Ancient Rome has long been praised for being pioneers in the field of toilets, establishing a healthier waste management system than their predecessors. But it seems it’s time we said deuces to that notion. Piers Mitchell, a paleopathologist at the University of Cambridge, recently published a paper Read more
Feeling like you packed on a few pounds over the holiday season? No big deal: you’ll be back in fighting shape after eating healthy for a bit. But what exactly does “eating healthy” mean? The answer has changed a lot since the middle of the 20th century, as the video below, from The New Yor Read more
Pliny the Elder, history’s greatest eccentric uncle, wrote a lot of his ideas down for posterity in his encyclopedia, the Natural History. Unfortunately for the Romans, many of these ideas involved extremely unpleasant and totally ineffectual medical treatments. Since cold season is now in full swin Read more
As part of their Secret History week, Gizmodo dives deep into the long, sometimes violent, and often gross history of vaccination. The history of inoculation may sound a little dry, but it’s really an epic tale of human trafficking, semi-illicit experimentation, and high explosives. It’s a globe-hop Read more
Okay, not no one. The first American cigarette factory opened in 1864, influenced by a European cigarette fad that had started during the Crimean War in the 1850s, when British soldiers started bumming smokes off their Turkish allies. But a combination of moral panic—an 1880 Women’s Christian Temper Read more
We think of the anti-tobacco movement as having its origins in the 1964 Surgeon General’s Report—think Don Draper. But campaigns targeted at ending smoking, especially among children, are older than you might think. Take, for instance, the striking cover illustration of this pamphlet at the New York Read more
For a variety of reasons, many women who could afford a wet nurse didn’t breast feed their own kids up through the early modern era. Even though some started to do the job themselves or adopt bottle feeding in the nineteenth century, not everyone was so impressed with newfangled technology. One of t Read more
The last quarter of the 19th century saw its fair share of wacky health ideas, from graham crackers to Vin Mariani. One of the most popular and lasting health tips of the era, however, wasn’t something you ingested but something you put on your body. Health underwear, or more colloquially Union suit Read more
It may not surprise you to learn that I, a person who writes about history for a living, was a full-on history nerd as a kid. The only two things I ever wanted to do were 1) read historical fiction and 2) find a way to travel back in time to live out the historical fiction I was reading IRL. In part Read more
Most of us equate Kellogg’s Corn Flakes with a pleasant, if not kind of bland morning breakfast. Fewer of us equate it as part of a regimented anti-masturbation routine, but that’s technically the more accurate origin story. Let’s discuss. Way back in the late 1800s, Michigan physician John Harvey K Read more
It’s an understatement to say that Benito Mussolini’s leadership of Italy left some things to be desired during World War II. In the 1920s and 1930s, however, Mussolini led a much more successful campaign against two of Italy’s oldest enemies: malaria and the mosquitoes that carry it. Malaria had b Read more
Edwin Chadwick’s Sanitary Map of Leeds, 1842 (via Wikimedia Commons; click for zoomable version) This muddy-looking map is actually one of the most brilliant innovations in social science, ever. Created by British social reformer Edwin Chadwick as part of his 1842 Report on the Sanitary Conditi Read more