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Bad Blood and Indecent Expressions

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By Matthew DeCloedt Standing before the Jamaican government’s ‘Councill’ in the spring of 1689, an unnamed doctor explained how comments spoken under his breath could have been construed as defamatory. He was, the man said, simply unhappy with how the administration had treated him and might have accidentally said as much in the presence of… Read more »

June 25, 2015

Of a leveret brought up by a cat

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Tales of cross-species ‘friendships’ always warm the cockles of our modern hearts. It is difficult not to be charmed by accounts of Koko the Gorilla’s attachment to kittens and her grief when one died, or tales of a tiger suckling piglets . Early modern people were also fascinated by these odd pairings. In 1654, for… Read more »

March 28, 2015

Hans Sloane and His Books

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To celebrate World Book Day 2015, I tweeted out examples of letters that discussed the library and books of eighteenth-century collector Sir Hans Sloane.

March 6, 2015

A Peculiar Postscript

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Eighteenth-century letters generally contain an excess of politeness, even when one correspondent rebuked another. But every now and then, letter recipients must have been left scratching their heads—and not because of head lice… In 1732, the Dowager Countess of Ferrers wrote to Mrs Hinde, asking her to take the letter along with payment to Sir… Read more »

February 17, 2015

On Tooth Worms

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The 9th of February is St. Apollonia’s Day and, in the U.S., National Toothache Day. So I offer you tooth-worms, which–as Nicolas Andry described them in An account of the breeding of worms in human bodies (1701)—“occasion a deaf Pain mix’d with an itching in the teeth; they insensibly consume the Teeth, and cause a… Read more »

February 9, 2015

Measles in History

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The terror of smallpox lives on in popular memory, but measles are often dismissed by many as just a childhood disease: How much harm could it really cause? And aren’t childhood diseases useful for breaking in immune systems anyhow? We overlook measles at our peril, as recent outbreaks, such as the Disneyland one, have shown…. Read more »

January 31, 2015

A Most Dangerous Rivalry

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By James Hawkes The Royal Society is in turmoil as competing factions battle for control. Not only is our hero Hans Sloane’s job on the line, but the very existence of the Royal Society hangs in the balance… No this is not the TV Guide summary of a niche costume drama, but the results of a bitter… Read more »

January 22, 2015

Storms, Sounds and Authorship

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The wind has been wildly whipping the last few days, putting me on edge. It doesn’t help that the wind makes the neighbourhood noisier than usual: clanking gates, blowing cans… The normally distant rumble of the tube train suddenly passes right down our street, while the planes seem to fly right over our roof. The… Read more »

January 12, 2015

On Asses’ Milk

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It’s not often that I have an a-ha moment when reading a Daily Fail article. And it chokes me to even admit that I had one on Boxing Day as I perused “Could DONKEY MILK be the elixir of life?”. The Sloane Letters have several references to eighteenth-century patients drinking asses’ milk. It was never… Read more »

December 27, 2014

The Twelve Days of Christmas

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Inspired by the season, I started playing with my database of Hans Sloane’s correspondence to see how many items from The Twelve Days of Christmas to my wondering eyes should appear. Although some substitutions were required, all twelve days are represented—and, in turn, hint at the breadth of Sloane’s collections, medical practice and epistolary network…. Read more »

December 19, 2014

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