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

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  • Wallis, Patrick

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Wallis, Patrick, 2010. "Exotic drugs and English medicine: England’s drug trade, c.1550-c.1800," Economic History Working Papers 28577, London School of Economics and Political Science, Department of Economic History.
  • Handle: RePEc:ehl:wpaper:28577
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    File URL: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/28577/
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. 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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    4. Ralph Davis, 1954. "English Foreign Trade, 1660–1700," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 7(2), pages 150-166, December.
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    6. Vries,Jan de, 2008. "The Industrious Revolution," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521719254, August.
    7. Patrick Wallis, 2008. "Consumption, retailing, and medicine in early-modern London," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 61(1), pages 26-53, February.
    8. Ashworth, William J., 2003. "Customs and Excise: Trade, Production, and Consumption in England 1640-1845," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199259212.
    9. Vries,Jan de, 2008. "The Industrious Revolution," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521895026, August.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • L81 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Services - - - Retail and Wholesale Trade; e-Commerce
    • N0 - Economic History - - General
    • I10 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - General

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