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  • Hickman We Belt the World Author Version

    Rights statement: Copyright © 2021 The Johns Hopkins University Press. This article first appeared in Bulletin of the History of Medicine, Volume 95, Issue 2, Summer, 2021, pages 198-226

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“We belt the world”: Dr. Leslie E. Keeley’s “gold cure” and the medicalization of addiction in 1890s London

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Published
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>15/08/2021
<mark>Journal</mark>Bulletin of the History of Medicine
Issue number2
Volume95
Number of pages29
Pages (from-to)198-226
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English

Abstract

Dr. Leslie E. Keeley (1832–1900), proprietor of the “Gold Cure” for alcohol and drug habits, was the world’s best-known addiction cure doctor at the end of the nineteenth century. Vast numbers of people claimed that his treatment worked, but his reliance on a secret cure brought derision from mainstream medicine. This article uses unpublished archival sources to examine the 1892 opening of Keeley’s London franchise. The British medical establishment, particularly that element of it led by Dr. Norman S. Kerr and the Society for the Study of Inebriety, was outraged at the American clinic’s presence in London. Nonetheless, the Keeley Institute prospered. London’s mainstream professionals did not have the cultural authority to impose their assessment of the Keeley Institute over the popular language of “cure” that followed the Keeley phenomenon around the globe. This article argues that despite this apparent struggle between two ways of conceptualizing and treating addiction, the ultimate winner of the debate was medicalization itself. Whichever therapy a patient chose, mainstream or market, both understood addiction to be a medical problem, requiring a medical solution.

Bibliographic note

Copyright © 2021 The Johns Hopkins University Press. This article first appeared in Bulletin of the History of Medicine, Volume 95, Issue 2, Summer, 2021, pages 198-226