Another subject that was discussed during Friday’s lunch was the connection between the East India Company and those who came from the Shetland and Orkney Isles. There was little I could add from Captain Thomas Bowrey’s life other than the evidence in his papers of ships returning taking a westward route round Scotland to avoid hostile shipping in the Channel. Of course, following the seizure of the Worcester by the Scots, Scotland was also considered a risk to English ships. This, at least in part, was responsible for the capture of the Mary Galley by French privateers.
In addition to the discussion about scurvy, we also talked about medicine more generally. The Honourable Company of Apothecaries supplied chests of drugs for East India Company ships which, apparently, the ship’s surgeon was expected to purchase himself. This was different from Bowrey’s ship. His papers include the bills of drug supplied to his ships but the surgeon on board his ship appear to have had a much lower status and were paid less than other officers.
The East India Company also provided drugs for their factories in the East Indies but the supply of medicines at the time was not a one-way process. Exotic products were brought back from the East for use as medicine. Anna Winterbottom discusses the East Indies medical networks in her Hybrid Knowledge in the Early East India Company World. Such networks, sharing information and materials, were common during Thomas Bowrey’s life-time, the period Hans Sloane in which was actively collecting. Bowrey traded exotic items and information for assistance with his Malay dictionary with Thomas Hyde, Bodleian Librarian.
As the son-in-law of an apothecary, Thomas Bowrey was perhaps more aware of medical knowledge of the time than other ships’ owners. He certainly had a copy of William Salmon’s Dispensatory in his library. Like many aspects of Bowrey’s life, health and medicine is such an interesting subject. He, and his wife Mary, regularly visited Bath and Tunbridge Wells to take the waters and bathe. I thoroughly enjoyed researching the section of his biography in which I discussed his and his wife’s likely health issues from his surviving household drugs account.
If you also find this subject fascinating, you may wish to look at a copy of T J S Patterson’s The East India Company and Medicine.