Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Dalai Lama visit to National Library of Scotland

On Friday 22nd June, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet visited the National Library of Scotland here in Edinburgh.
He had requested a private viewing of some material, which included some Medical History of British India items.
On this page from His Holiness’s website Jan Usher, Head of Official Publications and one of the founders of the project, shows His Holiness a photograph from 1894 of Indian mendicants in the Report of the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

To flog or not!

It never ceases to amaze me what Parliament discusses. I came across volume 156 of  Hansard for the year 1860, and read the discussion about flogging in the Army and Navy.

Mr W. Williams started the debate stating that he can’t understand why flogging was allowed as it would prevent respectable men from joining the Army or Navy.

The argument for flogging was that it had to be maintained as otherwise there would be “total subversion of discipline.”

He goes on to state that for trivial offences the soldiers and sailors would receive worse treatment than convicted criminals and felons!

Apparently the maximum of lashes for the army was one thousand, but this number was reduced to three hundred after a soldier died from flogging, and reduced again by the Duke of Wellington to fifty lashes.

The descriptions of flogging a soldier would appear in newspapers. One such incident concerned a young soldier named Davis, “his back was covered with a mass of large, red, inflamed boils, which bled profusely at every stroke, and reddened the ground under his feet, upon which the cat was ordered to be withheld for a few moments.” Even after pleading for mercy and escaping the confines the punishment still continued.

An interesting note is that the cat used in the Navy was heavier than the Army and was wielded in a different fashion which meant that 50 lashes in the Navy was equivalent to 150 in the Army.

In seconding the motion Mr Bristow when asking a French officer if there is any flogging in the French Army, received the reply “Neither the French men nor the French soldiers are brutes.”

However, later on the debate it is mentioned how the French treated crimes in the Army. “Do not talk about our treating men as brutes, when the French shot where we flogged. In Berlin solders were punished by being placed in a room six feet by four, with a series of re-entering angles, so that it was impossible for him to stand.”

It is a fascinating but horrific debate and an insight into what Parliament discussed in the Victorian era.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Perfect bodies

The British Museum have just published Perfect bodies: sports, medicine and immortality, edited by Vivienne Lo. Based on an interdisciplinary conference and other academic events and exhibitions which began in 2007, this book explores ideas and training and preserving the perfect body. The chapters in the book reveal the changing ideas about how exercise contributes to health and the history of sport and body cultivation. In the run-up to the 2012 London Olympics, this book explores the diverse traditions of perfecting body and soul including early Chinese kickball games, Andreas Vesalius's De humani corporis fabrica of 1543 and twentieth century Chinese exercises to do while brushing teeth. Illustrated throughout, this book is at NLS shelfmark OP6.212.44/2.