“The Family Physician”: A Victorian Manual for Health

By Elizabeth Lane Furdell.

Published by The International Journal of the Book

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

During the Victorian era, Cassell and Company published several multi-volume editions of “The Family Physician,” an English domestic medical manual often available by subscription. Authored somewhat vaguely by “the physicians and surgeons of London hospitals,” the work contained information on diseases and advice on remedies, clearly aimed at household caregivers and part of the era’s self-help ethos. Volume Four often added a seventeen-chapter bonus section called “The Ladies’ Physician” with gynecological and obstetrical material. The books contained many illustrations including some portraits of famous doctors who appeared to give the project their imprimatur. My paper focuses on the contents of “The Family Physician” and examines its treatment of some specific diseases like diabetes, its production by Cassell and its distribution throughout the English-speaking world.

Keywords: Victorian Health Manuals, English Medical Publications, Domestic Medicine

International Journal of the Book, Volume 6, Issue 1, pp.1-6. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 486.623KB).

Dr. Elizabeth Lane Furdell

Professor, Department of History, University of North Florida, Jacksonville, FL, USA

Besides teaching a wide-range of history courses at the University of North Florida, I have written five books and a wide variety of articles and reviews. My last two books, Publishing and Medicine in Early Modern England (2002), and Textual Healing (edited and with a chapter, 2005), focused on the relationship between health issues and the printed word. My new book, Fatal Thirst: Diabetes in Britain before Insulin, will appear soon from Brill Academic Publishers. In the course of researching diabetes, I found an influential domestic health manual, The Family Physician, published by the House of Cassell in the late nineteenth-century that enjoyed wide distribution and influence; it is the focus of my current study.


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