms of several health conditions, including chronic pain and anxiety. According to Prof Mike Barnes, a leading consultant neurologist who contributed to the report, “We must legalise access to medical cannabis as a matter of urgency.”

In a recently co-edited series on Canadian cannabis called Waiting to Inhale, it became clear that medical marijuana was a supremely complex policy issue. Some of the questions included, but were not limited to, the tenuous balance between consumers and regulators, Canadian physicians as unwanted gatekeepers, marijuana as a measure (and potential leveller) of inequities, and the major struggles between Big Cannabis and craft cannabis.

Looking ahead, the UK can learn lessons from other countries, including Canada.

Background: Canadian medical cannabis

Medical marijuana has been available in Canada since 2001, after the Canadian Court of Appeal declared that sufferers from epilepsy, AIDS, cancer and other ailments had a constitutional right to light up. Prohibition of this “medicine” was, in short, unconstitutional.

The original regulation that allowed patients to access medical marijuana in Canada was enacted in 2001 and called the Marihuana Medical Access Regulations (MMAR). It allowed patients to possess dried marijuana flower/bud with a license issued by the government, provided that the application was signed off by a physician.

One strain of medicine was available for purchase from one single government supplier, Prairie Plant Systems, but optional licenses were available for patients to grow their own plants or to designate a grower to supply medicine to them.

The MMAR was repealed and replaced by the Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR), enacted on Apr. 1, 2014. With this, medical marijuana was officially opened for business. And the new rules generated a craze as dozens of new entrants jumped into the marketplace.

As of Aug. 24, 2016 the MMPR was replaced with the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulation (ACMPR). These new regulations included legislation that satisfied the latest Supreme Court decision to allow patients who possess a prescription from a doctor to grow their own medicine.

During this period, certain problems have hindered the medical marijuana industry’s growth in Canada, and Britain could learn from these.

Dispensaries vs. Big Cannabis

These stores and clubs are illegal because they procure and sell their products outside the federal medical marijuana system, which was overhauled and expanded last year to allow industrial-scale production of pot products that are mailed directly to licensed patients.

The pushback against dispensaries has come from national and local law enforcement as well as the Canadian Medical Cannabis Industry Association. Yet, the Cannabis Growers of Canada, a trade association representing “unlicensed” growers and dispensaries, have fought to be included at the table. Along with several other organizations, the CGC has lobbied the government to be included in the new legal regime.

As the New York Times put it, “a lobbying battle is raging between the new entrepreneurs and the licensed medical marijuana producers, who were the only ones allowed to grow and provide the plant under the old regulations. One side complains about being shut out by a politically connected cartel, while the other complains about unfair and damaging competition from those who are breaking the law.”

Physicians

Medical marijuana has not approved as a medicine by Health Canada, although there is a growing body of clinical evidence regarding its pain-alleviating effects.

As such, physicians in Canada have struggled with the science and ethics of medical marijuana. At the 147th annual meeting of the Canadian Medical Association in Ottawa last August, many doctors expressed serious reservations about prescribing marijuana.

Some doctors said they felt threatened or intimidated into signing prescriptions, whereas others felt as though patients were shopping for doctors. Worst of all, there were reported cases of malfeasance, where doctors charged their patients for a prescription.

The result is that the CMA remains divided on, if not outright opposed to, being the gatekeepers of medical marijuana.

Workplace Safety and Performance

With more relaxed rules around medical marijuana (along with federal legislation looking to legalize cannabis),employers are wondering whether this will grow as an issue when it comes to pre-employment or on-the-job testing.

Aside from certain industries, such as transportation, most provinces don’t have clear policies or precedents for dealing with medical marijuana.

Besides that, workplace screening of marijuana is a mediocre indicator of performance in the workplace as it doesn’t actually test for impairment. Rather, it tests for by-products excreted from the body after the drug’s been ingested.

Looking ahead, human resource departments will be forced to develop a raft of new policies.

Veterans

The core problem rests with the amount of cannabis veterans are authorized to take. In 2014, Veterans Affairs doubled the amount to 10 grams per day for eligible veterans. Yet, this is twice the amount Health Canada considers safe.

An internal Health Canada document showed that more than five grams has the potential to increase risks to the cardiovascular, pulmonary and immune systems, as well as psychomotor performance and has a chance of increasing the risk of drug dependence.

Ferguson’s office could not find any evidence to support this decision to increase the threshold. Veterans Affairs Minister Kent Hehr expressed shock in March that his department lacked an “informed policy” on the use of medical cannabis, even as the number of claims by veterans for medical marijuana grew more than tenfold over the past two years.

Vaping

The intersection of vaping and medical marijuana has also caused tension. As vaping has moved from a niche presence to mainstream practice, its unregulated nature – at the federal level – poses problems to policy-makers.

For example, the Ontario government exempted medical marijuana users in mid-November from a law that bans the use of e-cigarettes anywhere regular cigarettes are prohibited. These regulations were set to come into effect Jan. 1. This exemption meant medical marijuana users could vape in restaurants, at work or on playgrounds. However, Ontario’s associate health minister Dipika Damerla stated that the government would remove the exemption.

Local governments in various cities recently voted to implement a vaping bans in public spaces, with only a vape shop exemption predicated on “safety” concerns, specifically for the uninitiated e-cigarette user who doesn’t know how to install batteries in the device. But it was also predicated on the notion that buyers should be able to see what they’re getting, which is the same argument made by authorized medical cannabis users about the value of a local pot dispensary.

The Future

Marijuana remains a highly contested medicine for various scientific, political and social reasons. That is obvious.

Policy makers from government, industry leaders, and physicians will face considerable question marks. Cutting through all the haze won’t be an easy task, yet all participants, including the public, would be wise to use recent examples from Canada to light the way.

 

Drug History in CBMH-BCHM

The Drug Policy Alliance, an organization dedicated to the promotion of drug policies based on science, compassion, health, and human rights, recently published an article entitled the “The Real History of Drugs.”

The author, Tony Newman, asks “why are some drugs legal and some prohibited? Why do we arrest approximately 600,000 Americans each year for marijuana possession, but sell tobacco and alcohol on most corners? Why do we lock up people who use meth for years, and dole out the similar drug Ritalin to our children?”

He then answers these questions with a single statement: a mixture of racism, stigma, and the individuals perceived to be using the illegal drugs.

At the same time, the article points toward short, slick videos that address the “real” history of substances, including cocaine, cannabis, and

MDMA

as well as LSD

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The video are well-produced and easily digestible.

Here’s the thing, though. Any “real” history of drugs will require a close reading of Canadian Bulletin of Medical History/Bulletin canadien d’histoire de la médecine.

In the realm of pharmaceuticals, you have Jackie Duffin’s In View of the Body of Job Broom: A Glimpse of the Medical Knowledge and Practice of John Rolph, Stephen Francom’s Pharmacy Records at the Archives of Ontario: Their Form, Content, and Value for Research, Laura Hirshbein’s Masculinity, Work, and the Fountain of Youth: Irving Fisher and the Life Extension Institute, 1914-31, and Peters’s and Snelders’s From King Kong Pills to Mother’s Little Helpers—Career Cycles of Two Families of Psychotropic Drugs: The Barbiturates and Benzodiazepines.

(In fact, the entire volume in which Peters and Snelders published their work contains wonderful, wide-ranging drugs-related articles.)

Then, in the realm of intoxicants and addiction, there’s Krasnick’s Because there is Pain: Alcoholism, Temperance and the Victorian Physician, Dan Malleck’s “Its Baneful Influences Are Too Well Known”: Debates over Drug Use in Canada, 1867-1908, Catherine Carstairs’s Deporting “Ah Sin” to Save the White Race: Moral Panic, Racialization, and the Extension of Canadian Drug Laws in the 1920s, and Dan Malleck’s (yes, Malleck again) “A State Bordering on Insanity”?:Identifying Drug Addiction in Nineteenth-Century Canadian Asylums.

Look, this is not a comprehensive list of all the articles that tackle drugs in CBHM-BCHM. Instead, this is just to provide a flavour…

So, when you’re looking for the “real” history of drugs, go further, dig deeper, and read happily. When you’re looking for answers to questions like those posed by Tony Newman, hit up the CBHM-BCHM.

Enjoy.

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For more on what I’m doing with the CBMH/BCMH, please see the announcement here and be sure to visit https://cshm-schm.ca/

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The Weight of History/The History of Weight in CBMH/BCHM

Or, History has Heft: On Public History and Debates about Weight Loss

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Trying to lose weight isn’t a new phenomenon. Consumers have long searched for a safe and effective approach to lose weight. At the same time, a strong debate persists about the genetic component of obesity, new scholarly sub-fields (see Fat Studies) are emerging questioning the stigmatization of overweight individuals, and our body images are being shaped by these forces. Historians have a crucial role to play in the way in which individuals, communities, and health authorities conceptualize bodies and think about weight.

*****

In The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, written by Frank L. Baum, all of the characters are searching for something. Dorothy is looking for a way home. The Scarecrow wants a brain, whereas the Tin Man wants a heart and the Lion desires courage.The only way to attain their goals is to visit the Wizard of Oz in the Emerald City. Only with his magic will their wishes be granted. As it turns out, the wizard is a total fraud. He’s just an ordinary man trying to protect his position and his empire. He’s a charlatan looking out for himself.

It is the same with TV’s Dr. Oz. As Americans (and Canadians) seek out their own desires,  be it weight loss or low blood pressure, it’s best to be wary of false wizards.

dr._oz

In 2014, Dr. Oz was called before a Senate committee on consumer protection and given a public lashing for his promotion of fraudulent weight-loss products. He admitted he was a bit of a cheerleader, using flowery language, although he suggested that it was important to advertise multiple views on the show. He also admitted that some of the products he’s suggested his viewers use don’t necessarily have “the scientific muster to present as fact.” For many, Oz came across as a quack and a huckster.

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Promoted by Dr. Oz

John Oliver, of Last Week Tonight, came down hard on Oz. He taunted and belittled the TV doctor. He used all the bells and whistles he could, including a tap-dancing Steve Buscemi, to continue the public lashing. Likewise, New York Times columnist Frank Bruni described Oz as “a carnival barker” and “a one-man morality play about the temptations of mammon and the seduction of applause….” Then, a group of high-profile doctors called for the removal of Oz in a public letter. They suggested he was pushing “miracle” weight-loss supplements with no scientific proof that they work. He displayed an “egregious lack of integrity,” said the letter, and Oz had shown “disdain for science and for evidence-based medicine.”

In 2015, I decided that I had something to offer about this matter. I felt that, having written about the history of the pharmaceutical industry and diet pills, I could contribute to the understanding of Oz. His influence on people. The role of spurious products in the marketplace. More specifically, I thought I could move beyond the walls of the so-called Ivory Tower and link my academic research with the public and maybe even policy-makers, as Kathleen O’Grady and Noralou Roos have advocated for.

As they put it, “An average paper in a peer-reviewed academic journal is read by no more than 10 people, according to Singapore-based academic Asit Biswas and Oxford researcher Julian Kirchherr, in their controversial commentary “Prof, No One Is Reading You,” which went viral last year….as many as 1.5 million peer-reviewed articles are published annually, with as many as 82 percent never cited once, not even by other academics. In other words, most academic writing rarely influences thinking beyond the privileged circles in which it is constructed – and the vast majority of it is far from influencing public policy and debate on critical issues.”

So, why not try a short piece aimed at the public? Oz was topical, after all.

It was not the first op-ed/web-based article that I had written for public consumption, nor will it be the last. However, the result was stunning. I criticized Oz rather severely (using some of the same language above) and certain readers pushed back hard. Because Oz was a supporter of organic and natural foods, and because he often positioned himself as anti-GMO, I was, by default a supporter of big business, of Monsanto, and a product of the right-wing establishment. It was startling that my piece on Oz would generate such animosity.

Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised.

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This is where the Canadian Bulletin for Medical History/Bulletin canadien d’histoire de la médecine comes into the story of The Weight of History/The History of Weight. Because any historian wanting to engage with weight loss, dieting, and public health in Canada (as well as beyond) must – absolutely must – engage with CBMH/BCHM.

Obesity is not the exclusive focus of all CBMH/BCHM articles addressing health, food, and dieting, although such works as 1987’s “Juan Luis Vives: A humanistic medical educator,” 1993’s “Medieval Women’s Guides to Food During Pregnancy: Origins, Texts, and Traditions,” and 1995’s “Promoting Good Health in the Age of Reform: The Medical Publications of Henry H. Porter of Philadelphia, 1829-32,” showcase the evolving knowledge of nutrition and proper eating in general sense.

More specifically, Lori Loeb explores Upper Canadian quacks and spurious diet drugs in “George Fulford and Victorian Patent Medicine Men: Quack Mercenaries or Smilesian Entrepreneurs?”  Fulford, a Canadian senator and philanthropist, made his fortune from a product called Dr. Williams’ Pink Pills and he serves as a window into the patent medicine industry, which included various obesity “cures.” For Loeb, “Popular obesity cures…were mostly citric acid in water. The dangers of a minority of medicines, especially soothing syrups, which contained laudanum and chlorodynes should not be minimized, but many medicines were not only benign, but even appropriate for common ailments. Indigestion remedies were largely bicarbonate of soda. Rhubarb pills were good laxatives.” (130) The article is useful for a variety of reasons, but one of the more crucial has to be the discussion of professionalization, evolving safety standards, and developing medical knowledge surrounding the patent medicine industry. Essentially, Loeb is placing Fulford – an influential operator in the medical marketplace – under a microscope.

Then, there’s the journal’s approach to alternative medicine. Through such works as Ziadat’s “Western Medicine in Palestine, 1860-1940: The Edinburgh Medical Missionary Society and Its Hospital,” Heap’s “Physiotherapy’s Quest for Professional Status in Ontario, 1950-80,” Jasen’s “Maternalism and the Homeopathic Mission in Late-Victorian Montreal,” and Furth’s Paterson lecture on “Becoming Alternative? Modern Transformations of Chinese Medicine in China and in the United States,” readers have been exposed to conflicts within professional and scientific medicine over alternative medical knowledges, as well as upstart organizations.

What becomes clear in these articles, in addition to Barbara Clow’s excellent work on “Mahlon William Locke: ‘Toe-Twister’“, is that unusual therapies and counter-knowledges in medicine generate tremendous heat. The topic may be “toe-twisting” for arthritis or anti-vaccination narratives or diet pills or organic food/anti-GMO foods – these issues are all of the hot-button variety. And the CBMH/BCHM clearly underlines this. Hence, I should not have been surprised by the response to my Oz article.

Skip ahead.

In 2011, Roberta J. Park wrote about weight loss and public health with “Historical Reflections on Diet, Exercise, and Obesity: The Recurring Need to“Put Words into Action.” She cited how the American Centers for Disease Control estimated that more than one third of all adults and nearly one fifth of children were obese. And she argued, as the title of her paper suggested, more had to be done! It was time to put “words into action.”

Thereafter, in an incredibly ambitious article, Park tackled the historiography and history of diet, exercise, and obesity in (a) the Classical World; (b) the 1700s and 1800; and (c) the 1900s. She concluded with a clarion call – that it was time “sports medical personnel, including physical educators, should embrace lessons from…past successes in promoting exercise and sport among children and adolescents, and rekindle practices once popular and effective but now abandoned.” (397)

Of all CBMH/BCHM articles on weight loss, Park’s is the work most grounded in public policy – and the one most strident in its call for change. For historians and other academics to push for change!

The debate over diet drugs and body image continue. We still gobble up quick-fixes peddled by celebrities and we still search for drugs that will make losing weight painless. As Americans and Canadians continue to struggle with obesity, the history of diet pill regulation may continue to display familiar patterns. At the same time, the CBMH/BCHM can act as a tool in fostering new pathways in the months and years ahead.

The History of Medical Books in CBMH-BCHM

Bookworms & Medical History

Historians know all about books. Publishers. Proposals. Fonts. And proper theoretical frameworks. You name it. Historians have got it cased. Sure, to avoid becoming archaic – extinct – dinosaurs, historians are shifting with the times and engaging in a wider ‘digital turn’. But books still matter.

(Yes, I have a flair for the obvious.)

In Volume 12.2 of Canadian Bulletin of Medical History/Bulletin canadien d’histoire de la médecine , the University of Toronto’s Jennifer Connor offers up a series of articles on  A NEW HISTORY OF THE MEDICAL BOOK. She situates her edited volume in the larger ‘history of the book’ movement of the 1990s. It was a movement, she writes, that witnessed “the establishment of centres for book study at national libraries and universities,” “bibliographies and plans for national histories of the book,” and “new societies, conferences, journals, book series,” as well as “graduate-level courses and degree programs…” (204)

As she prepares CBMH-BCHM readers for the issue, Connor offers a thematic taxonomy of the fourteen essays. It’s a breakdown that includes: (1) the physical form of medical publications; (2) the range of genres for medical writing; (3) the collecting of print material in private and institutional libraries; (4) the links between medical publications and their social or intellectual milieu; (5) and the nature of the publishing enterprise itself.

First she meditates on the history of the book in medicine. She then turns to what the new history of the medical book may look like in the years ahead. Thereafter, she concludes with some general thoughts that still possess force:

“Publishers’ promotion aside, the transformative power of electronic media on the book cannot be denied. Certainly the economic advantages to publishers, researchers, health-care practitioners, and patients alike in having information widely available, continually updated, and easily accessed hold tremendous implications for the health sciences in future.” (211)

Indeed.

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One of the stand-out articles (for me) has to be Heather Burton’s ‘ “Still in Process”: Collaborative Authorship in a Twentieth- Century Biomedical Textbook,’ an account of Molecular Biology of the Cell. More particularly, it’s an account of the “unique and close collaboration between six outstanding scientists” who wrote one of the best-selling textbooks of all time. Even more particularly, it’s about Burton chronicling the writing of the book with one of her own. Essentially, Burton’s awesome article is about a book about a book. Seriously trippy.

Molecular Biology of the Cell, according to Burton was conceived by James Watson as far back as the late 1960s and early 1970s. He saw “that molecular biology was at the forefront of science and that the curriculum was on the verge of changing.” However, the field had no textbook to guide and define it. And he sought to move beyond another boring, traditional text. “His idea was for a bold, fresh approach, yet at the same time one that was comprehensive and cohesive.” (374)

My favourite moment in the article is the authors’ back-and-forth about the writing of their now seminal textbook. It wasn’t always an enjoyable, seamless process. It wasn’t always easy – as any historian or author knows all too well. Yet, the collaborators still managed to have some fun, including posing for a photograph in which they recreated the Beatles’ Abbey Road cover. See page 377 for the image that mirrors the one below.

abbey road

And so the article goes…

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Yet, Connor’s edited issue was not the only place in which CBMH-BCHM drilled deeper into the history of the book.

In 1993, Ian Carr explored the life of William Boyd,  one of the best known figures in the history of Canadian pathology. A professor of pathology in three Canadian universities, Boyd “is remembered chiefly because of the number and success of his textbooks.” (77) The article is called “William Boyd-The Commonplace and the Books.”

In what could have been a straightforward (and Whiggish) history of Boyd, Carr instead gets very interesting. In an effort to understand his historical actor more closely, Carr places a spotlight on Boyd’s ‘commonplace’ book.

According to Carr: “Commonplace books, in which people recorded what they had read, were written in increasing numbers in the late fifteenth and sixteenth centuries; they were used during the Renaissance as places of reference, in formal arguments) but the keeping of a commonplace book gradually became the hallmark of a writer or literary individual. It was, before the Xerox or card index, an artificial memory. Robert Burns, Thomas Hardy, and W. H. Auden, among others, have left interesting commonplace books. William Boyd is therefore in good company. To my knowledge, no other major medical writer of this century has left such a book.” (78)

While some of the material in Boyd’s book may seem frivolous, Carr believed that (and so do I) “the choice of quotations gives a picture of the inside of William Boyd’s mind…” (79)

Kipling and Shakespeare, Milton and Wordsworth – for Carr, the inclusion of these greats offers historians of medicine a more comprehensive view of one Canada’s luminaries in pathology.

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And there’s more…

In David Shephard’s 2000 article on “The Casebook, the Daybook, and the Diary as Sources in Medical Historiography,” readers are exposed to the writings of John Mackieson, Jonathan Woolverton, and James Langstaff – three Canadian physicians.

While diaries and journals have long been used in order to describe personal experiences, explains Shephard, doctors also relate their medical experiences through casebooks and daybooks. And when placed alongside “account books” and “clinical-notes,” the “casebooks” and “daybook” constitute “a common literary genre among physicians in the nineteenth century.” (245) They were, as Shephard argues, “used to report the details of interesting clinical cases, to provide records for future reference, to serve as aides-memoires in the preparation of journal articles, books and lectures, and sometimes to fulfill requirements in a student’s training.” (246)

And so Shephard delves into Mackieson’s, Woolverton’s, and Langstaff’s casebooks/daybooks, thereby moving CBMH-BCHM readers beyond the standard textbook (Molecular Biology of the Cell) and the commonplace book (re Boyd)…

In Shephard’s estimation, these types of historical sources provide a snapshot of medical training and, more importantly, lend insight into rural vs. urban medical practice.

*****

Accept it. Historians of medicine truly are bookworms. Thanks for reading!

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This short article is part of broader series of posts. And I’m incredibly excited to be working with CBMH/BCHM and University of Toronto Press over the summer months. It will be my pleasure to help out with journal’s migration to the UofT’s publishing platform. As part of this transition, we are moving all of the back issues onto UofT’s server, and in some cases enhancing them, with abstracts and keywords. The journal is about to publish its 66th issue, so there are lots to consider!

As the journey commences this summer, I’ll be posting and tweeting about the process – all of the amazing stops and bumps in the road, as well excellent articles and contemporary health and medicine issues dating back to the mid-1980s. I’d guess holidays would come first, but I encourage you to share and participate in the voyage as much as you can!

@DrLucasRichert

 

Medical History and the Arts!

Walt Whitman,  John Keats, and Franz Schubert. Literature, poetry, and classical music.

In the early stages of cataloging the Canadian Bulletin of Medical History/Bulletin canadien d’histoire de la médecine for the University of Toronto it has become abundantly clear that the journal showcased the intersection medicine, health, and the arts. (Here’s the announcement about what I’m actually doing.)

In 2014, the New York Academy of Medicine held its second annual Festival of Medical History and the Arts, which celebrated the 500th birthday of anatomist and humanist Andreas Vesalius. Vesalius’ groundbreaking De humani corporis fabrica (The Fabric of the Human Body) of 1543 remains one of the key Renaissance texts. It profoundly altered medical training, anatomical knowledge, and artistic representations of the body.

Page 174 of Andreas Vesalius’ De corporis humani fabrica libri septem, available at National Library of Medicine

 

While few figures have been so influential to the arts, learning, and medicine – and while Vesalius’ influence has persisted over the centuries in anatomical training, representations of the body and the visual arts – other important figures in the Arts deserve attention, too.

The CBMH/BCHM was addressing this as early as 1984, when S.E.D. Shortt probed Walt Whitman’s and Richard Bucke’s fiery friendship. In “The Myth of a Canadian Boswell: Dr. R.M. Bucke and Walt Whitman,” Shortt seeks to correct the view of Bucke, one of the most notable figures in Canadian mental health history. And he recasts the Bucke/Whitman relationship as one of “symbiosis rather than of master poet and sycophantic admirer.” (55) It’s a fascinating read and timely, especially since the New York Academy of Medicine just this month held a public forum on Walt Whitman, ‘Manly Health,’ and the Democratization of Medicine.

http://whitmanarchive.org/multimedia/image007.html?sort=year&order=ascending&page=1
Available at the Walt Whitman Archive

 

Thereafter, in 1986 (Vol 1) CBMH/BCHM placed a spotlight on the early medical career of John Keats and Franz Schubert’s terminal illness.

For G. Hetenyi, in the early 1980s “considerable uncertainty” still existed about Schubert’s terminal illness and the cause of his death in 1828. Thus, his article, “The terminal illness of Franz Schubert and the treatment of syphilis in Vienna in the eighteen hundred and twenties,” is part biography, part nosography. (51-52)

It ably locates Schubert within a particular medical culture (Vienna) and provides a unique window into his musical career. Along the way, Hetenyi raises some tantalizing questions: Was Schubert being poisoned? Was he suffering from Typhus?

 

Finally, “Keats as a Student at Guy’s Hospital” offers a wonderful snapshot of medical training within an elite institution, as well as the “varied profession.”  According to Donald Goellnicht, “Keats is famous first as a poet, second as a letter-writer, and hardly at all as a man of medicine.” (65-66)

John Keats – available on Biography.com

The goal, then, is to furnish a fuller portrait of Keats’s background. And the reader is exposed to the volatile nature of the medical field in the early 19th century, the gritty and grotesque world of anatomical and surgical education, and absorbing accounts of leading physicians, including Ashley Cooper who was widely regarded as one of the best medical lecturers in Europe.

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In essence, the earliest issues of CBMH/BCHM sought to highlight the crossroads of medicine, health, and the arts, which is, of course, very fashionable now.

The University of Toronto has recently started a Health, Arts, & Humanities Program, while the University of Saskatchewan just launched a Health Studies Program. And this is simply the tip of the iceberg. Many more universities and many lecturers/physicians/educators are evaluating the relationship between Medicine and the Arts.

It’s affirming that Canadian Association for the History of Medicine/  Société canadienne d’histoire de la médecine was doing this from the journal’s inception.

By Lucas Richert @DrLucasRichert

 

 

Medical History on the Move

I have a new blog post on the University of Toronto’s site.

 

I’m incredibly excited to be working with CBMH/BCHM and University of Toronto Press over the summer months. It will be my pleasure to help out with journal’s migration to the UofT’s publishing platform. As part of this transition, we are moving all of the back issues onto UofT’s server, and in some cases enhancing them, with abstracts and keywords. The journal is about to publish its 66th issue, so there are lots to consider!

As the journey commences this summer, I’ll be posting and tweeting about the process – all of the amazing stops and bumps in the road, as well excellent articles and contemporary health and medicine issues dating back to the mid-1980s. I’d guess holidays would come first, but I encourage you to share and participate in the voyage as much as you can!

For updates see, @DrLucasRichert and LucasRichert.com

Lucas Richert, PhD

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