LIFE AT SEA IN THE
AGE OF SAIL
THIS DISCURSIVE ESSAY on the medical and social conditions aboard sailing ships in the great period of exploration and colonisation fills several gaps in our knowledge of maritime history. Much has been written about seafaring from the mid-18th century onwards, mainly concerned with naval vessels, but the author here deals with the somewhat neglected period of the 16th, 17th and early 18th centuries and with the merchantmen and explorers' ships that sailed the world from early Tudor times.
Dr. Thrower gives an account both of the ships that men sailed in and what life in them was like. He shows what sort of people went to sea, how they occupied their time on long and perilous voyages, what they ate and drank, and what cooking and storage arrangements were possible in their frail wooden ships, to enable them to go for months without sight of land.
As a physician, Dr. Thrower is able to examine the medical problems imposed on the sailors by their cramped and unhealthy surroundings, and discusses the ways by which many of these were overcome. Diseases, some of which are now rarely, if ever, found, were rife and are described in terms readily understood by the ordinary reader. The author's original researches for this book grew out of the interest aroused by his study, published in The Lancet, of Captain James Cook's contributions to medical science.
This is a book for social historians and for maritime historians, who may find views they question; but it is also a book for all lovers of the sea and the romance of sail, who will find the narrative and the anecdotes fascinating.
DR. THROWER, although country born and bred, has had a life-long interest in the sea and as a boy, he was taught to sail by the late Charlie Ward of Aldeburgh, Suffolk, one of the most celebrated coastal sailors of his day. As a student the author was a founder member of the well-known United Hospital Sailing Club.
On several occasions, professional duties have taken him to various parts of the world where he has sailed in craft as different as Arab dhows and West Indian schooners. He has also visited a number of the places mentioned in the book. A voyage as a surgeon to the Far East shortly after qualification initiated him into life in steamers, which incidentally served him in good stead in World War II when, for a year, he was medical specialist in a hospital ship.
He has published a number of articles on various aspects of social history but while he now writes about social history at sea, his interest in the whole subject may not be unexpected. He comes from a family intimately concerned for generations with various aspects of social problems in this country.
Apart from his professional work, Dr. Thrower has farmed for many years and has taken an active part in cattle improvement, a task rewarded by breeding a champion bull for the Royal Show. His Milroy Lectures on 'Agriculture and the Public Health', delivered in London in 1970, and recently published, have already been referred to as a classic of their kind. He has been president of various professional and other societies and is at present a Local Authority Chairman. But of all the honours bestowed on him, that which he treasures most is to have been the only medical man ever to be appointed Master of Staghounds, an office dating back for nearly 1,000 years.