Coughs and colds affected communities in the 19th and early 20th centuries in some similar ways as they do today. Infecting people across society, they made up the bulk of general practice complaints. Despite this, when it came to the study of disease, colds were often ignored. Robert Prosser White, who was very critical of this oversight, attempted to remedy this with his book Catarrhal fevers, commonly called colds, their causes, consequences, control and cure.
If you open a book about 19th century dietary remedies it would be hard to find one that does not mention beef tea. It was a type of broth – made with beef and water – given to patients to drink if they were suffering from digestive problems, fever or weakness. People believed that the tea was nutritious and easy on the stomach, which would help patients to return to their former fortitude.
The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) holds a number of special medical lectures each year. This has been made possible thanks to bequests left to the RCP by fellows and their families. Often named in the donor’s honour, these lectures facilitate discussion and debate around cutting edge medical topics. Now many of the lectures, including the Goulstonian and Croonian lectures, delivered by physicians in the 19th century are available online through the UK Medical Heritage Library (UK-MHL).
Many new and developing technologies in the world today have provided libraries and museums with opportunities to provide access to their collections in exciting and innovative ways. The RCP is embracing these opportunities, and last year became a partner in the UK Medical Heritage Library (UK-MHL) project.