Pain of the sick: ‘Anatomy of Expression,’ by Sir Charles Bell, 1806. Wellcome Collection
“‘I have had little or no sleep, owing to the tooth ache or rather stump ache,’Elizabeth Drinker wrote in her diary one night in 1796. ‘One of my Eye teeth very sore, my face much swelled and painful.’
“Drinker, a white woman from a prominent family in Philadelphia, filled her diary with comments like this. Disease was rampant in those days, and injuries often didn’t heal properly. Food was frequently spoiled, leading to painful stomach problems. Cavities and severe gum disease were common. These and other problems meant that pain – severe, intractable pain – was an ordinary part of daily life.
“Of course, many people suffered far more than Elizabeth Drinker. Slaves, in particular, were forced to perform long hours of grueling work, and their injuries and illnesses were often left untreated. They also suffered from brutal physical punishment.”
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