Pills and Potions: A Study of Medical Retailing in Cardiff Between 1850 and 1900

  • Jake McDonald

    Student thesis: Master's Thesis


    Despite the vast research conducted by historians of Welsh medicine, very little is known about the market for medical retailing in nineteenth century Cardiff. It is generally thought that from the mid-century, the professionalisation of medicine and
    pharmacy did much to block the trade of quack and irregular medicine vendors. However, as this thesis will discuss, Cardiff's medical retail market between 1850 and 1900 featured a diverse range of professional and non-professional practitioners. From
    studying a range of sources including newspapers, journals and private papers, the research offered in this thesis will reveal that some of these practitioners thrived and survived in the same market. Quacks, herbalists and other alternative medicine dealers
    fulfilled a service in Cardiff. They were a complex, popular and an often unpredictable entity in the local market. While their services were in demand by many townspeople, their presence infuriated local authorities for a combination of reasons. The survival of
    these vendors was partly attributed to the protracted growth of pharmaceutical professionalisation, which as this thesis will illustrate, was slow for a number of reasons. Without any educational facilities for druggists and the inconsistent levels of
    support offered to pharmaceutical apprentices, the professionalisation of pharmacy in Cardiff was slack. The research conducted in this dissertation will show that the motives
    of some professionals were very different. While some appeared to have prioritized pharmaceutical care and championed high standards of hygiene in the chemists shop, others were more entrepreneurial and travelled outside of their remit. In the midsts of
    the slow professionalisation, a number of professionals were able to achieve upward social mobility and exert their influence on society. The pills and remedies prepared by professionals were often heavily advertised in the local press. Their bold and pervasive advertising techniques were often borrowed and based on fear mongering. Some proprietors utilised testimonies to play on the fears of readers. Others used striking imagery as a way of connecting with the literate and illiterate. This thesis will suggest
    that it was highly likely that these advertisements influenced significant changes in the form and production of the local newspapers.
    Date of AwardSept 2019
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorAndrew Croll (Supervisor) & Rachel Lock-Lewis (Supervisor)

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