I'm reminded of studying the history of medicine back in school. One of the topics covered was the development of anaesthetics. The accounts of their discovery in the 19th century sounded very much like wealthy gentlemen sitting around at home with their friends experimenting with psychoactive drugs. If I remember correctly the textbook included this artist's impression of James Simpson and his compatriots discovering the anaesthetic properties of chloroform:The Great Binge
Quite apart from porn and necrophiliac tendancies, the Victorians were also off their heads a lot of the time. They were doped up to the gills, abusing all kinds of narcotics. Mr. Sherlock Holmes famously used a 7& solution of cocaine to stimulate his mind when he was bored (of which his friend Dr. Watson disapproved). Laudanum, heroin, cocaine, opium and so on were widely available. Coca-Cola, as many people know, originally contained cocaine.
It was only in the early 1900s that laws came in to regulate narcotics.
A nitpicky art historian replies.Photography
Louis Daguerre invented the daguerreotype in the mid 19th century, and it suddenly became possible to make lifelike pictures of people without needing to sit for hours and hours for a portrait. And what did the Victorians do with this wonderful new invention?
Well, one hing they did was "hidden mother photography". These are bizarre images where mothers, in an attempt to keep their children still for the long exposure times, disguised themselves as bits of furniture. They're reallt creepy:
Oh yes, I should have pointed out that the Daguerrotype didn't become the prevalebt photographic technology, I just used it as one the the first (if not the first) widely used method.A nitpicky art historian replies.
Daguerre certainly developed the Daguerrotype (pun intended) and ended up being rewarded by the French state but the form of that photography really took off was Fox-Talbot's endlessly repeatable negative/positive process. Daguerrotypes were expensive one off positives on glass.
Daguerre also secured recognition at the expense of less entrepreneurial or well connected French experimenters, in particular Hippolyte Bayard (who had also come up with an in camera positive process). Bayard didn't take it too well and indulged himself in a bit of pre-post-mortem photography to show his displeasure File:Hippolyte Bayard - Drownedman 1840.jpg - Wikimedia Commons
Chloral gets overlooked a lot because it wasnt as disastrously addictive as other drugs but it was in heavy use in the Victorian era. A lot of people couldnt go to sleep without a shot of chloral. It was like the Ambien of its day.He himself became quite an addict, not to laudanum but to chloral, which swallowed down with doses of whisky, as a cure insomnia and to quell the pain that he suffered from a bungled operation on one of his testicles.
The Victorian age is usually considered to coincide with the reign of Queen Victoria from 1837 to 1901. Frankenstein: or, the Modern Promethius was published in 1818, Michael Faraday was working on electricity from about 1812 to 1832, and Howard Carter discovered the tomb of Tutankhamen in 1922.The Victorian age was time of great scientific discovery, as well as perhaps a time of spiritual awakening. Men such as MacGregor Mathers and Michael Faraday were (more or less) contemporaries. The discovery of electricity led to the classical sci-fi work Frankenstein. Howard Carter discovered the tomb of Tutankhaman.
To the Victorians, the world was an amazing place full of mysteries to be discovered while British power was carried to all parts by the sails of the Royal Navy.
This thread is to discuss the whacky world of the Victorians.
|Similar History Discussions||History Forum||Date|
|What explains the weird shape of the Serb settlement patterns in Bosnia and Croatia?||European History|
|Weird question but what is your favorite act of Congress?||North American History|
|Weirdest Aviation Battles||Military History|
|Weird flag on Croat Partisan Cap||Movies / Television|