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Exotic drugs and English medicine: England’s drug trade, c.1550-c.1800

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  • Patrick Wallis

Abstract

What effect did the dramatic expansion in long distance trade in the early modern period have on healthcare in England? This paper presents new evidence on the scale, origins and content of English imports of medical drugs between 1567 and 1774. It shows that the volume of medical drugs imported exploded in the seventeenth century, and continued growing more gradually over the eighteenth century. The variety of drugs imported changed more slowly. Much was re-exported, but estimates of dosages suggest that some common drugs (e.g.: senna, Jesuits’ bark) were available to the majority of the population in the eighteenth century. English demand for foreign drugs provides further evidence for a radical expansion in medical consumption in the seventeenth century. It also suggests that much of this new demand was met by purchasing drugs rather than buying services.

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File URL: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/28577/
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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by London School of Economics and Political Science, Department of Economic History in its series Economic History Working Papers with number 28577.

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Length: 42 pages
Date of creation: Jul 2010
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:ehl:wpaper:28577

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  1. O'Rourke, Kevin H & Williamson, Jeffrey G, 2001. "After Columbus: Explaining the Global Trade Boom 1500-1800," CEPR Discussion Papers 2809, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  2. Ralph Davis, 1966. "The Rise of Protection in England, 1689—1786," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 19(2), pages 306-317, 08.
  3. Kevin H. O'Rourke & Jeffrey G. Williamson, 2009. "Did Vasco da Gama matter for European markets? -super-1," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 62(3), pages 655-684, 08.
  4. Carlos, Ann M., 2003. "The Rise of Commercial Empires: England and the Netherlands in the Age of Mercantilism, 1650 1770. By David Ormond. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003. Pp. ix, 388. $75.00," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 63(04), pages 1154-1155, December.
  5. Patrick Wallis, 2008. "Consumption, retailing, and medicine in early-modern London," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 61(1), pages 26-53, 02.
  6. Ralph Davis, 1954. "English Foreign Trade, 1660–1700," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 7(2), pages 150-166, December.
  7. Ashworth, William J., 2003. "Customs and Excise: Trade, Production, and Consumption in England 1640-1845," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199259212, September.
  8. Ronald Findlay & Kevin H. O'Rourke, 2007. "Power and Plenty: Trade, War and the World Economy in the Second Millennium (Preface)," Trinity Economics Papers tep0107, Trinity College Dublin, Department of Economics.
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