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

Hickman, T.A. (2021) “We belt the world” : Dr. Leslie E. Keeley’s “gold cure” and the medicalization of addiction in 1890s London. Bulletin of the History of Medicine, 95 (2). pp. 198-226. ISSN 0007-5140

[thumbnail of Hickman We Belt the World Author Version]
Text (Hickman We Belt the World Author Version)
Hickman_We_Belt_the_World_Author_Version.pdf - Accepted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial.

Download (453kB)


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 This article uses unpublished archival sources to examine the 1892 opening of Keeley’s London franchise.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.

Item Type:
Journal Article
Journal or Publication Title:
Bulletin of the History of Medicine
Additional Information:
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
Uncontrolled Keywords:
?? addictiongold cureinebrietyleslie e. keeleylondonmedicalizationnorman kerroscar c. de wolfsecret curestemperancehistorymedicine (miscellaneous)general nursingnursing(all) ??
ID Code:
Deposited By:
Deposited On:
22 Sep 2021 15:39
Last Modified:
16 Jul 2024 11:42