Quacks and Cures: New book sheds light on traditional Welsh medicine
Why did Welsh people use the skin of dead puppies, oils made of swallows, or the juice of snails as remedies for common illnesses in the 17th and 18th century? The answers to these questions and many more can be found in a new book by Swansea University historian Dr Alun Withey.
The book Physick and the Family: heath, medicine and care in Wales, 1600-1750 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2011) looks at the history of Welsh medicine and examines how people learned about these cures, how they were used and where they kept them.
The book also explores how medicines were sold and discovers that even tiny Welsh village shops sold a range of medicines, looks at how visiting quacks and doctors from Europe sold their wares in markets and fairs and finds out why one Venetian quack caused a sensation in seventeenth-century Wrexham.
As Dr Withey explains “In today’s world of clinical medicine, keyhole surgery and high-street pharmacies, it is difficult for us to imagine what life was like for the sick and dying in the 17th and 18th centuries. What remedies did they use? Who looked after them when they were ill? How well equipped were they to make their own medicines?
“So far, Welsh medical history hasn’t attracted much attention from academics. Traditional histories of Wales often portray it as a land of folklore and magic, and one perhaps cut off from wider developments by landscape and language.”
In what is his first book, Dr Withey challenges this view, and uses a vast range of previously unexplored source material to ask bigger questions, not only about Wales, but about the wider history of medicine.
Dr Withey said, “Physick and the Family answers such questions and, in showing how Wales was tied in to an international culture of medicine, adds a new chapter to the history of Wales, and a new dimension to the history of medicine.”
For more information, please contact Delyth Purchase, Swansea University Public Relations Office, Tel: 01792 295050, or email firstname.lastname@example.org