Chapter

The Sparkling Nectar of Spas; or, Mineral Water as a Medically Commodifiable Material in the Province, 1770–1805

Matthew D. Eddy

in Materials and Expertise in Early Modern Europe

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print April 2010 | ISBN: 9780226439686
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226439709 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226439709.003.0008
The Sparkling Nectar of Spas; or, Mineral Water as a Medically Commodifiable Material in the Province, 1770–1805

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From the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries, spas across Europe offered mineral water to customers as a kind of therapy. Numerous studies have shed light on the links between tourism and commodification, the role of patient authority, and the isolation of chemical substances, but there has been no clear account to explain how the chemical composition of the wells connected with the medical theory that legitimated their commodification and use as a remedy. Using Peterhead Spa in Scotland as a case study, this article examines the therapeutic theories that motivated provincial experts to commodify mineral water at the dawn of the nineteenth century. In particular, it focuses on several authors who wrote about the well, including Rev. Dr. William Laing, an ordained Episcopal priest who argued that mineral water from Peterhead could be used to cure nervous disorders. The article shows that chemical language and experiments played an important role in late-eighteenth-century pamphlets and articles (both popular and academic) that addressed the curative power of mineral water.

Keywords: spas; mineral water; tourism; commodification; Peterhead Spa; Scotland; William Laing; nervous disorders; therapy; chemical composition

Chapter.  11857 words. 

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

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