Medical diaries released by the U.K.’s National Archives reveal a number of bizarre — often dangerous but occasionally effective — treatments to ailments commonly faced by sailors in the Royal Navy during the 18th and 19th century. The diaries were kept by Royal Navy medical officers who served on ships, hospitals and brigades from 1793 to 1880.
The completeness and consistency of the records has offered historians a rare look at the history of medicine on the high seas.
Throughout various expeditions embarked upon by the Royal Navy, these surgeon-sailors encountered a myriad of diseases and conditions — and had some truly outlandish ideas for how to cure them. Although these accounts are often gruesome, they provide a window into the history of the high seas when the Royal Navy ruled the waves.
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