Health, medicine, and the sea

Australian voyages, c.1815-60

By Katherine Foxhall

Health, medicine, and the sea


  • Hardcover

Book Information

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN: 978-1-7849-9361-0
  • Pages: 256
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £14.99
  • Published Date: May 2016
  • BIC Category: Modern History, History of Medicine, History, Oceania, Australasian & Pacific history, History of medicine, Maritime history, MEDICAL / History, HISTORY / Oceania, Medicine / History of medicine, Humanities / Maritime history


During the nineteenth century, over 1.5 million migrants set sail from the British Isles to begin new lives in the Australian colonies. Health, medicine and the sea follows these people on a fascinating journey around half the globe to give a rich account of the creation of lay and professional medical knowledge in an ever-changing maritime environment.

From consumptive convicts who pleaded that going to sea was their only chance of recovery, to sailors who performed macabre 'medical' rituals during equatorial ceremonies off the African coast, to surgeons' formal experiments with scurvy in the southern hemisphere oceans, to furious letters from quarantined emigrants just a few miles from Sydney, this wide-ranging and evocative study brings the experience and meaning of voyaging to life.

Katherine Foxhall makes an important contribution to the history of medicine, imperialism and migration which will appeal to students and researchers alike.


'Health, medicine and the sea is a triumph.'
Alison Bashford, Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History, Volume 14, Number 2

'A fascinating history, providing a perceptive analysis ... Health, medicine and the sea has contributed valuably to both the history of medicine and the historiography of global connection'
Alexander Cameron-Smith, Social History of Medicine Vol. 26, No. 3

'This is an excellent and persuasive work, marrying the histories of medicine, penal transportation, and colonialism with maritime geography.'
Zoe Laidlaw, The English Historical Review, 9 January 2014

'Using such a fascinating source, as well as voyage narratives, Foxhall successfully dismisses previous notions that such ships carried 'silent cargos' under the patriarchal watch of the surgeon-superintendents.'
Jennifer Kain, Immigrants & Minorities: Historical Studies in Ethnicity, Migration and Diaspora, 19 June 2013

'Recently re-released in a welcome paperback edition, Katherine Foxhall's elegant Health, Medicine, and the Sea foregrounds not just maritime mobility, but the ocean itself. Deeply considered, and engagingly written, it immerses the reader in the sensory, affective, spatial and socially stratified environment of life at sea during the peak of sail. Drawn from innumerable hand-written records and personal accounts in Britain, Ireland and Australia, Foxhall's monograph focuses on the complex confluence of maritime movements, oceanic environments and elusive concepts of health.This is an assured and rewarding work; indeed, I had read the first edition twice prior to being invited to review this re-issue. Interspersing its perceptive analyses with individual narratives of passages to Australia, Foxhall has crafted an intimately human account which nevertheless accords the ocean its rightful place in the travails of antipodean colonisation.'
Peter Hobbins, University of Sydney, Journal of Australian Studies Vol 41, No 1



winner of the Harold D. Langley Book Award


1: Problems of departure
2: Steaming ships
Voyage I: Eliza Baldwinson
3: Geographies of the tropical Atlantic
4: Such concealed mischief: scurvy and imprisonment
5: Trust and authority below the hatches
Voyage II: Henry Wellings
6: From emigrants to immigrants: quarantine and the colony


Katherine Foxhall is Wellcome Trust Research Fellow in History at King's College London

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