Friday, July 15, 2011

Scurvy - Stephen R. Bown

Now and then the Geezer's Book Club discovers an unlikely winner. Scurvy is one of those.  Who, besides an overly curious doctor,  is interested in a book about disease?   Well, I began the thing with trepidation and a certainty that I wasn't going to like it. I was wrong once again!

Scurvy reads like a good mystery. It's researched and written very well, and it compels the reader to "turn the next page" to see what's going to happen.  I an sure that I'm not the only one that was unaware of the horrendous impact of this awful disease. I didn't know, for example, that in 1763, at the end of the British war with France, over 184,899 men were rounded up for the war, and 133,708 of them died from disease, primarily Scurvy, and only 1512 were killed in action.

                                               184,899     Soldiers and Sailors
                                               133,708     Died from disease, primarily Scurvy
                                                   1,512    Died from action in the war.
                                                 49,679    Survived
The book "Scurvy" is a fascinating rendition of naval activities from before 1700 to about 1850. It describes in detail the miserable conditions on board military and civilian ships of the day, the unsanitary and brutal and normal conditions. It also offers a detailed vision of the medical profession during that time.

This is, despite it's focus on scurvy, a brilliant and excellent read.


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