When European sailors began to explore the rest of the world, the problem of keeping healthy on such long voyages became acute. Malnourishment and crowded conditions bred disease, but they also carried epidemics that decimated the indigenous populations they encountered – and brought back new diseases like syphilis.
As navies developed, the well-being of crews became a dominant factor in the success of naval operations, so it is no surprise that the Royal Navy led the way in shipboard medical provision, and sponsored many of the advances in diet and hygiene which by the Napoleonic Wars gave its fleets a significant advantage over all its enemies. These improvements trickled down to the merchant service, but the book also looks at two particularly harsh maritime environments, the slave trade and emigrant ships, both of which required special medical arrangements. Eventually, the struggle to improve the fitness of seamen became a national concern, manifest in a series of far-reaching – and sometimes bizarre – public health measures, generally directed against the effects of drunkenness and the pox.
In this way, as in many others, an attempt to address the specific needs of the seafarer developed wider implications for society as a whole. It also produced scientific breakthroughs that were a universal benefit, so far from being a narrow study of medicine at sea, this book provides a fascinating picture of social improvement.
Kevin brown fills in the gap in an extremely well researched examination of how sailors were kept healthy at sea. Brown’s expertise is reflected in previous works on the discovery of penicillin and the history... [read full review]The Historian, Phi Alpha Theta International Honor Society
Poxed and Scurvied is an impressive work in many respects; replete with numerous quotations and references, Kevin Brown has tackled this substantial topic by delving into the primary sources, most of which are located in... [read full review]International Journal of Maritime History
A fascinating and wide-ranging history of health, hygiene and the sea.
This is a great narrative of an important but often hidden aspect of seafaring.Ausmarine, March 2012
Kevin Brown stands out with his comprehensive study. He moves beyond a specific sickness and examines the total health of sailors and travellers at sea.
His book fills in many of the missing details... [read full review]Nautical Research Journal, Spring 2012
With chapters on every malady and danger the seaman’s flesh is heir to, Poxed and Scurvied tells the story of the struggle to improve the fitness of the not always jolly jack tar, and of... [read full review]Family History Monthly, Feb 2012
In summary, Kevin Brown’s Poxed and Scurvied, decorated with an outstanding dustcover illustration, as a well-written scholarly work that should be a part of any serious maritime historian’s library.Sea History, Winter 2011
… shows an attempt to address the needs of the seafarer developed wider implications for society as a whole. It also produced scientific breakthroughs that were of great benefit, the eradication of scurvy being one.... [read full review]The Nautical Magazine
Kevin Brown's book captures the flavour of these relatively recent, more expansive and expensive times, as well as that of the long-distant past. His history starts with the Black Death and moves to syphilis, but... [read full review]Microbiology Today
The impressive 36 pages of detailed notes and bibliograpghy mean that Poxed and Scurvied will find itself at home with academics of maritime history. However, its written in such an accessible form that it... [read full review]Who Do You Think You Are Magazine, September 2011
It details the devastating diseases carried by early travellers and colonists. For example, the Black Death, which killed a third of Western Europe's population, was brought back by Genoan merchants returning from the Crimean.... [read full review]Norwich Evening News, 23rd July 2011
Despite its gimcrack title this is a serious work by an author well qualified in medical matters. The first half describes health problems in the Royal Navy during the sailing ship era; there is... [read full review]BBC History Magazine, September 2011
When European sailors began to explore the rest of the world, the problem of keeping healthy on such long voyages became acute. Malnourishment and crowded conditions bred disease, but they also carried epidemics that decimated... [read full review]ICSM Gazette, The Medical Schools Magazine, Summer 2011
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Medicine Under Sail
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About Kevin Brown
KEVIN BROWN is the Curator of the Alexander Fleming Museum at St Mary’s Hospital, Paddington and an expert on the history of medicine. He is the author of Penicillin Man, which tells the story of the antibiotics revolution that began in the laboratories he now curates, and also Fighting Fit, a history of military medicine in the wars of the twentieth century.
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