Medicine & Disease

Ben Jones

As human populations expand and their exploitation of the globe increases, so does their vulnerability to certain diseases.

The entrance to Endell Street Military Hospital, 1917 © © TopFoto.

The First World War offered new opportunities for enterprising female doctors.

An illustration of a hysterical patient, from Les Maladies épidémiques de l’esprit, by Paul-Marie Léon Regnard, 1884 © Bridgeman Images.

A Victorian doctor offering to cure female ‘lunacy’ came under fire for his scandalous new operation: female genital mutilation.

Pain and Sickness, from the Migraine Action Art Collection, 1983. Courtesy Migraine Action Art Collection (418)/Wellcome Collection.

In the stomach, the mind, or the brain – migraine’s causes and remedies have been debated for 2,000 years.

Cocoa plantation on Grenada, 18th century © Bridgeman Images.

In the 18th century, Europeans in the tropics found themselves beset by an array of unpleasant afflictions. They blamed black women, the climate and the strength of their own masculinity.

Frontispiece from Paul Barbette’s The Practice of the Most Successful Physitian (sic), engraving by Frederick Hendrik van Hove, 1675.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, patients were encouraged to snuff, snort and sneeze their way out of a whole range of ailments and illnesses. 

Alexander Morison by Richard Dadd, 1852.

Caring for the mentally ill in Victorian Britain was hard, unrewarding and dangerously unregulated. Alexander Morison tried to improve things for both the unwell and their carers.

Despite the modern obsession with a good night’s rest, more of us are sleeping less. Perhaps we should pay attention to the advice of early modern doctors.

Contrasting the 'deformed' waist with that of the uncorseted one, from Health Made Easy for Young People, 1845.

During the late 18th century the physical effects of tuberculosis became the ideals of beauty for the fashionable woman.

Théodore Tronchin, by Galliard after Liotard, 18th century.

In the fashionable female circles of 18th-century Paris, a physician who recommended fresh air, exercise and looser corsets became a celebrated figure.