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Health by the Bottle: The Dr. Williams’ Medicine Company and the Commodification of Well-Being in Liangyou

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Chapter Summary

This chapter argues that the ways in which medical health was depicted in Liangyou reveal broader trends in the sociopolitical climate of early twentieth-century Shanghai: a climate that was not so different from its American counterpart of the same time. By tracing the rise and fall of the Dr. Williams' Medicine Company in China as seen through the pages of Liangyou, the chapter traces shifting trends in the urban Shanghai milieu and delineates how those trends affected the growth and decline of a global patent medicine industry. The absence of reasonable medical alternatives, combined with the fast-paced, urbanizing, and often socially alienating context of early twentieth-century Shanghai, led to the momentary triumph of the patent medicine. While such a triumph appears curious in retrospect, at the time of Dr. Williams' ascendance, the specific demands of the era had coalesced to thrust the patent medicine industry into the medical spotlight.

Keywords: China; Dr. Williams' Medicine Company; Liangyou; patent medicine; twentieth-century Shanghai



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