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"Health and Medicine at Sea, 17001900" Topic


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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP18 Dec 2019 11:40 a.m. PST

"As its title suggests, this book covers developments in the medical service of the Royal Navy and among people who travelled aboard ships, whether as serving seamen, convicts, slaves or migrants. These individual areas have been researched before, yet one attraction of this volume is that the period covered by its essays is broad from the Seven Years' War to the mid 19th century, when diseases such as scurvy, cholera and various fevers caused many problems. Medical progress under the auspices of the Navy's Sick and Hurt Board shows how the Navy recognized the importance of preventing scurvy by altering rations for the men of the Western Squadron without the knowledge of dietetics and nutrition commonplace by the early 20th century. The need for reforming the status of surgeons in the Royal Navy is also analyzed. So too is the specific role of the Sick and Hurt Board.

Medical advances in the Navy during the Seven Years' War are discussed in chapter one (Erica M. Charters, "The Intention is Certain Noble": The Western Squadron, Medical trials, and the Sick and Hurt Board during the Seven Years' War (1756-63)'). This was when victualling was improved by supplying fresh vegetables and fruits a benefit demonstrated by the Pacific voyages of James Cook in 1767, 1772 and 1776. In the 18th century portable soup and broth were sometimes issued to help prevent scurvy. These advances followed not only the discoveries of Cook but also research undertaken by James Lind, physician at the Haslar naval hospital at Portsmouth between 1758 and 1783. The Sick and Hurt Board expected that dried apples would likewise be effective. As a contemporary medical authority, the Board recognized that most diseases were not curable; in consequence, it tended to focus on the prevention of disease rather than cure. For the Admiralty, of course, avoiding scurvy and maintaining the health of crews was a strategic and financial necessity; naval surgeons therefore reported on medical trials at sea and in naval hospitals. The Board likewise insisted on small-sized experiments afloat and at naval hospitals for examining the effectiveness of medicines and treatments. The author explains how the medical organizations of the Army and Navy were similar, although, significantly, the structure in the Navy was more centralized and the results of experiments could thereby be more efficiently considered. Imperfect as scientific findings and progress were, the Seven Years' War confirmed the Royal Navy's need for the Sick and Hurt Board, both for overseeing medical treatment and for devising reliable administrative and medical instructions…"

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