When I began writing my mystery novel ‘Bucket of Blood’, I was certain of two things: I wanted to set the story in Cumberland, BC because of this town’s diverse (and sometimes spooky) history, and I wanted one of the characters to be a doctor, because I’ve long been fascinated by Victorian medicine.
The scientific exploration of health exploded during the 1800s, when doctors seemed to throw anything at a problem and rarely worried about safety regulations, good hygiene, or sound theories. It was the era of snake oil salesmen and wild conjecture, but it was also a time of huge advances in germ theory, anatomy, and surgical procedures. Equal parts innovate and gruesome, Victorian medical practices could be full of surprises. Doctors often utilized cutting-edge technology like electricity or radioactive materials before the risks of these practices were fully understood. Their ideas reflected a changing social system that celebrated radical invention while often placing people, especially the poor and marginalized, in peril.
Through the course of researching and writing my novels, I’ve gathered a number of stories about this interesting period in history, and I look forward to sharing them with you on October 17 at 7 pm at the Cumberland Museum. I hope you’ll join me as we explore the maladies, miasmas, and medical quackery of the 19th century.