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Michigan State University

British Studies: the 18th Century, a Guide to Topics in the MSU Libraries' Collections: COOKERY/HOME ECONOMICS/HUMAN HEALTH

This is a guide to 18th-century British studies materials, particularly in our Special Collections and Rare Books unit.


Unlike today, in the 18th-century English-speaking world, matters related to cookery, home management, and human health were the exclusive purview of women, housewives, and female household managers. Today's so called alternative medicine was mainstream treatment, often using preparations made by women at home in the kitchen. People called in male physicians only when women's remedies appeared to be ineffective or unsuccessful, or when the case was clearly severe, beyond what home doctoring was expected to treat. As a result, many cookbooks from this period and on into the 19th century contained a mixture of food recipes; concoctions for healing and beautification; hints and recipes for cleaning and household management; and information on proper management of human relations in the home and instructions on child rearing. These are the works that would have been considered valuable for the Michigan Agricultural College's Library when the "women's program" was founded in 1896. Murray and Hong Special Collections has been fortunate to have two benefactresses of the cookery collection. Mary Ross Reynolds and Beatrice V. Grant, both home economics professors at M.S.U., donated their collections. Beatrice V. Grant also provided an endowment to help the cookery collection grow. While our collecting efforts are intensively directed at a variety of other cookery topics at this time, there are numerous cookery books in the British 18th-Century Studies Collection as well as a few 18th -century manuscript works. Besides the obvious subjects of cookery, and recipes, researchers will find material under these topics: bread, brewers, brewing, canning and preserving, carving (meat, etc.), cookbooks, diet, food, gastronomy-poetry, menus, salad greens, salads, table etiquette, tea, vegetarianism, and wine and wine making. Notable 18th-century cookery works in Murray and Hong Special Collections include Hannah Glasse's Art of Cooking (1747); and her Compleat Confectioner (c. 1770), Elizabeth Raffald's Experienced English Housekeeper (1769); Eliza Smith's Compleat Housewife (1727); William King's Art of Cookery (1712); Penelope Bradshaw's Family Jewel and Compleat Housewife's Companion (1751); Ann Cook's Professed Cookery (1755); William Henderson's Housekeeper's Instructor; or, Universal Family Cook (c. 1790); and Mrs. Frazier's Practice of Cookery, Pastry, Confectionary... (1791).

Examining some cookery titles shows how frequently the cook was more than a cook; she was also in charge of human development and personal relations! Topics in this area that may be studied in the British 18th-Century Studies Collection are child rearing; conduct of life of children, women, young women, young men, and boys; duty; husband and wife; marriage; married life; master and servant; moral education; temperance; temptation; life skills guides for women; and education of women and of young women. Some cookery works have information about practical how-to-do-it household matters: dyes and dyeing, hygiene, health, control of mice, nutrition and the poor, and children's and women's health and hygiene. Examples of these two kinds of works in Murray and Hong Special Collections are Mrs. (Elizabeth) Griffith's Essays Addressed to Young Married Women (1782); Thomas Gillespie's Treatise on Temptation, being an Inquiry Why Folly, Wickedness and Misery Appear and Prevail, in Different Forms, Among Various Classes of Men (1774); James Haigh's Hint to Dyers and Cloth-Makers, and Well Worth the Notice of the Merchant, [1779]; and Robert Smith's Universal Directory for Taking Alive and Destroying Rats, and All Other Kinds of Four-Footed and Winged Vermin... (1786).

Although M.S.U. today has colleges of both human medicine and osteopathic medicine our British 18th-century studies collection does not have nearly as many works on human medicine as on veterinary medicine, described earlier. There are books on these medical topics, however: castor oil, hot springs, hydrotherapy, materia medica, mineral waters, obstetrics, physicians, physiology, medicine, and microscopes and microscopy. Sub-headings on the books on medicine include history, humor, practice, popular works and formulae, receipts, and prescriptions. Examples of works on human medicine and health remedies in Murray and Hong Special Collections are Peter Cavane's Dissertation on the Oleum Palmae Christi, Sive Oleum Ricini; or ...Castor Oil, in Which its History is Illustrated.... [1766]; Nicholas Culpeper's English Physitian Enlarged, with Three Hundred, Sixty and Nine Medicines, Made of English Herbs... (1684); , and William Buchan's Domestic Medicine, or, a Treatise on the Prevention and Cure of Diseases by Regimen and Simple Medicines (1793).