Summary

What effect did the dramatic expansion in long distance trade in the early modern period have on healthcare in England? This article presents new evidence on the scale, origins and content of English imports of medical drugs between 1567 and 1774. It shows that the volume of imported medical drugs exploded in the seventeenth century, and continued growing more gradually over the eighteenth century. The variety of imported drugs changed more slowly. Much was re-exported, but estimates of dosages suggest that some common drugs (for example, senna, Jesuits' Bark) were available to the majority of the population in the eighteenth century. English demand for foreign drugs provides further evidence for a radical expansion in medical consumption in the seventeenth century. It also suggests that much of this new demand was met by purchasing drugs rather than buying services.

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