What's all this then?

My name is Victoria Stiles and I'm an Early Career Historian currently doing whatever odd research / consulting / outreach / tutoring jobs come my way. I blog here about some of the interesting texts I've found.
My research focusses on books about Britain and the British Empire which were in circulation in Nazi Germany but you'll also find a smattering of school textbooks, witchcraft beliefs, bog drainage, bemused travellers and weird illustrations that caught my eye.
Translations from German are my own. Comments are currently unmoderated and are mostly spam for leather jackets anyway.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

On leprosy, salmon, and Irish gluttony

Some medical information for you, heavily laced with no-holds-barred racial prejudice. This is from Irelands Naturall History by Gerard Boate (1657:

Ch. 24. Sect. 4. Of the Leprosie

The Rickets are of late very rife in Ireland, where few yeares agoe unknown; so on the contrary it hath been almost quite freed from another disease, one of the very worst and miserablest in the world, namely the Leprosie, which in former times used to bee very common there, especially in the Province of Munster; the which therefore was filled with Hospitals, expresly built for to receive & keep the Leprous persons. But many yeares since Ireland hath been almost quite freed from this horrible and loathsome disease, and as few Leprous persons are now found there, as in any other Countrie in the world; so that the Hospitals erected for their use, having stood empty a long time, at length are quite decayed & come to nothing. The cause of this change is not so obscure nor unknown, as it is in most other changes of that nature. For that this sickness was so generall in Ireland, did not come by any peculiar defect in the Land or in the Air, but meerly through the fault and foul gluttony of the inhabitants, in the excessive devouring of unwholesome Salmons. The common report in Ireland is, that boiled Salmons eaten hot out of the Kettle in great quantity, bring this disease, and used to be the cause why it was so common: and some famous Authors have not stuck to relate as much for a truth. But that is a fable, and Salmons have not that evill quality, which way soever they be eaten and prepared, but when they are out of season, which is in the latter end of the year, after they have cast their spawn: upon which they doe not onely grow very weak and flaggie, but so unwholesome, that over their whole body they break out in very filthy spots, just like a scalled mans head, so as it would loath any man so see them; nevertheless the Irish, a nation extremely barbarous in all parts of their life, did use to take them in that very season, as well as at any other time of the year, and to eat them in very great abundance, as easily they might, every river and rivelet in most parts being very full of them, and by that meanes that horrible disease came to be so common amongst them. But the English having once gotten the command of the whole Countrie into their hands, made very severe laws against the taking of Salmons in that unwholesome season, and saw them carefully observed; whereby hindering those barbarians against their will to feed on that poisonous meat, they were the cause that the woefull sickness, which used so mightily to reign amongst them, hath in time been almost quite abolished: which great benefit, with so many others, that hatefull people hath rewarded with seeking utterly to exterminate their benefactors.