Robbing the Doctor: 17th-Century Medics as Victims of Crime

Dr Alun Withey

During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, a common complaint against medical practitioners was that they effectively picked the pockets of the sick, whilst doing little for them in return. As the Helmontian physician George Starkey remarked in the middle of the seventeenth century, the patient was “like to pay the price of the doctor fully with his life” – which Starkey regarded as a brave acte’!

But medics, just like anyone else, could sometimes be victims of crime. The records of the Old Bailey contain a fascinating list of these unfortunate practitioners, and the list of crimes and calumnies they suffered. More than this, however, they can offer an alternative glimpse into the world of early modern medical practice.

Old Bailey in the 19th century

(Old Bailey in the 19th century – image from Wikimedia Commons)

Sometimes, for example, physicians and other practitioners found themselves the victims of petty crime. In 1686, Edward Newgent of St…

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Rosa Parks – 10 things…

Rupert Colley

This article was originally published in the Huffington Post. But here you can read it without all the distracting ads.

1. Parks had been thrown off the bus a decade earlier by the same bus driver – for refusing to pay in the front and go around to the back to board. She had avoided that driver’s bus for twelve years because she knew well the risks of angering drivers, all of whom were white and carried guns. Her own mother had been threatened with physical violence by a bus driver, in front of Parks who was a child at the time. Parks’ neighbor had been killed for his bus stand, and teenage protester Claudette Colvin, among others, had recently been badly manhandled by the police.

Rosa Parks2. Parks was a lifelong believer in self-defense. Malcolm X was her personal hero. Her family kept a gun in the house, including during the…

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Palmyra – were you there?

Mary Russell

It’s 08.30 and the day is warming up. A few young boys in blue overalls collect the bits of paper and soft-drink cans that litter the side of the road. Their hearts aren’t in it but they carry on, bending, picking up, bending again. This is the road to the other part of Tadmor – Roman Palmyra – and the authorities want it to look good, to show that they care about what is undoubtedly the greatest first century place of worship in the Middle East.

The Temple of Bel is an electrifying 200 metre square rectangle of towering pillars, altars – and divine mystery. At its centre is the sublime Propylaea, the huge vestibule fronting the inner sanctum with a majestic stairway, 35 metres wide, leading up to its eight-pillared entrance. To the left of the Propylaea is the altar on which the animals were slaughtered and to the…

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John Millward’s Beard Brush: a Global Tale from 1623

The Social Historian

Deep in the papers of the English East India Company, kept in the British Library in London, lies one of the most astonishing lists I’ve ever seen.

It’s a particular kind of list, which will be familiar to many. It’s a list of goods held by someone at their death, just like the probate inventories used all the time by English social historians and genealogists. It dates from 1623, and is for a man called John Millward. In fact, at first it looks pretty mundane.

And yet, on closer inspection, the inventory is truly extraordinary.

Millward was one of a very small number of English men (and some women) who lived completely globalized lives. His age, the early seventeenth century, was the first one of truly wide-ranging global interaction and exchange. True, earlier times had seen some remarkably cosmopolitan people. Ibn Battuta, for example, or Zheng He, or Marco Polo. Commerce…

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The Ghost Room in Maynooth

Come Here To Me!

Path leading down to the College Graveyard at Saint Patrick’s College. (Carax)

Just on the outskirts of Dublin lies the historic university town of Maynooth. It is the home of Ireland’s main Roman Catholic seminary, St Patrick’s College, which has been churning out priests since 1795.

One particular room in the college has been associated with demonic apparitions, suicide and paranormal activity for over 150 years.

In the mid 19th century in Room Two of Rhetoric House, two young seminarists took their own lives, nineteen years apart, and the room has been the source of many tales ever since.

Rhetoric House in the South Campus, built in 1834, was formerly a residential house for trainee priests. It now hosts the Department of History.

Rhetoric House, Maynooth (

On 1 March 1841, a young student from Limerick by the name of Sean O’Grady (b. 1820) jumped out of room and fell…

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Tutorial on Juxtaposing Historical & Modern Images

Many possibilities spring to mind!

History Blogger

Encouraged and inspired by my colleague Diana Montaño and Clayton Kauzlaric’s “Then & Again” project, I tried my hand at juxtaposing vintage, historical images onto modern ones. This approach, which visualizes physical changes over time, creates a powerful connection between the past and present of a particular place. In this tutorial, I will introduce the basic methodology for creating such an image using free, nearly universally-available tools. However, keep in mind that I am very much a novice at image retouching and editing, and feedback is much appreciated as I continue to improve this process and its end products.

Tools used:

Google Maps, Gimp 2.8, Microsoft Office Picture Manager, Microsoft Paint (seriously)


1. Locate the historical image you wish to superimpose onto a modern one. For this example, I will be utilizing the fantastic digital archive of historical photographs of Mexico City created by Carlos Villasana, Juan Carlos Briones…

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Robin Williams: 1951-2014


Comedian and actor Robin Williams died today at the age of 63. Here are five in-depth interviews with him.

1. Robin Williams: ‘The Night Listener’ (Terry Gross, Fresh Air, Aug. 3, 2006)

Terry Gross talks to Robin Williams, and, towards the end of the interview, asks him about depression: “Do I get sad? Oh yeah. Does it hit me hard? Oh yeah.”

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Why you shouldn’t marry a lady of learning, 1708

The History of Love

This charming epistle on the horror that is a woman choosing to better herself through education comes from  The Modern World Disrob’d (1708), by satirical writer Ned Ward. I’m particularly taken with the idea that the more languages a lady speaks, the more varied the opportunities for scolding her husband with them. Her poor unfortunate husband will find that “she pelts his Ears all Dinner-time with her Latin Scraps” and – even worse – her perceived superiority means that she might feel compelled to “gratify her Revenge by hornifying her Husband”. Because ladies what read books also like to sleep around. Obviously. Good old Ned.

The description begins without any mincing of words:


He continues:

Unhappy he that’s doom’d to wear
The Matrimonial Collar,
With her who is not only fair,
But fancies she’s a Schollar.

Puff’d up with Pride and vain Conceit,
She’ll soar above her Station,
And think she has…

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Disruptive Innovation and Irish Universities post-Leporte

Brian M. Lucey

History and business are rarely taught or even studied together. That’s a pity. Economic history, as  subject, has disappeared down the memory hole. What is more worrying perhaps is that the methods of historical analysis, careful source text reinterpretations, critical data analysis and a cool analysis, are not often applied to business. Enter Jill Lepore, a Harvard historian, to remind us why this ahistorical business analysis is a weak approach

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