Bacchic Medicine

Wine and Alcohol Therapies from Napoleon to the French Paradox

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Wine has always been a part of popular medicine. Bacchic Medicine analyses the historical role of wine in the treatment of disease and preservation of health.
The Hippocratic texts gave wine therapy a canonical statement over two millennia ago; but the nineteenth century was the golden age of alcohol and wine therapy. The Germans and the British gave us early canons of wine therapy and, heavily endowed with wine cultural capital, the French followed. But like all therapies, alcohol and wine therapies were not without danger and some of the ‘iatrogenic’ tales are still with us.
In the twentieth century, many doctors rallied to the defence of wine both as a substitute for more dangerous alcoholic drinks and as an efficacious medicament, with an impressive case for the efficacy of wine in fighting bacteria, heart disease and cancer. New science based on animal models and ionic theory fortified their arguments. According to the controversial ‘French Paradox’, wine drinking makes it possible for a population to enjoy a high fat diet yet suffer little. Bacchic Medicine also discusses the contemporary debate over the role of alcohol and wine in preventive medicine.
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Biographical Note

Harry W. Paul is professor of history at the University of Florida. His publications include From Knowledge to Power: The Rise of the Science Empire in France (1985) and Science, Vine and Wine in Modern France (1996). The latter led to some experimenting with wine therapy and the writing of Bacchic Medicine.

Review Quotes

”…readers who have not shared first-hand experience at Paul’s table can savor the vicarious pleasure from a rich historical offering.”
- in: The American Historicl Review, Vol. 108, No. 4, 2003

“…a well balanced story, told with a sharp eye…”
- in: International Journal of Epidemiology, Vol. 31, No. 6, Dec. 2002, pp 1287-8

“Paul’s scholarship is careful and exhaustive; the work will surely remain definitive for our generation, and most likely one or two more.”
- in: ISIS, Vol. 94, nr.1, March 2003, pp.167-168

Table of contents

Preface and Acknowledgements

PART I. POPULAR AND PROFESSIONAL WINE THERAPIES
1. People’s Stories: Wine in Popular Medicine
2. An Early-Nineteenth Century German-French Model of Wine Therapy

PART II. A REMARKABLE NINETEENTH-CENTURY MEDICINE
3. Alcohol Therapy
4. French and British Wine therapies

PART III. IATROGENIC TALES
5. The Debate Over Wine Alcohol, Prussian Blue, and Sulphur Dioxide

PART IV. THE RENAISSANCE OF WINE THERAPY IN TWENTIETH-CENTURY FRENCH MEDICINE
7. Establishing the Scientific Basis of an Ancient Remedy
8. New Support from Animal Models and Ionic Theory
9. The Civilisation of Wine and the Organisation of Doctors
10. Wine Defences against Bacteria, Heart Disease, and Cancer
11. Wine Therapy: The Future of Another Illusion?

Bibliography
Indices

Index Card

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