Thursday, December 20, 2007


According to an 11th century Arabic book called the Almanac of Health, an old man went to the doctor complaining of a frigid complexion and stiffness in winter. The doctor, after examining his condition, prescribed a rooster. Being a hot and dry bird it was the perfect tonic for a cold and rheumatic old man.

This is medicine by the 4 humours – Black bile, Yellow bile, Blood and Phlegm. The idea that the body is a concoction of these four essential juices is one of the oldest on record. From the Ancient Greeks to the 19th century it explained disease, psychology, habit and personality. When we describe people as being choleric, sanguine or melancholic we are still using the language of the humours today. It also explains why, in the long and convoluted history of medical practice, pigeon livers were an aphrodisiac, blood letting was a form of heroism and why you really could be frightened to death.

Hail to the Chief
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On the Wealth of Nations

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Globalising Capital Markets: new actors, new flows, new partnerships

Karol Boudreaux on Property Rights and Incentives in Africa

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