The really hilarious thing about Frankenstein that modern adaptations almost invariably leave out is that the dude wasn’t even a scientist.

Yeah, there’s that post going around about how he wasn’t really a doctor because he never graduated university, but here’s the thing: he wasn’t even studying science.

The text is explicit on this point: Frankenstein was a student of alchemy, not medicine. He thought he was pretty hot stuff because his alchemist cred impressed folks in the middle-of-nowhere town where he grew up, but then he enrolled in a big city university and everybody laughed at him, not because his ideas where too cutting edge, but because they were absurdly archaic.

Here’s these people literally forging new paths in surgery and germ theory and everything that would become modern medicine, and then here’s this punk kid shooting his mouth off about, like, vital humours and shit. How could they not mock him?

That’s where the whole “I’ll show them - I’ll show them all!” bit comes from.

plant pathology is so wild bc like all the names for the most common plant diseases were invented in like medieval ages and just got kept so sometimes a disease is called like “southern leaf wilt” or something normal and then sometimes u get like “rot of wheat” like come quickly bartholemew, the rot of wheat has tainted this year’s crops once more………it is as the oracle said in the august time that the winter be long and hard for the land……………go fetch the priest for the blessings

so, my buddy littledivinity and i have been talking beauty & the beast a lot, because ‘tis the season, and we somehow stumbled upon the idea of the story being told about a middle aged belle and the beast instead of youngins, and how that would make the story even more resonant.

and then just now i randomly thought, “what if nicole kidman and ewan mcgregor starred in such a film?”, because my soul needs nicole kidman and ewan mcgregor to fall in love again on a movie screen like it needs few other things in this life. plus, you know, musical, bright colors, awesomeness, hurrah!

and then i thought, ‘but wait, actually, what i really want in this life, even more than brightly colored musicals, is more lowkey and lovely fairytale movies like exquisite and incomparable 1998 masterpiece ever after

and just picture it!

nicole kidman is the longtime spinster school teacher who lives in a quaint vaguely magical 19th century-esque country village, but she’s a badass teacher who exposes her students to different philosophies of thought and probably takes them outside for nature studies and calisthenics. (so, basically, miss stacy from anne of green gables.) the school board hates her, probably, and is very suspicious of what kind of IDEAS she’s filling the local kids’ heads with (why does she keep saying it’s okay for girls not to want to be wives and mothers, or that it’s all right for boys to cry???? is it possible that she is A WITCH???), but her parents were very well regarded in the town when they were still alive and so that bought her some respect for awhile. but there’s a new fancy schmancy family with school aged kids in town, and they’re extremely disapproving of miss nicole, and trying to find a way to oust her as schoolteacher and replace her with a man who is probably very similar in temperament to mr. collins from pride & prejudice. a man who will put patriarchal gender roles back into childhood education!

meanwhile, ewan mcgregor is a grumpy old hermit duke or something who once had great wealth and privilege but has fallen into disrepair. maybe someone cursed (magically? complicated vengeance-ly, a la the count of monte cristo? who knows) his family long ago due to their shady rich people business dealings, and his father killed himself to escape the scandal and his mother died of heartbreak and his fiancee who he thought loved him steadfastly dumped him to marry another, and now ewan’s the last surviving member of his once-great family and he just lives alone this grand old manor house that has gone totally to seed. he isn’t an actual beast, because it seems like in this day and age that’s going to require levels of CGI that my quaint b&tb retelling movie just don’t need, but let’s say that he’s quite unshaven and dirty and generally off-putting and he sometimes ventures out into the forest that separates his estate from the village, but is never seen actually frequenting the village. there are abundant rumors that the forest and manor house are haunted by a beast/ghost/warlock/vampire (how does he SURVIVE if he doesn’t come to the weekly market for food???), and everyone knows you don’t go there. also, people like to gossip a ton about his family and the scandal even though it was decades ago and they all dead. because people suck.

so one night, some of nicole’s rowdy teen pupils maybe steal some wine from one of their parents’ liquor cabinets and venture into the woods and dare each other to go past the gate of his manor house, and he catches them at it and gets HELLA PISSED @ THESE UPPITY HOOLIGANS INVADING HIS PROPERTY. kids today!!!!!!!!! he probably locks them in the stables so he can deliver them a 5 hour lecture on why they suck, and also why all of humanity sucks. which isn’t the worst fate ever, but, like, he kind of looks like a straight up crazy ax murderer (crazy hair! crazy beard! tattered clothes! definitely hasn’t bathed this month!!!), so there’s some serious panic in the hearts of these kids.

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Analyzing the Snicket Aesthetic

A few little observations in regard to time period, location, etc. that I’ve written down as guidelines for my fanfic/art. I doubt Handler was working from any set rules, so these are just patterns that I’ve noticed and use as a starting point for research.

(Above: Stylistic differences between Asoue and Atwq)

Continued under the cut, because it’s pretty dang long and there’s a lot of pictures. 

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Representations of, what I think are, the greatest scientific theories of all time.

5) Electromagnetism: the first image shows an electromagnetic wave, with Maxwell’s equation below it. James Maxwell receives most of the credit for the unification of electricity and magnetism, but he relied on the work done by Gauss, Faraday and Ampere.

4) The Pathogenic Theory of Medicine: the image shows pathogens (bacteria) during their reproduction, and the general molecular structure of penicillin; since antibiotics are arguably the most influential consequence of Germ Theory. The theory developed gradually due to the work of many historical physicians. And primarily by the first Microbiologist Anton van Leeuwenhoek, and also Robert Koch who designed the first clear criteria to establish a causal relationship between a microbe and a disease. Alexander Fleming is credited, as well, for discovering Penicillin.

3) The Theory of Relativity: there’s a two-dimensional illustration of a curved three dimensional space-time, due to the presence of mass. The assumption that space-time can be curved comes from General relativity, and is deduced from the equivalence principle. The image also shows a light cone, representing the limit of causality between events, as a consequence of the speed of light limit. Also, I added the main relationship between Energy and Momentum in relativistic mechanics (the relationship from which E=mc^2 can be derived). Albert Einstein receives most of the credit for Relativity theory, though his theory is based on other physicists’ work, most notably Lorentz transformation.

2) The Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection: the image shows a drawing of four evolving organisms, which resembles the evolution of amphibians from lobe-finned fish. (I actually evolved the organisms by taking the previous one and changing it slightly while drawing them :D).The image also shows a Phylogenetic tree of a species splitting into two (cladogenisis), and evolving in different branches afterwards. Natural selection was proposed by Charles Darwin. Alfred Russel Wallace is sometimes credited for independently developing a similar theory.

1) Quantum Mechanics: the image represents quantum theory by showing the mathematical formula for Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, Schrodinger’s equation, and also a Feynman diagram of beta(-) decay. Quantum theory is arguably the greatest scientific achievement of man-kind. The credit goes to many physicists for founding and improving Quantum Mechanics, most importantly: Max Planck, Albert Einstein, Niels Bohr, Luise De Broglie, Werner Heisenberg, Erwin Schrodinger, Max Born, Wolfgang Pauli, Paul Dirac and Richard Feynman.

A few facts about sex, pregnancy, and childbirth for writers who use historical settings

Note: These facts focus primarily on Christianized American and European culture. Before applying a fact to a culture outside of that sphere, it’d be a good idea to check.

  • Reliable birth control didn’t exist until the late 1800s, but it didn’t become accessible outside of the very wealthy and well-connected until the 1910s in Europe and 1920s in the US (and even later in other parts of the world). These “reliable methods” were all variants of the cervical cup, the ancestor to the diaphragm.
  • Despite the fact the rhythm method/natural family planning requires no technology other than a calendar, it was developed after the cervical cap. The reason is that it took doctors a very long time to figure out that a) women were least fertile during menstruation, b) women ovulated exactly once per menstrual cycle, c) ovulation tends to happen at approximately the same time relative to menstrual periods. The rhythm method was first promoted in 1930 by a Dutch doctor.
  • Along with there not being reliable birth control until recently, safe abortion was nonexistent (unless you count that particular plant in ancient Rome that died out, but I’ll pass that one by). A desperate woman wouldn’t have to look hard to find someone who could perform an abortion, but her chances of surviving weren’t great, and her chances of having another baby afterwards were slim.
  • Because women didn’t have an explanation for how exactly pregnancy started until the 1920s (when two doctors discovered independently that ovulation tends to happen at the same time relative to the menstrual cycle), women generally didn’t know when they’d gotten pregnant or when they were likely to give birth. All the historical medical manuals are extremely vague on pregnancy milestones for this reason. Additionally, many women didn’t consider themselves truly pregnant until the “quickening” around five months. This was due to several factors, inconsistent timing among them, but also because miscarriages were pretty common and other medical conditions (including stress) could cause symptoms that could make a woman think she was pregnant.
  • The vast majority of women over the course of history had no risk of being treated “like an invalid” during pregnancy. Pregnancy was considered a normal, healthy part of a woman’s life, something that would happen many times during her youth and middling years. It wasn’t a time to take it easy; in fact, early medical manuals stress that being active during pregnancy is a good thing that produces healthy, strong babies.
  • Until the 1960s/1970s, labor and delivery was a woman-only zone (with the possible exception of a male doctor). The father would either be outside, at the neighbors’, at the pub…but he would definitely be nowhere near the delivery room during the birth, because he’d just be in the way…probably literally, in most cases, because most women gave birth in their houses, and your average woman–a farmer’s wife, or a craftsman’s wife–wouldn’t have a large room to give birth in. Instead, a woman would expect her friends to come support her, women who’d already survived childbirth, and perhaps her mother if she lived nearby. Having the father attend the birth of his child didn’t become a thing until women started giving birth in hospitals where there’s space for the father to stand (and, arguably, the fact that women were less likely to live near enough for their mothers to be there).
  • Unless a woman was having a doctor attending her birth, she most likely would have given birth in a standing or squatting position, possibly using a birthing stool (a special chair without a seat for the baby to descend through). Lying on one’s back didn’t pop up as a birthing position until doctors became regular attendees to labor, because it mean the doctor wouldn’t have to get on the floor to examine the progress of labor.
  • It wasn’t labor that was the biggest danger to expectant women; it was postpartum infection, better known as “childbed fever” historically. These infections were usually caused by birth attendants having bacteria-ridden hands and tended to kill within two weeks of birth. Doctors knew it was transferred via midwife and doctor even as early as the 1790s, but it wasn’t understood why until germ theory became accepted. It couldn’t be treated until antibiotics were introduced in the 1930s.

anonymous asked:

WHAT IS THE NEW ENGLAND VAMPIRE PANIC IT SOUNDS AMAZING PLEASE ENLIGHTEN US also i lov gothic lit more than i love anything else so please dear goodness is it in any way related to vampirism in lit / dracula's affect on the general public ANYWAY IT SOUNDS WILDE



this is less of a panic actually and more of a sustained belief that the outside world became more aware of all at once so it seemed like a condensed event

belief in vampires was a Thing in much of the world for a really long time, including rural New England (mostly Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Vermont). during the 19th century, tuberculosis was also a very big, very bad Thing as @queenofairandsnarkness pointed out. it’s transmitted through microscopic aerosolized drops of infected saliva when the victim coughs, and highly contagious, especially among families or other people who live in close quarters. in a time when people commonly shared beds for warmth, quarters could be very close. one case usually became an outbreak

a wasting illness that slowly drains the energy and strength from its victims…sound familiar? 

the word “vampire” was seldom if ever used, but stories spread of the consumptive dead- the consumed, I guess you could say -rising and stalking the village. often they were said to prey specifically on their own family members. it’s a bit dicey in these accounts whether the villagers believed the vampires spread the disease or it was a vampire instead of the disease

the body of the suspected vampire would be disinterred and examined. if the hair or nails seemed to have grown (a common misconception with fresh corpses, since the scalp and nail beds draw backand make nails and hair look longer) or the mouth was bloody (decomposition. fluids. enough said), the corpse would be staked in the grave. 

or decapitated 

or have a brick stuffed in its mouth

or all three

overkill was very big in rural 19th century New England. but that wasn’t the most gruesome part. often, the vampire’s organs would be cut out and burned on a gravestone or in a forge. the ashes would then be mixed in water and given to a victim to drink

why they kept doing this cure even though it had literally a 0% success rate is beyond me. maybe everyone knew a “friend’s cousin’s sister” it had worked for. maybe chain emails would have been huge in 1860s Vermont. go figure

anyway, the most famous face of the New England Vampire Panic was Mercy Brown, a 19-year-old girl who died of consumption in 1892. shortly thereafter, her ailing brother claimed that Mercy came and sat on his chest, draining the life from him. the obligatory mob dug up her grave, found her corpse well-preserved, and assumed not that being buried in January in Rhode Island had frozen the corpse but that she was a vampire. they gave her brother her heart to drink. her brother still died. this is my shocked face

the press got ahold of some of these stories and regarded them with a curious mixture of classism and Victorian morbidity. these were country people, after all- superstitious yokels with backward beliefs alien to a new age of enlightenment. (can you feel the extreme sarcasm there) 

never mind that the medicine of the time only accepted germ theory near the end of the century and had no more idea what caused TB than a Connecticut farmer burning his neighbor’s liver on an anvil. people have always loved to feel superior to someone

anyway, as for influence on literature, it’s possible. authors get their information from varied sources; I’m sure any vampire lit that existed at the time was fair game for Stoker to read. it’s been suggested that Lucy Westenra is based on Mercy Brown, but honestly I think she’s too common of an archetype to cite any specific inspiration. other people have argued that there hadn’t been time for the newspaper reports to reach Stoker in England when he wrote the book in 1897. one way or another, I guess you could argue that the NEVP influenced him in the sense that all vampire lore did

H.P. Lovecraft references the exhumation of Mercy Brown in his story “The Shunned House” as does Caitlin Kiernan in “So Runs the World Away.” There are also a few movies that draw inspiration from her story, I believe, but I’m not sure which ones they are.


here is an excellent article about it

Sit Down and Listen Up, Because We’re Going to Learn About Germ Theory

Before we get onto Germ Theory, it’s important that we understand where people believed that germs came from beforehand:

  • Spontaneous generation: the idea that germs magically appeared whenever something rotted.
  • Specificity: the idea that specific germs caused specific diseases (this is actually correct)
  • Contagionism (is not a noun, but we’ll pretend it is): the idea that infection was spread by infected person or bacteria (so’s this)
  • Anti-contagionism (again is not a noun, but we’ll pretend it is): the idea that epidemics such as cholera, plague, and typhoid were caused when infections interacted with the environment (in other words, anti-contagionists cleaned a hell of a lot)

Now that that’s over, we’ll go on to define Germ Theory: the idea that bacteria, or germs, were the real cause of infection and that it was a biological, not chemical process

Germ Theory was invented (or theorised) by Louis Pasteur, a French doctor, scientist, chemist, and generally awesome dude. He came up with Germ Theory by completely shutting down the theory of spontaneous generation - he did the swan-necked flask experiment, which involved:

  • Putting a nutrient-rich fluid that he (for some ridiculous reason, probably for the sake of drama) called “the infusion” into a swan-necked flask (look it up)
  • Allowing it to sit in the flask

The idea behind it was that any dust or microorganisms would get trapped in the neck of the flask, so if spontaneous generation was correct, the broth would still be infected with bacteria. That did not happen. As the broth did not come into contact with any microorganisms, it did not get infected, but when Pasteur turned the flask upside-down (therefore putting the microorganisms in contact with the broth) germs began to infect the broth and multiplied quickly, disproving spontaneous generation.

And that’s pretty much all you need to know about Germ Theory. For further reading, you could learn about:

  • Spontaneous generation and why people believed in it
  • Florence Nightingale (Anti-contagionists)
  • Robert Koch

Thanks a lot for reading this, and I hope you learned as much as you could about Germ Theory.

joyfullynervouscreator  asked:

in a medieval setting, a wolf takes a bite of someone's upper arm(outside), but it's killed before it manages to take the whole chunk of flesh, so we're left with a roughly palm-sized dangly piece. MC binds it as best he can, but medical assistance beyond water is 4h away. Would medic stitch up the dangly part or would it be left with dressings? I want a local infection that spreads to a systemic incl fever & hallucinations. Realistic? Assume there will be heavy scarring either way, but 1/2

2/2 wondering what it would look like? MC being male, well-trained and reasonably healthy(it’s end of winter, so slight malnutrition probably). Could infection be treated effectively(herbal medicine is confusing) or is medical options purely symptomatic(cooling of fevers, draining the wound, etc.)? I’m not intending to kill the character, though I’d like a reasonable recovery period post-healing(MC being a warrior, I assume stretching of scar-tissue/PT will happen) Thanks for being epic!

Hey there! Thanks for your question! 

So you bundled a lot of questions in, and that means I kind of need to give you the short version of each of these questions. Keep in mind that the mindset of people in medieval / fantasy worlds may not match the modern understanding of medicine; things like germ theory aren’t really A Thing, everything is filthy, everything is treated by bleeding, etc. etc. 

Will they stitch the wound? If they’re a 21st century doc, no, we’ve learned that bite wounds do better without formal closure than with; same with “gouging” type injuries. I don’t know the mindset of the time, but suturing a wound like this is a good way to trap bacteria. 

Can a local infection become sepsis? Yes. This is realistic. Go with my blessing. *anoints your story in blood* This comes with fever as part of the package. Hallucinations are possible and may be tactile (touch), scent, auditory, or visual. They can be quite vivid. 

Also, one thing. In the worst of it, have the character pee very little, and have that pee be dark and very smelly. It will gladden the blackened stone my doctors keep insisting is a “heart.” 

(Side Note: My favorite high, by the way, is actually a rockin’ fever; unlike many, I enjoy them. But then, I don’t do The Drugz, so maybe it’s as close as I get to an altered state?) 

What will scarring look like? First, we’re talking about an uneven and irregular wound, and it will take time to heal. It will scab first, then knit, then scar; the scar could be what I call “textural” (not discolored, not raised, but evident), hypertrophic (red and raised), or keloid (thick, raised, rubbery). 

Can infection be treated effectively with herbs? 

Dammit, Jim, I’m a critical care medic, not an herbalist! 

Seriously though, there are a lot of herbs and materials that have antibacterial properties; silver is one (silver nitrate cream is a very common cream in wound care in the modern day, and oil of thyme, basil, and some other plants are used as preservatives). A great many peoples have come up with herbal antiseptics; I just don’t know enough about them to recommend any. 

James Duke, PhD with crazy medical botany creds, doesn’t cover bacterial infection in The Green Pharmacy, but in the section on fungal infections he mentions licorice*, teatree oil*, garlic*, black walnut, chamomile, henna, lemongrass, or turmeric, all as having antifungal properties (and thus may play a role in local healing herbs). Look up herbal remedies of the day in the part of the world you’re emulating. 

As for treatments for fever, Duke mentions willow (from which aspirin is derived)*, meadowsweet, elder, ginger, peppermint, and red pepper. 

Asterisked* items are reported to be more effective. I’m not qualified to talk about how salves or ointments might be prepared, but I know willow bark tea is a known fever reducer.  

I hope this helped!! 

xoxo, Aunt Scripty


[Maim Your Character: How Injuries Work in Fiction is out on Mondaaaaay!!!

[Free email course: injuries in fiction!]

anonymous asked:

For your short fills, a coda to “All the Way Through” would be amazing, either the proposal after Geno finds the ring, or maybe a snapshot few years in the future when they have a kid and a cat and are settled. ♥️

Haha everyone wants the proposal scene, well I’m not going to write it!!! But here’s a coda set now-ish, a couple of years after the end of the story.

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there’s a picture of a protest sign going around that says “got plague? no? Thank a scientist” and like I totally get and support the idea but it’s just wrong

plague stopped being a major public health concern literally centuries before germ theory even existed. the black death didn’t stop killing millions of people annually because of science. it just sort of did (likely because of a mutation to a less virulent and deadly strain, which also happened with smallpox btw).

like we can cure it now because of science. which is awesome, because it’s still endemic in animals in certain areas (for example the western side of lake tahoe) and people still get it, but like, the fact that plague isn’t killing a third of the population ever couple of decades anymore isn’t because of advancements in science.

make the same point more accurately using smallpox. that one is because of science.

anonymous asked:

I have a somewhat historical question I guess that I was wondering if you knew anything about. A common trope I see in any media taking place in any time period before early to mid 20th century is the mother dying in childbirth thing? And I was just wondering (even just in regards to the time period of your expertise) what we're the mortality rates for women in childbirth?

Heh. Well. (This is probably going to be way more than you wanted to know, but I believe in being thorough.)

First, childbirth has always been risky (women still die from it in modern countries in modern hospitals with all of 21st century medicine behind them, and it’s still a major health concern for countries in the developing world – Sierra Leone in Africa has the worst maternal mortality rate in the world, with up to 1,360 deaths per 100,000 births, or a 1 in 17 chance). So childbirth in the pre-modern era, without possibility of surgical intervention (unless to save the baby and kill the mother), painkillers, modern hygiene, X-ray/ultrasound equipment, and sterilized hospital settings, was dangerous. Ignaz Semmelweis and Alexander Gordon, two 18th/19th-century obstetricians who investigated the causes of puerperal fever or childbed fever, and concluded that it could often be prevented by the doctor just vigorously washing his hands between deliveries (and not, you know, performing an autopsy on a dead body and going straight to deliver a baby) were treated with complete ridicule by the scientific establishment and branded as charlatans. (This, as you may notice, will become a theme.) Modern germ theory and sterile instruments weren’t established until the late 19th century. So yes, the risk was very real, and noble and common women alike died in childbirth. We obviously don’t have anything resembling detailed demographic information, but we can conclude the rate would be similar to a developing country today.

However, this is very far from saying that no kind of maternal or prenatal care or practice existed. This is once again where we discover how terrible the late medieval/Renaissance era was for women’s rights/education/professional liberty/basically everything (seriously, Renaissance, your art is nice, but otherwise you can fuck off). In the eleventh and twelfth centuries, the famed medical university at Salerno, in Italy, fairly freely accepted female students and professors, and their most famous professor and scholar on women’s health was Trota of Salerno, who gave her name and a good deal of her own experience to the three texts known as the “Trotula.” These were each written by a different author under Trota’s supervision and authority, and the first two books, “Book on the Conditions of Women” and “On Treatment of Women” represent a detailed gynecological handbook with advice on all kinds of pregnancy/childbirth-related ailments – uterine prolapse, perineum tears, medicines, and other solutions from a practitioner who, unlike her male counterparts, could actually touch and study her patients’ bodies. Trota is referred to as a “magistra” (the female form of Latin magistro or master) and her work was widely circulated and read in England and Normandy as well as Sicily (which was under Norman rule itself from about the mid-eleventh century). So she was a famous doctor and scholar in her own day (until, of course, she was obscured/changed to male/ignored/nearly forgotten until the twentieth century). Another “magistra”, Hersend of France, accompanied Louis IX on crusade in the thirteenth century and treated both the king himself and the female members of the crusade contingent. 

Of course, ordinary women would not have had access to these highly trained female physicians, and most midwives had no special or formal training aside from their own practical experience. As well, almost everyone writing medical texts was (shockingly!) a man, making it nearly impossible to know much about these actual practitioners. Since pregnancy was, of course, a result of sex, the church had plenty of opinions on it as well. The suffering of childbirth was supposed to be the proper punishment for original sin, so anything that dulled the pain was frowned on, and when actual training of midwives was instituted in the later medieval era, the concern was mostly on whether they knew how to perform an emergency baptism for the child’s sake, rather than any care of the mother. (Wow…. this sounds… awfully familiar, doesn’t it?) Nonetheless, there are literally dozens of texts from antiquity to the Renaissance, representing folk/informal recipes and methods for contraception and abortion. We don’t know how well any of these worked, if at all, and they were usually (again) written by men trying to tell women what to avoid (but having the effect of also giving them the information if they wanted it). But there was a vast and probably at least somewhat effective corpus of traditions/medicines/rudimentary contraceptive methods available and transmitted through female practitioners.

None of this was ever taught to men, naturally, and the universities, as they became more established, did their damndest to stamp out “unlicensed” practitioners, which really meant women. The 1322 trial of Jacoba Felicie, a female doctor in Paris, is basically representative of the later medieval pushback against women practitioners. Jacoba’s patients, both male and female, testified that she was a highly skilled doctor and they had gotten better after visiting her – but the court’s judgment was that since she was a woman, she couldn’t possibly be as good a doctor as a man, and she was barred from practice. (If this post was Misogyny, Take a Shot, I think we would all be hammered by now.) That decision also led to legislation to keep women out of universities/medical school in France (in 1421, Henry V also banned them in England). So once again: You Suck, Renaissance!

This also involves questions of medieval sexuality, religion, and general hygiene/attitudes toward cleanliness and medical care. First, aside from the texts mentioned above that discuss folk remedies for contraception, a medieval woman had various strategies to space her children that didn’t just rely on hoping her husband didn’t rape her too much (as I have ranted about before). Also, it’s worth pointing out that children were a natural and expected part of medieval marriage, and most couples would be more interested in ensuring they had children, rather than preventing them – limiting family size to the average 2.5 children is a modern conceit once more linked to capitalism and the de-coupling of marriage/family/household from its function as a unit of economic production, as I wrote about here. Children were valuable as heirs to noble families or working members of a lower-class family, and with likewise high infant/child mortality, you could sometimes have a number of children and hope that one or two of them made it to adulthood. 

However, that didn’t mean that all medieval women just pumped out babies until they couldn’t have any more. The third-century Roman physician Galen’s theory of female orgasm being necessary to conceive was considerably well-known in the medieval era. While this backfired on rape victims, as it was figured they couldn’t have gotten pregnant if they didn’t enjoy it (paging Todd Akin… wow, this is depressing, isn’t it?), it also meant that your average medieval married couple would have believed that the woman, not just the man, experiencing pleasure was necessary to have children. Cue the church clutching its pearls in the background, but the official Catholic theology and teaching of sexuality was, again, mutable. The thirteenth-century sect of the Cathars viewed all sex, married or otherwise, as evil, so in response and opposition to them, the Catholic church began glorifying marital sex to some degree. There was a recognition that both spouses owed each other sexual availability and pleasure, and marriages could be dissolved if this wasn’t upheld on either end.

As well, since close to half the days of the year (Wednesdays, Fridays, Sundays, Lent, Advent, holy days, six weeks after childbirth, etc) were regarded as impermissible for sexual activity, that meant couples (if they were religiously observant, or if they just wanted to avoid the possibility) had the option of spacing out procreative sexual activity. There wasn’t any institutional or official acceptance of sex outside marriage (though oh boy, it happened – up to 30% of brides were pregnant at their wedding), but there was also a lot of argument about what constituted marriage. It could just be as simple as saying “I take you as my wife/husband” without any church framework or institution whatsoever, and then having intercourse. (See chapter three, “Sex and Marriage,” in Sexuality in Medieval Europe.) The church viewed these couples as fornicators if they hadn’t been married formally, but what we would consider cohabiting unmarried couples (similar to a couple living together before actual marriage today) were fairly common. Noblewomen in particular were expected to give their husbands heirs, but after that, if they didn’t like each other much, he would have mistresses and she could be excused from it. The noble couples we know of with a high number of children seem to have been the ones who genuinely liked each other/had happy marriages anyway, and thus continued having sex even after the succession was secured. 

Plus, the ideal of chastity, both inside and outside of marriage, was very socially influential. The late medieval English mystic Margery Kempe managed (after having fourteen children with her husband) to get him to agree to a chaste marriage (we have him sadly asking her if she would prefer to kill him with a hatchet rather than letting them have sex again – which, after fourteen kids, she might). Women who chose to be virgins or abbesses or nuns were also excused from childbirth, although they sometimes faced pressure from their families to marry and continue the line. But chastity was admired in both men and women, and considered a prerequisite for holiness, so it was a way to avoid sexual activity (and thus more children) as well as getting in the church’s good books.

Lastly, there’s the general idea that people in the medieval era were filthy, dirty, foul-smelling, had rotten teeth, etc. Medieval people probably had structurally better teeth than we did (though obviously without modern dentistry/orthodontics) albeit worn down from grit/particles, because processed sugar wasn’t part of their diet. Next, while obviously they did not know about germs/the root causes of illnesses, they logically associated filth and bad smells with disease. Most cities had ordinances about where you could dump your waste and strict punishment for litterbugs. Full-body bathing was rarer than today, because of how much time and effort it would take to fill a whole tub, but they washed hair, hands, faces, etc regularly, and bathhouses were a part of medieval town culture. They prized sweet smells and perfumed/fragrant herbs, so while they would obviously have more body odor than we do with daily showers/soap/deodorant/etc, they wouldn’t be some strange shit-smeared, rotten-toothed rustic barely one step above a caveperson. In the 1400s, we find the Hotel-Dieu, the major hospital in Paris, believing that pregnant/postnatal women should have three baths a week and their linen washed regularly (that whole article is worth a read – said hospital was also entirely staffed by women/religious sisters).

Since this has gotten super long (as I said, more than you want to know), allow me to summarize. Midwifery/women’s health care has (surprise!) a very long history and was intentionally destroyed/excluded from male-dominated university curriculums, medieval women giving birth did die but not outlandishly/without any treatment at all, and the presence of women in medical school/practice was increasingly restricted up to and around the Renaissance. (It’s a subject of debate how many midwives were targeted in witch hunts, but some of them definitely were.) This also connected to medieval attitudes about sexuality, procreation, religion, and women, and the options that medieval women had for controlling the number of children they had or didn’t have, and their relationships with their husbands and what was expected of them as a result.

I will also note in closing that the “dying in childbirth” thing in historical fiction is a way to easily invoke the ever-present Dead Mother trope in a historically plausible, if rather lazy, way. Since everyone knows women did die (and do die) in childbirth, it becomes an easy way to kill off the protagonist’s mother or to make some point about The Dangers Of Women’s Lives Back Then (whether in-universe or intended for the modern audience). All of which is absolutely the case, but which ignores, as usual, the complexity of the ways in which premodern medicine for women, and women themselves, created a corpus of knowledge and treatment that remains unacknowledged, overlooked, dismissed, or otherwise intentionally destroyed by a patriarchal, misogynistic system.

/takes a bunch of shots

/falls over

anonymous asked:

I have a question about vaccines, well, more about viruses and diseases in general. I have a character that ends up getting trapped back in time (medieval times), and I was wondering how his body would react to being in a whole other time. Would the vaccines he would have gotten in our time as a child and such be of any help when it comes to his body’s immune system dealing with the new time? Or would have the viruses mutated and change so much over all that time that it’d be of no use to him?

Hey there nonny! 

So viruses play the evolutionary game known as “How much can I change each time I copy myself while still being able to copy myself more later?” Basically, they have adapted to a high rate of transcription errors to ensure that when they are copied, they have some form of variability. The cold and influenza viruses are massively good at this. It’s why you keep getting “the cold” over and over: it’s a different strain each time around. 

(There’s actually a drug that works by pushing the transcription error rate to be high enough that the RNA can’t reliably copy itself and the virus literally messes itself up to death. Science is Freaking Neat™ .) 

So viral diseases in general are going to be very different from the things they’ve had in the past, though particularly with bacteria, the “safer” / less murdery strains were around in the past, mostly because we put a lot of evolutionary pressure on bacteria with the (over-)use of antibiotics. 

It’s also… so Bubonic Plague? That thing that wiped out a third of Europe (and lots of other places too)? That’s curable with a good course of antibiotics. 

All of that said, your character has a major advantage over their medieval counterparts. 

They understand germ theory

Look at a medieval person, even a doctor, and tell them that diseases are caused by germs and bacteria and viruses and they will think you have six heads and need to be taken away. They didn’t have the optics power to see the microorganisms, so they didn’t know about them. 

Your character will do better than average simply by washing their hands as frequently as possible and washing their food, and trying to get water from as far up the river (ie before it’s been pooped in) as they can. 

Meanwhile, their neighbors will be convinced that disease is the result of the Evil Eye or of a “miasma” of evil. Doctors might diagnose an imbalance of the humors and bloodlet people. 

This is legitimately what smart people believed and were taught. And some day they’ll say “Holy cow, the 21st century Earthanoids believed and did what?!” in shock and disbelief. 

In any case. Their vaccines may protect them from some of the viruses going around at the time, but they also have the educational advantage that the locals don’t have. 

Best of luck with your story! 

xoxo, Aunt Scripty


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Quacks: Surely one of the most original new TV shows of the year

How does a sitcom about pioneering doctors in 1840s Britain sound? About as funny as Victorian gall-bladder surgery, or as underpowered as another recent'ish BBC2 period comedy (this one about Edwardian Suffragettes), Up the Women? Fear not, for Quacks is surely one of the most original new TV shows of the year, unsurprisingly since its creator, James Wood, has a track record in unlikely but engagingly droll TV shows; he wrote Rev, the Bafta-winning comedy starring Tom Hollander as an inner-city vicar, and, earlier this year, a delightful adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s Decline and Fall – so well-crafted it made Jack Whitehall seem like a proper actor.

Quacks has also assembled a dexterous cast to play its trio of medical pioneers in early Victorian London: Rory Kinnear (Count Arthur Strong) as a showboating surgeon, Robert; Mathew Baynton (Horrible Histories, The Wrong Mans) as William, a psychiatrist – or ‘alienist’ as they were called in those pre-Freudian days; and Tom Basden from Plebs as John, a self-experimenting anaesthetist.

Add a scene-stealing Rupert Everett as George’s anti-semitic boss and Lydia Leonard (a celebrated Anne Boleyn in the stage version of Wolf Hall, and Virginia Woolf in BBC2’s Life in Squares) exhibiting a knack for comedy as George’s professionally and sexually frustrated wife, Caroline, and you have a deft ensemble well capable of taking on Wood’s intelligent scripts.

The idea came for Quacks germinated in the writer’s imagination four or five years ago when he went out for a drink with a surgeon friend. “He told me about the two dentists who pioneered anaesthesia in the 1840s”, says Wood. “These lunatics experimented on each other using nitrous oxide, ether and chloroform and they both became addicts and committed suicide. It never occurred to me to think about where anaesthesia had come from.”

His surgeon friend also suggested a book by the medical historian Roy Porter. “I discovered there was this amazing 20-year period of Victorian medicine that went from the early 1840s, where if you could cut someone’s leg off fast then you’re a good surgeon, and the Bedlam approach to mental illness, to within 20 years when germ theory had come in, nursing had come in, anaesthesia had come in. I gave myself a medical historical education and puked it back out as comedy.”

The opening episode begins with Robert (Kinnear) psyching himself up to go on stage in front of a paying public, except here the stage is an operating table within a mini amphitheatre. This is surgery as spectacle, Robert a showman as he ties on a bloody apron (hygiene wasn’t a consideration in the 1840s) and boasts to the fashionable onlookers about how rapidly he is about to amputate the leg of a fully-awake and terrified accident victim.

“The fame and accolades you received at that time for being the best surgeons were immense”, explains Kinnear. “That’s why they were in theatres because people were there to look at them, and he’s definitely someone who played to the crowd.”

This was also an era when half of all patients didn’t survive surgery. “Many of them simply died of shock”, says Kinnear, adding that whether or not a patient did make it through the operation was only important in how it might reflect on the surgeon’s reputation.

Psychiatry was another discipline in its infancy, if not still in its swaddling clothes. Mathew Baynton’s character William is unusual for the age, believing that the mentally ill should be treated with kindness instead of being locked away in harsh Bedlam-like insane asylums.

“He’s somebody with a great deal of empathy and passion”, says Baynton. “And you discover later that his father suffered from some form of dementia, which at the time they wouldn’t have a great diagnosis for, let alone treatment. So he’s motivated to find better ways to care for these people, but he has absolutely no tools or skills at his disposal.

“One of the things I really loved about the script when I first read it is that comedy, by and large, is based around failure, and this is a rare beast where these guys fail because of the time they are in, but they are actually pioneers and visionaries as opposed to being buffoons and idiots themselves.”

Baynton, who had bad asthma as a child growing up in Essex, has every reason to bless medical progress. Period comedy is not new to the actor-writer who cut his teeth working with James Corden (he is understandably reluctant to discuss his co-star on Gavin & Stacey and The Wrong Mans, claiming that he has yet to do a media interview in which he isn’t asked about Corden) before becoming part of the Horrible Histories team.

“Horrible Histories is unashamedly broad and silly and its primary aim is to educate children - although I’m not involved in it anymore, I hasten to add”, he says. “Quacks is even different to Blackadder in the sense that it doesn’t use the setting to play dress up and enjoy farcical half hours; it’s a proper comedy drama with proper complex human characters with their own stories.”

One similarity to Blackadder, however, is that it employs – albeit sparingly - real historical figures. Both Florence Nightingale and Charles Dickens appear in episode two, Sherlock’s Andrew Scott giving a brilliantly unhinged performance as the novelist as egoist. “James has a bit of an axe to grind with Dickens for some reason”, says Baynton.

“I’ve always just believed that Dickens was a massive dick”, confirms Wood. “And it’s not been properly dramatised. Self-aggrandising, he used to do these talks endlessly for hours and hours… he was so pleased with himself.”

Other guest appearances include Miles Jupp, Jamie Demetriou and Fonejacker’s Kayvan Novak as an Indian mesmerist, but not all of Quacks lives up Wood’s billing for it as “a near-the-bone, raucous badly-behaved comedy”. There is a tender if frustrated love story also going on between William (Baynton) and Robert’s wife, Caroline (Lydia Leonard), and Baynton himself wrote the episode in which Caroline dresses as a man in order to perform surgery – a storyline based on the real case of Margaret Ann Buckley, who identified as female and practised as a military surgeon called James Barry.

Even the most ludicrous-seeming medical details are historically accurate, says Wood – including baked potatoes applied to wounds and the fact that doctors never physically examined their patients, especially females under their charge. In one scene, Rupert Everett’s consultant produces a porcelain anatomical “modesty doll” for a genteel elderly lady (Gemma Jones; Quacks is well cast in depth) to point out where she’s in pain 'below’.

“There’s no way a physician then would touch any of their patients, certainly not a woman”, says Wood. “They’d diagnose, as Rupert Everett’s character puts it, through conversation. They’d chat to their patient about their lifestyle and diagnose them.”

Wood and his director Andy de Emmony took inspiration for their more visceral medical scenes from the Russell Crowe movie Master and Commander. “The surgery in that is brilliant and you don’t really see anything much”, he says. “We used that as our model for – just a few rifle-shot moments are enough, and your imagination fills in the rest. And we’re a comedy so we don’t want to become too repellent.”

'Quacks’ begins on August 15 at 10pm on BBC2

The ancient Romans were obsessed with both water and cleanliness. They “brought aqueducts, heated public baths, flushing toilets, sewers and piped water. They even had multiseat public bathrooms decked out with contour toilet seats, a sea sponge version of toilet paper and hand-washing stations.” You might think that this would have helped overall health in this ancient civilization– but not so!

“With all their body oils and bath rituals, [Piers Mitchell, a paleopathologist at the University of Cambridge] says, “they would have smelled clean, but they would have had infectious disease nonetheless.”

Mitchell focused his research on many reports that have tested for disease-causing microbes at Roman sites–– in mummies, fossilized feces, latrines, etc.

“’I thought we’d see a drop in the intestinal parasites that are spread by feces and poor sanitation compared with the Iron Age, when there weren’t any toilets. But, in fact, I didn’t see a drop at all,’ says Mitchell.”

The types of microbes and parasites that frequently cropped up in his research include: whipworm, roundworm, fleas, bedbugs, three varieties of lice, hookworm, pinworm, and and a single-celled parasite that causes dysentery. “Mitchell also posits that the Romans may have spread a humongous tapeworm from northern Europe as they carted their favorite condiment, fermented fish sauce, around the empire.”

Be sure to read more of this NPR story, “Friends, Romans, Countrymen, Lend Us Your Toilets (Without Parasites)” to find out the current hypotheses behind these prevalent Roman microbes.


1.    The feel of cool marble under bare feet.
2.    How to live in a small room with five strangers for six months.
3.    With the same strangers in a lifeboat for one week.
4.    The modulus of rupture.
5.    The distance a shout carries in the city.
6.    The distance of a whisper.
7.    Everything possible about Hatshepsut’s temple (try not to see it as ‘modernist’ avant la lettre).
8.    The number of people with rent subsidies in New York City.
9.    In your town (include the rich).
10.    The flowering season for azaleas.
11.    The insulating properties of glass.
12.    The history of its production and use.
13.    And of its meaning.
14.    How to lay bricks.
15.    What Victor Hugo really meant by ‘this will kill that.’
16.    The rate at which the seas are rising.
17.    Building information modeling (BIM).
18.    How to unclog a rapidograph.
19.    The Gini coefficient.
20.    A comfortable tread-to-riser ratio for a six-year-old.
21.    In a wheelchair.
22.    The energy embodied in aluminum.
23.    How to turn a corner.
24.    How to design a corner.
25.    How to sit in a corner.
26.    How Antoni Gaudí modeled the Sagrada Família and calculated its structure.
27.    The proportioning system for the Villa Rotonda.
28.    The rate at which that carpet you specified off-gasses.
29.    The relevant sections of the Code of Hammurabi.
30.    The migratory patterns of warblers and other seasonal travellers.
31.    The basics of mud construction.
32.    The direction of prevailing winds.
33.    Hydrology is destiny.
34.    Jane Jacobs in and out.
35.    Something about feng shui.
36.    Something about Vastu Shilpa.
37.    Elementary ergonomics.
38.    The color wheel.
39.    What the client wants.
40.    What the client thinks it wants.
41.    What the client needs.
42.    What the client can afford.
43.    What the planet can afford.
44.    The theoretical bases for modernity and a great deal about its factions and inflections.
45.    What post-Fordism means for the mode of production of building.
46.    Another language.
47.    What the brick really wants.
48.    The difference between Winchester Cathedral and a bicycle shed.
49.    What went wrong in Fatehpur Sikri.
50.    What went wrong in Pruitt-Igoe.
51.    What went wrong with the Tacoma Narrows Bridge.
52.    Where the CCTV cameras are.
53.    Why Mies really left Germany.
54.    How people lived in Çatal Hüyük.
55.    The structural properties of tufa.
56.    How to calculate the dimensions of brise-soleil.
57.    The kilowatt costs of photovoltaic cells.
58.    Vitruvius.
59.    Walter Benjamin.
60.    Marshall Berman.
61.    The secrets of the success of Robert Moses.
62.    How the dome on the Duomo in Florence was built.
63.    The reciprocal influences of Chinese and Japanese building.
64.    The cycle of the Ise Shrine.
65.    Entasis.
66.    The history of Soweto.
67.    What it’s like to walk down the Ramblas.
68.    Back-up.
69.    The proper proportions of a gin martini.
70.    Shear and moment.
71.    Shakespeare, etc.
72.    How the crow flies.
73.    The difference between a ghetto and a neighborhood.
74.    How the pyramids were built.
75.    Why.
76.    The pleasures of the suburbs.
77.    The horrors.
78.    The quality of light passing through ice.
79.    The meaninglessness of borders.
80.    The reasons for their tenacity.
81.    The creativity of the ecotone.
82.    The need for freaks.
83.    Accidents must happen.
84.    It is possible to begin designing anywhere.
85.    The smell of concrete after rain.
86.    The angle of the sun at the equinox.
87.    How to ride a bicycle.
88.    The depth of the aquifer beneath you.
89.    The slope of a handicapped ramp.
90.    The wages of construction workers.
91.    Perspective by hand.
92.    Sentence structure.
93.    The pleasure of a spritz at sunset at a table by the Grand Canal.
94.    The thrill of the ride.
95.    Where materials come from.
96.    How to get lost.
97.    The pattern of artificial light at night, seen from space.
98.    What human differences are defensible in practice.
99.    Creation is a patient search.
100.    The debate between Otto Wagner and Camillo Sitte.
101.    The reasons for the split between architecture and engineering.
102.    Many ideas about what constitutes utopia.
103.    The social and formal organization of the villages of the Dogon.
104.    Brutalism, Bowellism, and the Baroque.
105.    How to derive.
106.    Woodshop safety.
107.    A great deal about the Gothic.
108.    The architectural impact of colonialism on the cities of North Africa.
109.    A distaste for imperialism.
110.    The history of Beijing.
111.    Dutch domestic architecture in the 17th century.
112.    Aristotle’s Politics.
113.    His Poetics.
114.    The basics of wattle and daub.
115.    The origins of the balloon frame.
116.    The rate at which copper acquires its patina.
117.    The levels of particulates in the air of Tianjin.
118.    The capacity of white pine trees to sequester carbon.
119.    Where else to sink it.
120.    The fire code.
121.    The seismic code.
122.    The health code.
123.    The Romantics, throughout the arts and philosophy.
124.    How to listen closely.
125.    That there is a big danger in working in a single medium. The logjam you don’t even know you’re stuck in will be broken by a shift in representation.
126.    The exquisite corpse.
127.    Scissors, stone, paper.
128.    Good Bordeaux.
129.    Good beer.
130.    How to escape a maze.
131.    QWERTY.
132.    Fear.
133.    Finding your way around Prague, Fez, Shanghai, Johannesburg, Kyoto, Rio, Mexico, Solo, Benares, Bangkok, Leningrad, Isfahan.
134.    The proper way to behave with interns.
135.    Maya, Revit, Catia, whatever.
136.    The history of big machines, including those that can fly.
137.    How to calculate ecological footprints.
138.    Three good lunch spots within walking distance.
139.    The value of human life.
140.    Who pays.
141.    Who profits.
142.    The Venturi effect.
143.    How people pee.
144.    What to refuse to do, even for the money.
145.    The fine print in the contract.
146.    A smattering of naval architecture.
147.    The idea of too far.
148.    The idea of too close.
149.    Burial practices in a wide range of cultures.
150.    The density needed to support a pharmacy.
151.    The density needed to support a subway.
152.    The effect of the design of your city on food miles for fresh produce.
153.    Lewis Mumford and Patrick Geddes.
154.    Capability Brown, André Le Nôtre, Frederick Law Olmsted, Muso Soseki, Ji Cheng, and Roberto Burle Marx.
155.    Constructivism, in and out.
156.    Sinan.
157.    Squatter settlements via visits and conversations with residents.
158.    The history and techniques of architectural representation across cultures.
159.    Several other artistic media.
160.    A bit of chemistry and physics.
161.    Geodesics.
162.    Geodetics.
163.    Geomorphology.
164.    Geography.
165.    The Law of the Andes.
166.    Cappadocia first-hand.
167.    The importance of the Amazon.
168.    How to patch leaks.
169.    What makes you happy.
170.    The components of a comfortable environment for sleep.
171.    The view from the Acropolis.
172.    The way to Santa Fe.
173.    The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
174.    Where to eat in Brooklyn.
175.    Half as much as a London cabbie.
176.    The Nolli Plan.
177.    The Cerdà Plan.
178.    The Haussmann Plan.
179.    Slope analysis.
180.    Darkroom procedures and Photoshop.
181.    Dawn breaking after a bender.
182.    Styles of genealogy and taxonomy.
183.    Betty Friedan.
184.    Guy Debord.
185.    Ant Farm.
186.    Archigram.
187.    Club Med.
188.    Crepuscule in Dharamshala.
189.    Solid geometry.
190.    Strengths of materials (if only intuitively).
191.    Ha Long Bay.
192.    What’s been accomplished in Medellín.
193.    In Rio.
194.    In Calcutta.
195.    In Curitiba.
196.    In Mumbai.
197.    Who practices? (It is your duty to secure this space for all who want to.)
198.    Why you think architecture does any good.
199.    The depreciation cycle.
200.    What rusts.
201.    Good model-making techniques in wood and cardboard.
202.    How to play a musical instrument.
203.    Which way the wind blows.
204.    The acoustical properties of trees and shrubs.
205.    How to guard a house from floods.
206.    The connection between the Suprematists and Zaha.
207.    The connection between Oscar Niemeyer and Zaha.
208.    Where north (or south) is.
209.    How to give directions, efficiently and courteously.
210.    Stadtluft macht frei.
211.    Underneath the pavement the beach.
212.    Underneath the beach the pavement.
213.    The germ theory of disease.
214.    The importance of vitamin D.
215.    How close is too close.
216.    The capacity of a bioswale to recharge the aquifer.
217.    The draught of ferries.
218.    Bicycle safety and etiquette.
219.    The difference between gabions and riprap.
220.    The acoustic performance of Boston Symphony Hall.
221.    How to open the window.
222.    The diameter of the earth.
223.    The number of gallons of water used in a shower.
224.    The distance at which you can recognize faces.
225.    How and when to bribe public officials (for the greater good).
226.    Concrete finishes.
227.    Brick bonds.
228.    The Housing Question by Friedrich Engels.
229.    The prismatic charms of Greek island towns.
230.    The energy potential of the wind.
231.    The cooling potential of the wind, including the use of chimneys and the stack effect.
232.    Paestum.
233.    Straw-bale building technology.
234.    Rachel Carson.
235.    Freud.
236.    The excellence of Michel de Klerk.
237.    Of Alvar Aalto.
238.    Of Lina Bo Bardi.
239.    The non-pharmacological components of a good club.
240.    Mesa Verde National Park.
241.    Chichen Itza.
242.    Your neighbors.
243.    The dimensions and proper orientation of sports fields.
244.    The remediation capacity of wetlands.
245.    The capacity of wetlands to attenuate storm surges.
246.    How to cut a truly elegant section.
247.    The depths of desire.
248.    The heights of folly.
249.    Low tide.
250.    The Golden and other ratios.


yes, all the daily showers, deodorants and antiseptic handwashes ubiquitous to the developed world weren’t always so :D The queen who bathed only twice referred to by Iran and Spain is Spanish Queen Isabel I :P

European civilisations like Rome and Greece were pretty clean- they had lots of public baths and a sophisticated plumbing system to pump water to houses. But from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance, there was a mistaken belief that bathing too much was unhealthy and left one susceptible to the various plagues sweeping Europe, such as the bubonic plague (aka Black Death). Alas, they had zero idea of the germ theory. Also, there was some Christian interpretations that bathing too much was kind of worldly. Renaissance Europe did have bath houses, but at that time, they were seen as centres of moral degeneration because prostitution took place there, total nudity while bathing became frowned upon, and women in general were discouraged from visiting them. By contrast, the Asian civilisations were a lot cleaner for various reasons. 

In Ottoman Turkey and Safavid Persia/Iran washing oneself was very integral to Islamic ritual. This would have been the case for Mughal India, which was Islamic too- and anyway, Hinduism also placed emphasis on cleanliness. Japan and China have always had a long history of bath houses, (also hot springs in the case of Japan). In China, it was thought that taking in the waters was good. Turkey’s last comment is a reference to how the idea of Turkish bath houses would eventually become popular in Victorian England :P