Pub. Date:
New York University Press
Lotions, Potions, Pills, and Magic: Health Care in Early America

Lotions, Potions, Pills, and Magic: Health Care in Early America

by Elaine G. Breslaw


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780814787175
Publisher: New York University Press
Publication date: 10/15/2012
Pages: 251
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Elaine G. Breslaw retired as Professor of History from Morgan State University in Baltimore after 29 years and has taught on an adjunct basis at Johns Hopkins University, Goucher College, and the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. She is the author of Tituba, Reluctant Witch of Salem: Devilish Indians and Puritan Fantasies (NYU Press, 1995), Witches of the Atlantic World: An Historical Reader and Primary Sourcebook (NYU Press, 2000), and Dr. Alexander Hamilton and Provincial America: Expanding the Orbit of Scottish Culture.

Table of Contents

Illustrations xi

Acknowledgements xiii

Introduction 1

1 Columbian Exchange 9

2 Epidemics 27

3 Tools of the Trade 43

4 Abundance 61

5 Wartime 77

6 New Nation 95

7 Giving Birth 113

8 The Face of Madness 135

9 Democratic Medicine 151

10 Public Health 169

Conclusion 185

Epilogue 193

Abbreviations 201

Bibliographic Essay 203

Index 227

About the Author 237

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

Breslaw’s book is an important compilation of authoritative research, giving the subject a longer reach and shedding light on a little-known and not-so-pretty subject."-Library Journal,

"Lotions, Potions, Pills, and Magic is much more than a history of health in early America. It is a history of struggle, as natives and newcomers alike grappled with the obstacles imposed by biology, ecology, and fellow human beings. Breslaw’s fearless appraisal, supported by stories and anecdotes, entertains, provokes, and cajoles. In the end it calls for a frank reconsideration of the history of America, its health, and its doctors."-Elizabeth A. Fenn,author of Pox Americana: The Great Smallpox Epidemic of 1775-82

"This impressive synthesis of health care in early America ranges from the catastrophic disasters of initial contact to the nutrition and food ways of early settlers, from childbirth to therapeutic practices, from informal folk healers to a medical establishment, from the training of doctors to public health solutions. It is admirably comprehensive."-Philip D. Morgan,Harry C. Black Professor of History, Johns Hopkins University

"Owing to a fateful overconfidence on the part of its theorists and practitioners, early American medicine was 'a mess,' writes Elaine Breslaw. In this learned and thoroughgoing history, she tidies up that mess, exploring just about every conceivable health issue, including sanitation, bleeding, fertility, abortions, and childbirth complications, mental illness, painkillers, hydropathy, quackery, legal questions, and treatment across the color line. Lotions, Potions, Pills, and Magic is well-informed, carefully contextualized, and written with great clarity. By putting the vocabulary and practice of early health professionals under a microscope, Breslaw provides an authoritative examination of her vulnerable patient: America."-Andrew Burstein,Charles P. Manship Professor of History, Louisiana State University

“This is a wonderfully informative, though often unsettling, reminder that today's American medical practice, based on enlightened science, rigorous medical education, and sound public health policies, is a quite recent phenomenon. Until the late nineteenth century, the causes of diseases were largely unknown; even the most prestigious doctors applied an unfortunate array of remedies—especially opiates and blood-letting—that usually did more harm than good. Elaine Breslaw's welcome narrative (I've long wanted just such a book) reveals how Americans from the early seventeenth century to the late nineteenth survived, or did not, the nation's helter-skelter medical practices, both popular and professional. She is as adept at describing the evolution of childbirth customs and treatment of the mentally ill as she is at explaining how major epidemics such as small pox, yellow fever, and cholera wreaked havoc on American communities and why 'surgeons' could neither treat the symptoms effectively nor prevent their spread. This is a thoughtful and engrossing synthesis of the best literature on American medical history.”-Alden T. Vaughan,Professor Emeritus, Columbia University

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