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Herbal Medicine in Nineteenth Century England: the Career of John Skelton

Denham, Alison M. (2013) Herbal Medicine in Nineteenth Century England: the Career of John Skelton. MA by research thesis, University of York.

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Abstract

This thesis offers an account of the career of John Skelton (1805-1880) who has been discussed by historians as a Chartist and as a Thomsonian herbal practitioner. Skelton was a member of the London Working Men’s Association and a signatory of the People’s Charter. This thesis demonstrates that he was an active Socialist in the early 1840s, and a labour leader and consistent proponent of “moral force” Chartism throughout the 1840s. He retained a commitment to free thought throughout his life as “there is no mental vigour without exchange of thought." This account shows that he was a secularist in the 1840s, but later became a Christian without losing his commitment to democratic values. In 1848, Skelton became a herbalist and analysis of his recommendations for the treatment of respiratory disease in the Family Medical Adviser (1852) shows that his practice relied on Thomsonian principles, but differed in that he gave prominence to his conception of inflammation. Analysis of the medicinal plants recommended throughout his career found that he drew substantially on earlier British texts, and that he was a consistent advocate of the use of indigenous herbs alongside North American and tropical herbs. He retained a firm belief in the power of nature, which was expressed in A Plea for the Botanic Practice of Medicine (1853). This may have reflected his rural roots, but is also discussed here in the light of the influence of Socialism on his later thinking. This thesis demonstrates his personal commitment to education in that he qualified as a medical practitioner in 1863, and published a textbook Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine (1870) for use by students of herbal medicine. Equally, he was a firm proponent of self-reliance in healthcare and of the use of herbal medicine in working-class communities.

Item Type: Thesis (MA by research)
Keywords: Chartism Herbal Medicine Medical botany Owenism
Academic Units: The University of York > History (York)
Depositing User: Ms Alison M. Denham
Date Deposited: 10 Feb 2014 10:26
Last Modified: 01 Oct 2014 00:18
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/5003

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