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Reconstructing Diabetic Life In Early Modern England

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Chapter Summary

Few literate sufferers in early modern England chose to divulge their battles with disease in public at all, especially with incessant ill health such as caused by diabetes, because past generations viewed sickness as private and interior, punishment for sin or the result of some unknown malevolence. Theodore Mayerne, gave the details about a diabetes case or two, but their descriptions were often based on hearsay rather than first-hand experience. Among early eighteenth-century physicians who dealt with diabetic patients and prescribed specific regimens for them is Richard Blackmore. Many regimens for diabetes included sugary potions, candied electuaries, or carbohydrate-laden foods that exacerbated patient conditions. Thomas Girdlestone of Yarmouth published information about cases involving female diabetics, some his own patients and others treated by surgeon in Northwalsham. Diabetics received conflicting advice from their physicians about diet and exercise, especially as the diagnostic definition of the malady changed in the nineteenth century.

Keywords: diabetic; England; malady; Richard Blackmore; Theodore Mayerne; Thomas Girdlestone; Yarmouth



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