‘Such concentrated mischief’

Scurvy and imprisonment

in Health, medicine, and the sea
Abstract only
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This chapter shows how scurvy became resurgent as British prison committees steadily reduced prison dietary rations during the 1820s and 1830s. Going further still into the voyage, the Cape of Good Hope remained, as it had been in the eighteenth century, intimately linked to surgeons' expressions of regret and of relief about scurvy, but the disease itself seemed to have changed. From the archetypal maritime scourge, scurvy had become a penal disease. Despite their frustrations, the isolation of the ocean and the vulnerability of convicts' bodies offered surgeons an invaluable opportunity for medical experimentation during the 1840s. The first of the Prince George convicts to develop scurvy was a man named George Willett. In 1840, after a decade of intermittent discussions about nitre, William Burnett officially re-opened investigations into scurvy.

Health, medicine, and the sea

Australian Voyages, c. 1815-1860



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