“It hath left behind it so foul and filthy broad scars, that touched the lives of four persons”: Stories of Medical Malpractice in Elizabethan England

In the preface to his 1588 treatise on surgery, Elizabethan surgeon William Clowes declared to his reader that “mine intent is not to hold my tongue at abuses” (A prooued practise sig. A1r). Thus began a section in which he discussed several stories of medical malpractice.1 In one, he described a “pernicious pill” that had…

Searching the Supernatural: Cause and Cure in Mental Illness

In 2020 alone, approximately 21 million adults in the United States suffered from at least one major depressive episode (that’s 8.4% of all American adults). If anything, that number is an underestimate. To make matters worse, treatment options aren’t great. While traditional allopathic relief is available, people regularly turn toward alternative options in treating mental…

Rice in Bowls

It was the mixed rice again. Four months had passed since the Japanese soldiers of the First Regiment of Imperial Guard first saw such staple in November 1886. Instead of shining white rice, their bowls held some yellowish rice with barley kernels. They heard that soldiers in the Second and Third Regiment had the same…

Tale of a Colonial Tonic: or the Pharmacy of the Supernatural in Bengali Literature

What does a fledgling Bengali periodical for paranormal tales in early-twentieth-century Calcutta have in common with a contemporary anti-malarial tonic? Both sneak across the colonial divide in their formal heterogeneity. On the pages of the periodical Aloukik Rahasya (literally, Mysteries of the Supernatural), edited by the Bengali playwright Kshirode Prasad Vidyabinode from 1909 to 1915,…

Health on the (newspaper) margins

Madeleine Mant and Johanna Cole // The recent conservation and digitization of prison admission records from Her Majesty’s Penitentiary (HMP) and its predecessor, the courthouse jail, have made available a rich dataset for historical, sociological, and anthropological research regarding crime and punishment in the long 19th century in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador. Our research…

Rethinking Pink: U.S. Breast Cancer Activism in the 20th Century

Sarah Roth // Gracia Buffleben, a queer woman living with metastatic cancer, ascends the stage to receive an award at the Women and Cancer Walk. It is 1996 in San Francisco, and hundreds of women, families, and supporters sprawl in a park in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge. Tables are set up around…

Thanksgiving, Tradition, and Ted Cruz: A Public Health Crisis

John A. Carranza // On November 21, 2020, U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) tweeted the cover image of a trussed and cooked turkey with a black star immediately above it and the words “Come and Take It” below. The tweet is a take on the flag used at the Battle of Gonzales in Texas, in…

Upon the Arraignment, Condemnation, and Execution of Elizabeth Stile, 1579

Kate Bolton Bonnici // Elizabeth Stile was executed in England for witchcraft in February 1579. In what follows, I consider an anonymous “news of the day” pamphlet about her case, using critical poetry as scholarly method. (This pamphlet is part of a larger genre of 16th/17th-century writing on witchcraft trials.) I concentrate on the description…