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Top 10 Shocking Historical Beliefs and Practices

Bryan Johnson . . . Comments

It is amazing how much the human perspective has changed in the last fifty years. Before the expansion of modern medicine and psychiatric care, people were exposed to brutal procedures and morbid beliefs. In the last 500 years, many strange political ideals have been adopted all over the world.

Government officials have enacted shocking policies and medical procedures. We can now look back upon some of these moments and wonder what exactly our ancestors were thinking? Many of these ideas were developed in a time when racial and female segregation was a problem, and the accepted social behavior was different from what we experience today. This article will be examining ten shocking beliefs and diagnosis that were developed during modern history.


Wife Selling

Contemporary Wife Selling Print Georgian Scrapbook 1949

During medieval times, women were completely subordinated to their husbands. After marriage, the husband and wife became one legal entity, a legal status known as coverture. During this time in history, married women could not own property in their own right, and were, indeed, themselves the property of their husbands. It is unclear when the ritualized custom of selling a wife by public auction first began, but written records indicate it was some time towards the end of the 17th century. In most reports, the sale was announced in advance, perhaps by advertisement in a local newspaper.

It usually took the form of an auction, often at a local market, to which the wife would be led by a halter (usually a rope) looped around her neck, arm or waist. The woman was then auctioned off to the highest bidder and would join her new husband after the sale was complete. Wife selling was a regular occurrence during the 18th and 19th centuries, and it acted as a way for a man to end an unsatisfactory marriage.

In most cases, a public divorce was not an option for common people. In 1690, a law was enforced that required a couple to submit an application to parliament for a divorce certificate. This was an expensive and time consuming process. The custom of wife selling had no basis in English law and often resulted in prosecution, particularly from the mid-19th century onwards. However, the attitude of the authorities was passive. It should be noted that some 19th century wives objected to their sale, but records of 18th century women resisting are non-existent.

In some cases, the wife arranged for her own sale, and even provided the money to buy her way out of the marriage. Wife selling persisted in some form until the early 20th century. In 1913, a woman claimed in a Leeds police court that she had been sold to one of her husband’s workmates for £1. This is one of the last reported cases of a wife sale in England. Today, you can visit a number of websites and get an online divorce.

Read about some of the bizarre practices that still happen today in The United States of Strange at!


Tobacco Smoke Enema

Tobacco Enema

The tobacco smoke enema was a medical procedure that was widely used in western medicine, during the turn of the 19th century. The treatment included an insufflation of tobacco smoke into the patient’s rectum by enema. The agricultural product of tobacco was recognized as a medicine soon after it was first imported from the New World. During this time, tobacco smoke was widely used by western medical practitioners as a tool against many ailments, including headaches, respiratory failure, stomach cramps, colds and drowsiness. The idea to apply tobacco smoke with an enema was a technique appropriated from the North American Indians.

It was believed that the procedure could treat gut pain, and attempts were often made to resuscitate victims of near drowning. Many medical journals from this time noted that the human body can undergo a stimulation of respiration through the introduction of tobacco smoke by a rectal tube. In fact, by the turn of the 19th century, tobacco smoke enemas had become an established practice in western medicine. The treatment was considered by Humane Societies to be as important as artificial respiration. Meaning, if you stopped breathing, the doctor’s first action was to shove a tube up your rectum and to begin pumping tobacco smoke in your body. Tobacco enemas were used to treat hernias and the smoke was often supplemented with other substances, including chicken broth.

According to a report from 1835, tobacco enemas were used successfully to treat cholera during the “stage of collapse”. Attacks on the theories surrounding the ability of tobacco to cure diseases began early in the 17th century, with King James I publically denouncing the treatment. In 1811, English scientist Benjamin Brodie demonstrated that nicotine, the principal active agent in tobacco smoke, is a cardiac poison that can stop the circulation of blood in animals. This ground breaking report directly led to a quick decline in the use of tobacco smoke enemas in the medical community. By the middle of the 19th century, only a small, select group of medical professional offered the treatment.


Rabbit Test


It is an advantage for a woman to understand that she is pregnant before having a child. It allows her to mentally prepare for the birth and avoid using drugs and alcohol. As you can imagine, world history is full of bizarre techniques that were used to test for human pregnancy. In ancient Greece and Egypt, watered bags of wheat and barley were used for this purpose. The female would urinate on the bags and if a certain type of grain spouted, it indicated that she was going to have a child. Hippocrates suggested that if a woman suspected she was pregnant, she should drink a solution of honey water at bedtime. This would result in abdominal cramps for a positive test.

During medieval times, many scientists performed uroscopy, which is an ineffective way of examining a patient’s urine. In 1928, a major breakthrough in the development of pregnancy tests was made when two German gynecologists named Selmar Aschheim and Bernhard Zondek introduced an experiment with the hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG). Before this time, hCG was thought to be produced by the pituitary gland, but in the 1930s, Georgeanna Jones discovered that hCG was produced by the placenta. This discovery was vital in the development of modern day pregnancy tests, which rely heavily on hCG as an early marker of pregnancy.

In 1927, Zondek and Aschheim developed the rabbit test. The test consisted of injecting the woman’s urine into a female rabbit. The rabbit was then examined over the next couple days. If the rabbit’s ovaries responded to the female’s urine, then it was determined that hCG was present and the woman was pregnant. The test was a successful innovation and it accurately detected pregnancy. The rabbit test was widely used from the 1930s to 1950s. All rabbits that were used in the program had to be surgically operated on and were killed. It was possible to perform the procedure without killing the rabbits, but it was deemed not worth the trouble and expense. Today, modern science has evolved away from using live animals in pregnancy tests, but the rabbit test was considered a stepping stone during the middle of the 20th century.


Mrs Winslow’s Soothing Syrup


During the 19th and 20th centuries, as the world’s population began to expand, many industries experimented with a wide range of medicines. During this time in history, the scientific community conducted many trials with new drugs. New substances were often discovered that had a direct impact on the human brain. In some cases, international companies took advantage of the loose market standards and released potentially hazardous products. A good example of this is Mrs Winslow’s soothing syrup, which was a medical formula compounded by Mrs. Charlotte N. Winslow, and first marketed in Bangor, Maine, USA, in 1849.

The product was advertised as “likely to sooth any human or animal”, and it was specifically targeted at quieting restless infants and small children.
The formula’s ingredients consisted of a large amount of morphine sulphate, powdered opium, sodium carbonate and aqua ammonia. Mrs Winslow’s soothing syrup was widely used during the 19th century to calm wild children and help babies sleep. This cocktail of drugs worked immediately and slowed the children’s heart rate down by giving them harmful depressants. The syrup had an enormous marketing campaign in the UK and the US, showing up in newspapers, recipe books, calendars and on trade cards. During the early 20th century the product began to gain a reputation for killing small babies. In 1911, the American Medical Association incriminated Mrs Winslow’s Soothing Syrup in a publication named Nostrums and Quackery, in a section titled Baby Killers.

Mrs Winslow’s soothing syrup was not withdrawn from shelves in the UK until 1930. In 1897, chemists at the Bayer pharmaceutical company in Elberfeld, Germany, began experimenting with diacetylmorphine, or heroin. From 1898 through 1910, the Bayer Company sold diacetylmorphine to the public. The substance was marketed under the trademark name Heroin and was put on supermarket shelves as a non-addictive morphine substitute and cough suppressant. In fact, the Bayer Heroin product was two times more potent than morphine itself and caused countless people to become addicted. The public response was immediately evident, but the company continued to sell Heroin for over ten years. The era has since become a historic blunder for the Bayer Company, and world organizations in charge of keeping people safe from these harmful chemicals.




The first half of the 20th century will forever be known for a series of radical and invasive physical therapies developed in Europe and North America. Since the beginning of time, world cultures have treated mentally and physically challenged individuals in different ways. During the early 1900s, the medical community began developing some bizarre treatments. Some examples include barbiturate induced deep sleep therapy, which was invented in 1920. Deep sleep therapy was a psychiatric treatment based on the use of drugs to render patients unconscious for a period of days or weeks. Needless to say, in some cases the subjects simply did not wake up from their comas. Deep sleep therapy was notoriously practiced by Harry Bailey between 1962 and 1979, in Sydney, at the Chelmsford Private Hospital.

Twenty-six patients died at Chelmsford Private Hospital during the 1960s and 1970s. Eventually, Harry Bailey was linked to the deaths of 85 patients. In 1933 and 1934, doctors began to use the drugs insulin and cardiazol for induced shock therapy. In 1935, Portuguese neurologist António Egas Moniz introduced a procedure called the leucotomy (lobotomy). The lobotomy consisted of cutting the connections to and from the prefrontal cortex, the anterior part of the frontal lobes of the brain. The procedure involved drilling holes into the patient’s head and destroying tissues surrounding the frontal lobe. Moniz conducted scientific trials and reported significant behavioral changes in patients suffering from depression, schizophrenia, panic disorders and mania.

This may have something to do with the fact that the patient was now suffering from a mental illness and brain damage. Despite general recognition of the frequent and serious side effects, the lobotomy expanded and became a mainstream procedure all over the world. In 1949, António Egas Moniz was awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine. During the 1940s and 50s, most lobotomy procedures were performed in the United States, where approximately 40,000 people were lobotomized. In Great Britain, 17,000 lobotomies were performed, and in the three Nordic countries of Finland, Norway and Sweden, approximately 9,300 lobotomies were undertaken. Today, the lobotomy is extremely rare and illegal in some areas of the world.


Big Nose George


Anthropodermic bibliopegy is the practice of binding books in human skin. Surviving examples of anthropodermic bibliopegy include 19th century anatomy text books bound with the skin of dissected cadavers, estate wills covered with the skin of the deceased, and copies of judicial papers bound in the skin of murderers convicted in those proceedings. In America, the libraries of many Ivy League universities include one or more samples of anthropodermic bibliopegy. Towards the end of the 1800s, many outlaws emerged in the American West. One of these criminals was named Big Nose George Parrott. In 1878, Parrott and his gang murdered two law enforcement officers in the US state of Wyoming. The killings occurred as the men tried to escape a bungled train robbery near the Medicine Bow River.

In 1880, Parrott’s gang was eventually captured by police in Montana. The men were apprehended after getting drunk and boasting of the killings. Big Nose George was sentenced to hang on April 2, 1881, following a trial, but he attempted to escape while being held at a Rawlins, Wyoming jail. When news of the attempted escape reached the people of Rawlins, a 200-strong lynch mob snatched George from the prison at gunpoint and strung him up from a telegraph pole. Doctors Thomas Maghee and John Eugene Osborne took possession of Parrott’s body after his death, in order to study the outlaw’s brain for signs of criminality. During these procedures, the top of Parrott’s skull was crudely sawn off and the cap was presented to a 15-year-old girl named Lilian Heath. Heath would go on to become the first female doctor in Wyoming, and is noted to have used Parrott’s skull as an ash tray, pen holder and doorstop.

Skin from George’s thighs, chest and face was removed. The skin, including the dead man’s nipples, was sent to a tannery in Denver, where it was made into a pair of shoes and a medical bag. The shoes were kept by John Eugene Osborne, who wore them at his inaugural ball after being elected as the first Democratic Governor of the State of Wyoming. Parrott’s dismembered body was stored in a whiskey barrel filled with a salt solution for about a year, while the experiments continued, until he was buried in the yard behind Maghee’s office. Today the shoes created from the skin of Big Nose George are on permanent display at the Carbon County Museum in Rawlins, Wyoming, together with the bottom part of the outlaw’s skull and George’s earless death mask.




Scientific racism is the act of using scientific findings to investigate the differences between the human races. In history, this type of research was conducted in order to suppress individuals. It was most common during the New Imperialism period (1880-1914). During this time in history, some scientists tried to develop theories in order to justify white European imperialism. Since the end of the Second World War and the occurrence of the Holocaust, scientific racism has been formally denounced, especially in The Race Question (July 18, 1950). Beginning in the late 20th century, scientific racism has been criticized as obsolete, and as historically used to support racist world views.

One example of scientific racism is a theory named drapetomania. Drapetomania was a supposed mental illness described by American physician Samuel A. Cartwright in 1851 that caused black slaves to flee captivity. Cartwright described the disorder as unknown to the medical authorities, although its diagnostic symptom, the fleeing of black slaves, was well known to planters and overseers. Cartwright delivered his findings in a paper before the Medical Association of Louisiana. The report was widely reprinted in the American colonies. He stated that the disorder was a consequence of masters who “made themselves too familiar with slaves, treating them as equals.”

Quoting the document, “If any one or more of them, at any time, are inclined to raise their heads to a level with their master, humanity requires that they (slaves) should be punished until they fall into the submissive state. They have only to be kept in that state, and treated like children to prevent and cure them from running away.” In addition to identifying drapetomania, Cartwright prescribed a remedy. In the case of slaves “sulky and dissatisfied without cause,” Cartwright suggested “whipping the devil out of them” as a preventative measure.


Divine Right of Kings


The divine right of kings was a political and religious doctrine that asserted that a monarch has ultimate authority over man, deriving its right to rule directly from the will of God. The law ensured that medieval kings were not responsible for the will of the people, but rather working under God’s power. The doctrine implies that any attempt to depose the king, or to restrict his powers, runs contrary to the will of God and may constitute heresy. The theory came to the forefront in England under the reign of James VI of Scotland (1567–1625), James I of England (1603–1625), and also Louis XIV of France (1643–1715). The divine right of kings was slowed in England during the Glorious Revolution of 1688-1689.

The American and French revolutions of the late 18th century further weakened the theory’s appeal, and by the early 20th century, it had been virtually abandoned all over the world. The idea of the divine right of kings implicitly stated that no one but the king was worthy of punishing his own blood. This law created a problem for tutors in ancient times because the king was often times not available to raise his son. Royal educators found it extremely difficult to enforce rules and learning. For this reason, whipping boys were assigned to every young prince. When the prince would misbehave in class or cause problems for the tutors, the child’s whipping boy would be physically punished in front of the prince.

Whipping boys were generally of high birth, and were educated with the prince since they were a young child. For this reason, the future ruler and whipping boy often grew up together and in some cases formed an emotional bond. This occurred because the prince did not have any other playmates or schoolmates to bond with. The strong connection that developed between a prince and his whipping boy dramatically increased the effectiveness of using this technique as punishment for the royalty. However, as history has often taught us, some rulers have no sympathy for others who are perceived to be a lower class. In these cases, the royal whipping boys were tortured at the expense of the prince. The principle of the divine right of kings molded young ruler’s minds into the perception that they were untouchable. The life of a whipping boy was usually one of sorrow and pain. These children are noted for being an example of one of the first fall guys.




The Sengoku period of Japan was an era characterized by social upheaval, political intrigue and near constant military conflict. Dating far back into Japanese history, warriors have been known to take human trophies, specifically the heads of their enemies slain on the battlefield. Often time’s remuneration was paid to these soldiers by their feudal lords based on the severed heads. By 1585, Toyotomi Hideyoshi had become the liege lord of Japan. Hideyoshi is historically regarded as Japan’s second “great unifier.” From 1592-1598, the newly unified Japan waged war against Korea. The ultimate goal of the offensive was to conquer Korea, the Jurchens, Ming Dynasty China and India. During this time in history, the gathering of war trophies was still highly encouraged. However, because of the sheer number of Korean civilians and soldiers that were killed in the conflict, and the crowded conditions on the ships that transported troops, it was far easier to bring back ears and noses instead of whole heads.

The dismembered facial features of Korean soldiers and civilians killed during the war were brought back to Japan in barrels of brine. It is impossible to be sure how many people were killed, but estimates have been as high as one million. Remarkably, the incredibly large amount of decapitated Korean noses and ears taken into Japan during this time in history is still highly visible. You see, Toyotomi Hideyoshi had massive structures constructed that contained the sliced ears and noses of the killed Korean soldiers and civilians taken during the war. The largest such monument is named Mimizuka and it enshrines the mutilated body parts of at least 38,000 Koreans. The shrine is located just to the west of Toyokuni Shrine, in Kyoto, Japan. The Mimizuka was dedicated on September 28, 1597. The exact reasons it was built are unknown. It was uncommon for a defeated enemy to be interred into a Buddhist shrine.

The Mimizuka is not unique. Other nose and ear mounds dating from the same period are found elsewhere in Japan, such as the Okayama nose tombs. With the expansion of the Internet, some Japanese civilians have learned about the Mimizuka. However, for a long time, the Mimizuka was almost unknown to the Japanese public. The shrines are rarely mentioned in Japanese high school text books. However, most Koreans are well aware of its existence. In many areas of Korea, the Ear Mounds are seen as a symbol of cruelty, while other Korean’s feel the Mimizuka should stay in Japan as a reminder of past savagery. It is a controversial subject and even today the majority of people who visit at Mimizuka are Korean. This may have something to do with the fact that most Japanese tourist guidebooks do not mention Mimizuka or anything about its disturbing history.


Female Hysteria


Female hysteria was a once-common medical diagnosis, found exclusively in women, which is today no longer recognized as a disorder. The diagnosis and treatment of female hysteria was routine for hundreds of years in Western Europe and America. The disorder was widely discussed in the medical literature of the Victorian era (1837-1901). In 1859, a physician was noted for claiming that a quarter of all women suffered from hysteria. One American doctor cataloged 75 pages of possible symptoms of the condition, and called the list incomplete. According to the document, almost any ailment could fit the diagnosis for female hysteria. Physicians thought that the stresses associated with modern life caused civilized women to be more susceptible to nervous disorders, and to develop faulty reproductive tracts.

Women considered to be suffering from hysteria exhibited a wide array of symptoms, including faintness, insomnia, fluid retention, heaviness in abdomen, muscle spasm, shortness of breath, irritability, loss of appetite for food or sex, and “a tendency to cause trouble”. The history of this diagnosis is obviously controversial because of the wide range of bizarre symptoms and causes, but the case gets more shocking when you look at the treatment. During this time, female hysteria was widely associated with sexual dissatisfaction. For this reason, the patients would undergo weekly “pelvic massages.” During these sessions, a doctor would manually stimulate the female’s genitals, until the patient experienced repeated “hysterical paroxysm” (orgasms). It is interesting to note that this diagnosis was quite profitable for physicians, since the patients were at no risk of death, but needed constant care. Pelvic massages were used as a medical treatment on women into the 1900s.

Around 1870, doctors around the world realized that a new electrical invention could help the vaginal massage technique. You see, in many cases physicians found it hard to reach hysterical paroxysm. I think you can imagine why this would be the case. In 1873, the first electromechanical vibrator was developed and used at an asylum in France for the treatment of female hysteria. For decades, these mechanical devices were only available to doctors for the use in pelvic massages. By the turn of the century, the spread of home electricity brought the vibrator to the consumer market. Over the course of the early 1900s, the number of diagnoses of female hysteria sharply declined, and today it is no longer a recognized illness.

  • timothyjames

    Oh my gosh, imagine if an elected official wore human-skin shoes today. The backlash would be huge.

    I was nervous when I saw the title of this list that it might cause some controversy because the "shocking beliefs" wouldn't be far enough removed from modern life. Luckily, I think we can all agree that life is better off without these practices. Except maybe the doctor-ordered orgasms or drug syrup. Those seem like they wouldn't be met with too much resistance.

    • I definitely wouldn't say no to the syrup :)

    • I'm pretty sure there would be backlash if anybody wore human-skin shoes today.

    • Gabe

      What is wrong with objectively examining the differences amongst the races, as part of the quest to understand our species — where we came from, where we are, and where we may be going? Do any of you deny that there are myriad differences amongst the races? Political correctness is the absolute scourge of Science and free thinking. It makes idiots of us all.

      • Megan

        Gabe, scientific thought actually points to the fact that race is a non-existent thing. Race, scientifically speaking, is a culturally constructed idea. So, political correctness is not the absolute scourge of science and free thinking. Misinformation and self-righteousness, on the other hand…

        • Jackit

          That's lay-speak. Race is real, it's harmful to withhold health studies based on race. It is a scientific fact, for example, that Asians are more susceptible to osteoporosis, for example. Please dont pretend to be an authority on science when youre not.

          • ulmflb

            The term "race" is very problematic because it doesn't have an exact definition, and imprecision is an enemy of science. It also has very negative connotations, as anyone who has heard of eugenics, concentration camps, genocides, etc., knows. Therefore, talking about "race" is a bad idea. It gives you bad science and bad politics. What you really want, it's to talk about heredity and environment. You are not going to get that with "race".

          • loki

            Many “racial” differences have more to do with cultural boundaries than genetic differences. For example: Asians may be more susceptible to osteoporosis because their traditional diet contains significantly fewer dairy products (a source of easily-absorbed calcium).

  • You're Welcome

    Ahhh, the "good ol' days…"

    • hunter

      I'm writing my congressman to bring back the wife selling law. I'm not sure anyone would buy her though.

  • Ellie

    Great list, Love the female hysteria one. I sometimes wonder if I'm a sufferer =p

    • You're Welcome

      It's time for treatment!

      • haha it is rare that I laugh aloud at things on the Internet but your comment made me :)

  • oliveralbq


    —are you just blowing smoke up my ass?

    • timothyjames


    • hah that should have been incorporated into the list.

    • ChristineM

      haha I was totally thinking that too

    • chrom3d

      better pray the patient did not eat a lot before taking the treatment or else the doctor is going to get a different king of treat..

      • oliveralbq

        i know, right?
        there isn't a whole lot about that entry that makes sense.

        —–i mean, sure, a malaligned theft of an obscure idea (although i cannot make myself believe that peyote wasn't involved with the native americans)

        —–chicken broth in the ass
        sounds like it belongs on a list of the weirdest
        fetishes in the history of man.

    • Lol, "Doctor, I'm stoned off my ass."

  • danmoo071

    The image of Female Hysteria makes me giggle

  • bluesman87

    excellent list. Best in a week . But you forgot to mention that in addition to pelvic massages , the more experienced doctors offered mustache rides as well.

    • hayley

      What's a mustache ride

      • bluesman87

        cunnilingus , except with a big hairy Victorian mustache……

      • ChristineM


    • TimC

      Haha ;)

      And also it is worth noting that although the number of diagnoses of female hysteria sharply declined, the number of vibrators has grown exponentially.

    • our jo

      ha! comment-of-the-day :D

  • smaj7

    What an interesting list.

    The Divine Right of Kings is ingenious. What a way to justify and sustain an Inequality system … some will stop at nothing!

    Social Darwinism and Scientific Racism are just a modern way of justifying inequality. Except this time they don't appeal to GOD, they appeal to Science.

    Interesting indeed!

  • flgh

    Looks like someone's down with a case of hysteria…you need a doctor to give you a pelvic massage?

    • I think he is more in need of the treatment in item six! And I am sure there are a number of people here (including me) who would willingly perform it!

      • mom424

        Too late – appears somebody beat you to it.

  • Lara


  • akiraronin

    I always wondered where the phrase "the rabbit is dead" came from… (#8)
    Excellent list!

  • Tired Student

    You know you're up too late on the East Coast (of USA) when you see the new Listverse before you wake up.

  • Ninja_Wallaby

    What a great list. I enjoyed it very much. Though I did think that "Big Nose Goerge" was just an exsample rather than a practice. Still very good, hope to see some more great lists.

    edit: I really loved entry No.1. Trust lazy doctors to invent the vibrator.

    • Elemarth

      I agree that item seemed like an example. I think it actually was a practice. I know that many Native Americans who were killed in some of the massacres (particularly women, but then there weren't that many men still alive after the wars) were treated like that.

  • KabirBhai

    10. As much as i want to and am inclined to, no comments on Wife Selling…
    7. Mrs Winslow’s Soothing Syrup should be legalized… But only for adults… I actually want some…
    6. Lobotomy – I still remember the great climax of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and the fight that took place among my friends about the actuality of the climax of Shutter Island…
    4. After reading this line, “If any one or more of them, at any time, are inclined to raise their heads to a level with their master, humanity requires that they (slaves) should be punished until they fall into the submissive state. They have only to be kept in that state, and treated like children to prevent and cure them from running away.”, i do not want to comment…
    3. Divine Right of Kings: I was my father's whipping boy. Whenever i did something wrong, i got a sound one… He was the firm believer of "spare the Rod, Spoil your Son".
    2. Mimizuka: Shouldn't these be burnt to the ground…
    1. Female Hysteria Exists… I Suffer daily…

    • mom424

      Well I guess you're not doing your job properly then eh?

    • Vera Lynn

      One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest broke my heart. I bought the book, but cant bring myself to read it. I also have the movie, still in its packaging. Theres a song by Gordon Lightfoot (If You Could Read my Mind) that has the line "…Because the ending's just too hard to take…" which sums it up completely.

      • oliveralbq

        interesting vera — i never thought about this tune that way.

        i saw lightfoot at the paolo soleri in santa fe back in 1989 or so — i was young young, but i remember he told the story of the lyrics being written about his divorce, and how the times in the relationship were so good, but to think abou the relationship in totality, he couldnt ignore the end any more than he could ignore the beginning or the middle, and the ending was just to hard to take so he wasnt going to think about it anymore.

        the way you looked at it wouldnt have occured to me, cause i heard that story when i was 11. and my parents were divorcing.

        either way, though, watch the movie or read the book.
        whichever one you havnt done.
        theyre both worth it, silly.

        • Vera Lynn

          I am silly! I just cant do it. Maybe with someone, but not alone.

          I have my own Gordon Lightfoot stories I could tell, but I would incriminate myself. ;-) Suffice it to say he is a very nice man, though.

  • TheTruth

    Interesting. Good job

  • electricauntjemima7

    Excellent List!

    "The era has since become a historic blunder for the Bayer Company and world organizations in charge of keeping people safe from these harmful chemicals."

    I think Bayer has a lot of those… like being one of the constituent companies that was formed into IG Farben and the horrific role that company played in World War II, or having a war-crimes convicted Nazi as it's chairman in the 50's, or denying that a Jewish scientist discovered Aspirin, or poisoning all those kids in Peru, or killing people with Baycol… definitely a legacy there!

  • loapaja

    Ew, tobacco enema!

  • Boredom

    finally, a list that is interesting! woohoo loved it

  • swapie

    Wife for Sale:
    Good at complaining and shopping. Not so good at cleaning. Suffers from Female Hysteria.
    Make me an offer.

    • PamelaRose

      ROTFLMAO Brilliant!

  • sawa

    Tobacco enema to help revive people? Interesting. I wonder how they came up with that theory.

    • cqsteve

      Yeah, you front up to a doctor who says "The only possible cure is for me to blow tobacco up your arse". Sorry, I'm officialy going doctor shopping.

  • chrom3d

    soooooo the belief for female hysteria caused the invention of vibrator.. hmmmm.. i bet doctors at that time have a lot of happy times in their clinic hahaha..

    • bluesman87

      not as happy as the patients, ill bet .

      • chrom3d

        you're right i guess.. the patients are having more fun than the doctors specially after taking a sip of "Mrs Winslow’s Soothing Syrup"..

  • cqsteve

    Mick, I don't know where you are, but I am prepared to take the Australian franchise off your hands. Such is my commitment to this cause I WILL charge for the treatment, but I feel that a bottle of soothing red wine is not too much to ask; as it shall be shared between Doctor CQSteve and the patient. Cheers to a great list Bryan.

    • The Mick

      Ah, Steve, I have dibs on the Melbourne sector, as that is home. You can have Sydney AND The Gold Coast !!

      • cqsteve

        Fair enough. I am really looking forward to the "hands on" experience and hope that the exam at the end of the training will be an oral.

  • becd85

    First list in a week that I actually could be bothered reading properly!

    Very entertaining!

  • Skata

    Interesting take on wife selling. At one time in England if a woman expressed a desire to marry a condemned man the hangman had to let her have him. Don't know which was worse.

    I used to have an office on the sixth floor of the IG Farben building in Frankfurt. That was a hoot.

  • pickledtink

    Confusing, horrifying and amusing. This list has it all.

    And from this day forth, whenever I'm doing the nasty, I will be saying "Oh god, yes, oh god, I'm having a hysterical paroxysm, oh yeah, I'm hysterical paroxysmising YES". ^.^

  • ajokeinabottle

    If i could just whip my ancestors..

  • Armadillotron

    Scentific racism was a good thing, it proved that Britain is the best on Earth and that other races are inferior. You can call me racist-this is fact. It`s only because of political correctness that we can`t say things like this anymore.

    • Cham

      Because crooked British teeth are superior?

    • Armin Tamzarian

      All English girls are way ugly. My dad always told me that was because the vikings stole all good ones. That's also why Sweden has all the hot babes.

    • mom424

      Funny how your comment actually denies that fact all by itself. Needn't say another word.

    • Awisemansaid…

      An Englishman has no other purpose in his miserable life but to work in his King's factories and die for him in war. Ergo, the English are a nation of dull witted factory workers and war time cannon fodder. The only outlet an Englishman has from his misery is his slovenly drunkenness and tupping the mule-like whore women of his small grey island. This has always been the case and forever will be, even in modern times.

      Armadillotron, clearly you are no King…

    • danmoo071

      Read the book Guns, Germs, and Steel and tell me if you still have this high and mighty view of the west

    • Jonelle


      Britain isn't a race >.>..

      Great list BTW! For #1 I kept repeating in my head "wait a minute.. where is this going.. OOOOOOH!!" lol

    • Lauren

      Okay, so all of the people that replied to this slamming ALL english people are so much better than what he said? I do not think so somehow. A) not all english people have crooked teeth, that is a centuries old insult and everyone had crooked teeth in those days. B) Not all english women are ugly either.….
      and C) have you ever even been to Britain? In the past century? Because I think your comment may be a tad out of date.

      I'm not slamming the US or any other country here, I'm juts saying all of you who did insult Britain are really no better than Armadillotron really.

      • Awisemansaid

        Lauren, I live here in Britain now, and have tupped many a crooked toothed mule-whore.

        • Lauren

          That says more about the women you can pull than it does about the women in Britain.

  • batmansbrother

    about the divine right of kings.. not a word on cromwel?? he (not by himself) hacked king charles the 1st's head off! yes they brought back the king (his son king charles the 2nd) but i think that "slowed things down" more than the glorious revolution.. okay i am not 100% sure about the dates but i am pretty sure it was before 1688.. anyone?

    • Steve

      Charles I was beheaded in 1649 (January).
      Charles II was invited back after Richard Cromwell (Oliver's son) fell from favour but with conditions attached, such as the King could no longer raise a private army or go to war without Parliament's consent. In many ways it was the start of true parliamentary democracy. Still today the monarch may not enter the house of commons.

  • Steven Douglas

    WANTED: Female Hysteria sufferer for buddy system experiments with sufferer of Chronic Male Hysteria.

  • Armin Tamzarian

    Just wondering, what is exactly meant by 'scientific racism'? Because most scientists won't deny that there are differences between races that warrant different actions.

    If it means that pseudo-scientific evidence was being used to make qualitative distinctions ('we're better'), I would agree that scientific racism is bad.

    If it also incorporates quantitative judgements (e.g. 'People of African descent are at greater risk for high blood pressure, but at lesser risk for skin cancer.'), I would have to protest against discarding it. That kind of political correctness has more negative than positive effects.

    • mom424

      That's not what they were discussing – they were coming up with pseudo-scientific reasons to justify slavery, colonialism, and finally of course, in our century, The Holocaust.

      They weren't rushing to find a cure for sickle cell anemia, that's for damn sure.

    • C.F.

      I wouldn't exactly label the quantitative distinctions between people of varying races as racism. However, I do agree that such distinctions are medically relevant and useful in a positive way.

  • “ODHI”

    Interesting indeed,the list goes on ‘n’ on;here in africa we too have beliefs and practises which are to say

    the least… shocking but to the common man is part of life 1 of them is wife inheritance;who ever is inter

    ested to know the facts should do a google search 4 more details.

    KUDOS BRYAN,Awesome list !

  • oouchan

    What a great list! Some of these really do make you shake your head and wonder what the hell they were thinking! Like the human skin one. I can barely wear leather without getting the creeps but imagine wearing your grandma….literally.
    The hysteria one sounds hilarious. I wonder how many women just suddenly developed the symptoms?….just to get some extra on the side. :)

    Cool list.

  • nimur90

    The abundance of the vibrator goes up, the prevalence of female hysteria goes down….hmmmm

    • Bob Loblaw

      Implication: They cured it!

  • ianthemagnificent

    I'm not sure how many people ever 'believed' in the divine right of kings apart from the kings themselves.

  • vanowensbody

    Great list. Unique topic and well written entries.

  • Captain Jack Sparrow

    lol i laughed hard at female hysteria treatment. That is absolutely ridiculous. Was people that stupid? Didnt they know what an orgasm was?

    No.2, 3, 5, 6, and 9 were the most shocking ones.

    Anyway a good list.

    • General Tits Von Chodehoffen

      "Was people that stupid?"

      They probably WAS not as stupid as you

  • The Annoyed Elephant

    You know… some of us men get hysterical, too. Just sayin'.

  • missmozell

    For those of you having giggle fits about the 'female hysteria' treatment and such, you have GOT to see The Road to Wellville. It's a fictionalized account of the activities at a turn of the century health spa run by J. Kellogg–the inventor of corn flakes. It's a hysterical look of all the oddball health quackery that went on back then. The plot line is fictionalized, but apparantly the treatments were real. The segments on the treatment of feminine hysteria would be right at home in a recent sex comody. Apparantly they also believed in veggie/veganism. They were raising a lion to eat no meat. Kellogg believed a lot of health issues could be cured by removing almost all of the lower intestine. Breakfast cereal was thought to be the perfect food, and there was a mad scramble to come out with new ones… Just see it. It's worth it for the look on Katheryn Manhiem's (sp?) face as she bicycles her way to a hysterical paroxym.

    • rawcookiedough

      I remember seeing that movie. And I remember the Doctor was pretty happy with his job as well :)

  • bansey

    How António Egas Moniz was awarded the Nobel prize for medicine, I will never know. It's like me walking into a mental hospital and hitting all the patients round the head with a hammer and saying they are cured. To fix something you don't break it even more.

  • Armadillo

    Truely amazing list. I had no idea most of them existed and even so, the explanations are so detailed you can't say you didn't learn anything. Awesome job as always.

    Maybe in 50 years from now we'll look back and say "do you remember how messed up our beliefs were in 2010 ?" uhuh.

  • himanshug1

    I did not realise that westners were so barbaric!

    • undaunted warrior 1

      Where do you live ? – every country has skeletons in there cupboard to some extent

    • Moonbeam

      Who are "westners"?

    • Magnumto

      I call your attention to the Mimizuka item.

    • morningclaire

      Isn't there a woman in the middle east who has been sentenced to death by stoning for infidelity? The practices in this list are far gone, but the barbarism of some cultures (non-"westners," I might add) still exists today.

  • Janwar

    Awesome list, love it! Female hysteria, haha.

  • mom424

    Great list this morning Bryan. Some disturbing entries; although the skin shoes/book binding bothers me less than you might imagine – they're already dead, they don't care. The ear thing too – seems to me the Japanese were treating their opponents with some sort of respect. Probably better after they were dead than before eh?
    The chop-stick/brain stirring lobotomy entry – that's truly horrifying. That is a current event still; people who survived this procedure are still living. This went on long after Rosemary Kennedy was turned into a drooling vegetable. Lest you think that this procedure was used to treat only the worst cases of mental illness – it was a treatment for delinquency (adhd today eh?), moodiness, and of course, sexual promiscuity in women. Yep be a slut, get a brain stir. Wow. I'm sorry but there really isn't much excuse – the Hippocratic oath was the same in the 50's. Can't convince me that most or many doctors at the time didn't realize the harm.

  • Mike

    I was under the impression that Wife Selling is a hoax. It was Wikipedia's April Fool's Day prank this year.

    • Steve

      It gets a mention in The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy, where the main character sells his wife for 5 guineas (5 pounds, 5 shillings). Not that that means it ever actually happened.

  • betterthantheoriginalwally

    I believe number 10 was an April Fools Day item put up by Wikipedia?

  • Bidzi

    after a long time, a list worth reading more than one time. love the list.

  • jroache

    Great list, well written and researched, thanks Bryan.

  • Abortion should be on here.

    • mom424

      Take it elsewhere – Please!

    • General Tits Von Chodehoffen

      Ya that was a douchey thing to say

    • Starly

      Gawd…. look at her facebook page.

  • Lifeschool

    Hey. I'm going through a rough divorce at the moment so #10 seemed to take the edge of my (soon-to-be) ex-wifes appauling attitude. I wish I could trade her in for another :) She sure does have hysteria though – I have the cellphone texts to prove it.

    • mom424

      I hate those fuckin' screechy, hysterical, nasty-ass women. Even when I'm being one. :)

      • undaunted warrior 1

        Screeching , hysterical women are sometimes ok – you both have had you shower and then you frolic and explore each others bodies and crevices under a cool satin sheet – what happens next ? the blood pressure goes up ( both of you ) and as a male you think you are a American muscle car – man o man that screeching and hysteria is good shit – and after a while the hysteria and all the other sounds die down to a faint whimper.

  • zammer

    Pelvic Massager. Damn, I wasted all that time in law school ….

  • :D Female Hysteria !!! What a brilliant excuse for the doctor to go on a fingering spree..hehehe!!

    • Vera Lynn

      Thats what most people have posted. However, the more I think about it and the number of baths the average person took in a week, I dont know how fun that would actually be.

      • Cocal

        I smell something fishy? XD

  • gringation

    I wasn't sure when I saw the title, but it's a very interesting list!

    Anyone else notice the houses right next to the Mimizuka? That can't be good for property value.

  • Kairs

    Hmm they all look wrong now but it makes me wonder at what point in history these things became taboo. And an even stranger question, why?

  • brock

    lmao nb 1 is funny although i don`t get what is that hysteria thing

    • The hysteria was an excuse for the doctors to touch a female's genitals and make money.

    • mom424

      Also an excuse for females to have a little fun…. in the age when nice girls didn't do that.

      Hysteria = Horny btw

  • Great list! :)

  • Very intersting list :)

  • sami71290

    female hysteria sounds like me when I'm PMSing… can't believe vibrators came from medical treatments!!!

  • General Tits Von Chodehoffen

    Number nine is too funny! Cool list

  • Lists Enthusiast

    Hello, I have been accessing the site for quite a long time, almost on a daily basis and found most of the lists amusing.

    Sorry to bother, but I would like to make a request. Could you please put the sources below the itens? It would not only give more credibility, not that I am questioning yours, to your research, but give us the possibility of further readings.

    Much Obliged!

    • Bryan J

      I see what you are saying. All of the entries in this specific article have a Wikipedia page. If you scroll to the bottom of Wikipedia you will see a long list of references on the information. One problem with adding references to the site is that it promotes certain web pages on the Internet. In a typical article that I put together, I use many different resources and if ListVerse includes the Internet addresses, then it is a type of free advertising.

  • Bryan J

    I am glad that people are enjoying the list. I tried to keep the information relatively recent. Some of the practices of the ancient world get even stranger.

    • honestwater

      I look forward to the next one then!

    • Jille

      Bryan, I think this is the best list I've ever read on LV. Never heard of any of these except lobotomies and female hysteria, so it was enthralling and fun. You've set the bar pretty high, my friend. I don't envy the author of tomorrow's list.

  • Amrendra

    Now this is what i call a list. Again Brain has come up with one of a kind list. I think you would be one of the best writers on Listvers. We want more :-)

    • Vera Lynn


      • Amrendra

        silly typgraphical error :-) But doesn't make much of a difference as bringing out such fantastic lists only the brain of Bryan can do. Cheers!!!

    • Bryan J

      Thanks for the compliment.

  • mom424

    I thought that was you up there…… I like it better, but then I"m not a conspiracy buff.

    What's with the thumbs down eh? Conspiracy lovers maybe. sometimes I don't get it.

  • swapie

    lol! To demanding, it is very tiresome!

  • hulia

    "Female hysteria was a once-common medical diagnosis, found exclusively in women"
    That sounds a bit redundant…
    Anyway, the word 'hysteria' itself comes from ancient greek '?στ?ρα' meaning 'uterus'. There was no such thing as male hysteria because it was believed it affected only women.

    Wonderful list!

  • Z-Jax

    Women need to learn their place.

  • Dxc93

    James VI of Scotland WAS James I of England – same guy. In the article it makes it sound as though they're two different people. Sorry, had to mention it.

    • Bryan J

      Your right, I did make a mistake with that sentence. I misread it in Wikipedia. Good call. The theory came to the fore in England under the reign of James I of England (1603–1625, also James VI of Scotland 1567–1625). Louis XIV of France (1643–1715), though Catholic, strongly promoted the theory as well.

  • freckledsmile99

    Great list! I had always heard the comment "did the rabbit die?" and wondered exactly what it meant – now I know! And the pelvic massages – who did they think they were kidding?!?

  • cool list, some items are weired though.

  • Peppercurls

    I wish to GOD circumcision was on this list, but unfortunately it is still legal, socially acceptable, and rarely questioned in the US.

    • bluesman87

      dont knock it till you've tried it .

      • Peppercurls

        Seriously? Elective cosmetic surgery done on a non-consenting INFANT is more what I was talking about.

        • bluesman87

          well i have had elective cosmetic surgery done as a non-consenting infant and im glad i did . its fresh , clean and we used to tease my cousin that his dong looked like an elephant trunk . Plus girls get guaranteed smegma free bj's .

    • morningclaire

      What about freedom of religion? You would be banning an ancient tradition of the Jewish faith. And I'm pretty sure most guys are very happy with their circumcised penises. Uncircumcised men are very self conscious about it.

  • Darryldev32

    Freud's reseach with Josef Breuer on Hysteria is pretty interesting too. Freud was nuts tho.

  • creativephotographycreations

    Very interesting and thought provoking post!

  • Nic Swaner

    Absolutely masterful list Bryan! The lobotomy one caught me as striking as did number 1.

  • Why Not?

    ahh i remember my lobotomy, i still have TREE!!!

  • Egee

    A small point of clarification regarding lobotomy. The photo shown was called the transorbital prefrontal lobotomy and involved inserting a pointed instrument (like an ice pick) over the eyeball and up through the orbital cavity where the instrument was swished around to sever connections in the prefrontal area. Moniz's procedure was surgical and more precise. Ultimately, neither option was good but it was the only treatment at the time that seemed "somewhat" effective.

    • rawcookiedough

      I think in # 6, Walter Freeman should be mentioned.
      The ‘industrialization’ of the procedure was done by Freeman, who popularized it by offering the treatment as something easy and quick, instead of the careful and selected option it was supposed to be. And to anyone and anybody who showed any bit of mental troubles.
      What Moniz tried to demonstrate was that what modern doctors do with prescription drugs, and in the 1930’s you had to do with tools, works. But it was never supposed to be used in all cases and indiscriminately, it was supposed to be used in severe psychoses.

      • rawcookiedough

        He understood that mental conditions were related to how the brain processes electrical impulses and uses neurotransmitters, and ultimately how ‘communication’ between different parts of the brain can affect your behaviour. And he was right. Aggression, depression, obsessive or compulsive behaviour and impulse control, for example, are related to neurotransmitters like serotonin, oxytocin and dopamine. Damage or anomalies in your brain receptors will result in different disorders and that’s why brain injury or physical trauma can determine the kind of personality you have, your levels of aggression and self control.
        Of course the two methods are tremendously different (leucotomy vs Thorazine), but Moniz’s investigation led to the conclusion that physiologically you could do something to treat mental conditions. Drugs just do it chemically and much more precisely.
        The procedure wasn’t supposed to be used like it was, nor with the frequency it ended up being used.

  • If (#1) Female Hysteria is still considered to be an illness then I'm going to drop out of law school and go to med school immediately!

    • pammz

      I’d be glad to be one of your patients!!! haha

  • Double o'seven

    tabacco smoking enema…! Lol….:D… Like, i've heard cigaratte butts,but not surely cigaratte in butts, hyaak hyaak…:P

  • newo_philippines

    HI LISTVERSE..has there been a list on PREDICTIONS/SEERS already?..i'd love to read one..thanks..

  • C.F.

    As does the concept of going to church at all.

  • abhishek

    Very interesting and shocking

  • Gnstr

    I read something about cannibalism in Thailand, just yesterday. Surprised its not listed here.

    • Jille

      Because it was never the norm and it's still practiced today. This list is for things that have become obsolete or gone out of fashion but once were common.

  • vaishoo123

    i was shocked

  • ric

    got a boner on number 1.

  • bleumoonselene

    What, no Ophelia Tours?

    They'd dress up female mental patients all pretty and give tours to outside people for money.

    I hope you don't mind me putting in this link.

  • Bryan J

    The first section of the Wife Selling entry is making references to the Middle Ages (500-1500), when the legal status known as coverture was developed. I started the entry out by giving a couple sentences on the medieval history of marriages and then moved into the more recent documented accounts of wife selling. I don’t think the transition was to confusing.

    • dr. retarded

      I didn't say anything about confusing. I said you didn't cite the periods correctly. Coverture didn't exist during the majority of the middle ages, it was the late mid to late middle ages, starting with Henry II's reign. I'm not saying I don't like the article, and I'm sorry I didn't mention that before. It's just I recently came across listverse and I really really like the lists you guys make because the writing is good and the lists are interesting and appear to be unbiased. But sometimes I see things on here that are either slightly less informative as they could be or just totally wrong. This list being the former. Look at the location of where the Fort Hood shooter is being held on this list… and then look at where he is actually being held. It would just be cool if you guys were as accurate as possible because some people read these lists and think they're experts for doing so.

      • Bryan J

        I still don’t see where the large historical mistake is. Coverture was around during the Middle Ages, however it being the Mid to late medieval times. I do agree with you that the more historically correct statement would have been: In the late medieval times… or to just not mention that time period.

        The system of feme sole and feme covert developed in England in the High and Late Middle Ages as part of the common law system, which had its origins in the legal reforms of Henry II and other medieval English kings.

        As for the other articles on ListVerse, small mistakes are bound to be made from time to time and the administration is always quick to fix glaring errors. They do a good job of making sure the information is accurate.

        • dr. retarded

          You didn't make a large historical mistake. Like I said "slightly less informative as they could be". It pretty much was part you agreed with saying late medieval times. I guess it would be like reading 300 years from now that cell phones were extremely popular in the 20th century, which is true, but only during the last 20 something years. Granted my time frame is much shorter but it seemed like the easiest comparison to convey.

          I really do appreciate the feed back. I'm sorry that I came across as an attacker and made assumptions on your lack of history. If anything, I consider this a fun conversation. Thank you very much Brian. It really is an interesting article.

          • dr. retarded


          • Bryan J

            For sure,
            I can always use good feedback and I will use your tips when creating my next article for ListVerse.

  • gigo70

    Great list. Love this sort – a touch of the bizarre and bloody interesting. More of this kind of thing would be very welcome (by me anyway).

  • dth

    I know quite a lot of guys who would love to see #10 reinstated – mainly because their woman all suffer from #1.

    • morningclaire

      Well clearly they aren't doing a good job of remedying #1.

      • pammz

        I agree… morningclaire…

  • Nico

    American "colonies" in 1851?

  • Jille

    Bryan, I think this is the best list I've ever read on LV. Never heard of any of these except lobotomies and female hysteria, so it was enthralling and fun. You've set the bar pretty high, my friend. I don't envy the author of tomorrow's list.

  • Maybe its because of woman hysteria that we now got the fish finger.

  • snore

    The Sengoku period of Japan was an era characterized by social upheaval, political intrigue and near constant military conflict…
    sounds like the world, now!

    btw too bad Hideyoshi didn't get to play mario bros.

  • Bryan J

    Here is an entry that was drafted for this list, but never made it.

    In 1603, a man named Tokugawa Ieyasu established the Tokugawa shogunate in Japan. The Tokugawa shogunate was a feudal regime that was characterized by strict laws. This period in Japanese history became known as the Edo period. It lasted from 1603-1868, when the regime was abolished by the Meiji Restoration. In 1623, Tokugawa Iemitsu became the third shogun of the Tokugawa dynasty. From 1633–1639, Tokugawa lemitsu introduced a number of edicts and policies to Japanese law. One of these policies was given the name sakoku. Sakoku was a foreign relations policy that isolated Japan from the rest of the world. Between the years 1633-1853, no foreigner could enter Japan nor could any Japanese leave the country on penalty of death.

  • Bryan J

    During this time, Japan was not completely isolated from the trade world. Locations were set aside for trade routes with specific nations. The policy stated that the only European influence permitted was the Dutch factory (trading post) at Dejima in Nagasaki. In recent decades it has become common to refer to this foreign relations policy not as sakoku, implying a totally secluded, isolated, and closed country, but rather by the term kaikin (maritime restrictions). It is generally written that the shogunate imposed and enforced the sakoku policy in order to remove the colonial and religious influence of primarily Spain and Portugal.

  • Bryan J

    One of the direct triggers of sakoku was the shogunate’s fear that Christianity was spreading among the Japanese population. In the aftermath of the Shimabara Rebellion of 1637-1638, the shogunate accused Christian missionaries of causing the civil unrest. The rulers strictly banned Christianity in all of Japan, on the penalty of death. The remaining Japanese Christians, mostly in Nagasaki, formed underground communities and came to be called Kakure Kirishitan. At this time in history, all contact with the outside world became strictly regulated by the shogunate. Even today, the Japanese population of practicing Christians is extremely low in comparison to other East Asian countries.

  • Mike

    It's not true that women were considered the property of men during the middle ages; nor is it true that kings were divine right monarchs. Both were inventions of the Moderns. The medievals preferred their kings weak and nominal. And women in a marriage still had ownership of property: pater paternis; mater maternis. The spinster, though ownership of a spinning wheel, could be in business for herself, and the cartularies and rolls list women in a wide range of occupations.

    • mmg816

      You're right. The ancient world routinely considered kings to be divine or semi-devine. The Babylonians, Egyptians, Romans, Aztecs, Mayans, and a lot of other pre-Christian cultures believed it. Emperor Hirohito only renounced his divinity because the US forced him to in 1945.
      The decline of the feudal system and also of the political power of the Catholic Church at the end of the Medieval era were mainly what allowed the idea of the Divine Right of Kings to emerge to the fore.

    • Bryan J

      The article should say that the principle of coverture was built around a common law system, which had its origins in the legal reforms of Henry II and other medieval English kings. The sentence is misleading because the creation of these laws segregating married woman began in the 12th century, which is the High and Late Middle Age period, not the entire medieval period. I wasn’t trying to imply in the article that The Devine Right of Kings was practiced in the Middle Ages. Good find, you obviously know your history.

      • Mike

        Also, it is only England. France, the Empire, and the Italian cities did not follow English law. For example: Oxford did not allow women to matriculate; but there was no bar in the Empire. Hence, Gertrude von Helfta's doctorate in theology. But even in England a female tenant could pay merchet on herself for the right to marry at will. And on the continent there are numerous examples of women buying and selling property, entering professions, voting in manorial elections, etc. (Manorial voting was by household. If a woman was head of household – widow, spinster – then she cast the vote.)

        Selling one's wife would have outraged the medievals. Marriage was deemed for life, and no human being could be bought or sold in such a manner. But I might easily be done clandestinely and illegally, even today.

  • mmg816

    What most of us would find more shocking then the treatment for female hysteria is that most of the doctors who were performing pelvic massages probably found it to be unpleasant. Do we really think that feminine hygenie was very good back then? It was not for nothing that cunnalingus was widely considered disgusting 100 years ago.

    • If that is so, then all the women back then suffered from thrush, yeast infections n urinary tract infections? That's alot of burn n itch everyday, everwhere. U must not realize the female genitalia is self cleaning. U must be a single man.

  • intrepidtraveller

    Awesome reading.

    I too think I suffer from Female where can I find myself one of those doctors?! :)

    • One of hose Doctors

      Here I am. Sorry I took so long. Traffic. Hope you made out without me.

  • Jensi

    The divine right of kings bit I find especially interesting in this one: they just took China's Mandate of Heaven and bastardized the hell out of it.

  • Sardondi

    A word about the illustration which accompanies #10, Wife Selling. Notice the man selling his wife: there are two arms from a bystander to his rear which appear behind and over his head…looking almost as if had horns. I submit that it's no mistake this man appears to have horns, and that the viewer is meant to infer that he wears the horns of a cuckold.

    From the dawn of popular literature (Chaucer anyone?) up until as late as the early 19th century the idea of cuckoldry was a subject of the gratest hilarity in most of English society. We can hardly imagine Shakespeare and Elizabethan England without thinking of the many jokes about cuckolds' horns that were so widely circulated they made it into the theater of the day. So why should we not see it in an illustration of an event that is ripe for ribaldry: a man ridding himself of his wife?

    Here the cuckoldry joke seems tailor made as we see a man whom we presume has had his honor stained and his pride crushed because his sexually promiscuous wife had shared her favors with an unknown number of competitors for her love. So i our minds eye we imagine the husband sputtering with impotent rage (itself a rich play on words as sexual impotence in husbands was widely and humorously viewed as one of the leading causes of cuckoldry) seeks to rid himself of the source of humiliation by selling her on the block as a common slave.


  • omg that mimizuka one is creepy!

  • ololololololololol

    im fully open to female hysteria. althouh maybe not the lobotomy

  • J

    Henry VIII should’ve just sold his wives rather than…

    Maybe sticking cigarettes in the rectum could lessen the risk of lung cancer? LOL. Kidding. :P

    Female hysteria. ROFL!! What about male hysteria?

  • Psyche

    I pity the women classified as Hysterical. You know most of the doctors who diagnosed this so called complaint were perverts…in most cases probably smelly ugly old perverts. No wonder the women ended up hysterical…they were being sexually abused by their doctors on the orders of their parents or husbands. That would make me hysterical as well, and my doctor isn't ugly old or smelly. I can't believe I didn't know about the pelvic massage treatment for hysteria.

  • Kelly

    I really want to read the Bible to get the full story cause I'm sick of people trying to tell me their personal interpretations. Please select me to win the Bible!

  • regdwight

    good list. any married man knows female hysteria is very real and the treatment, though effective, can be difficult to administer when the hysteria is active.

  • Darth Macho

    My wife seems to be suffering from female hysteria. Time for her weekly "pelvic massage." I love Saturday nights!

  • Jayk

    I think we all know that female hysteria is a very real and rampant affliction. Women are feeble minded and neurotic creatures you are unable to manage their emotions properly as men do.
    We need to pretend the condition doesn’t exist in these days of equal rights though.

  • Namingway

    My American liturature professor told us a similar story about Ben Franklin inventing a device called “the Fumigator” which was supposed to resuscitate the drowned by injecting hot smoke into the victim’s rectum. He said that proof that this was ineffective lead to the common idiom ” Don’t blow smoke up my ass.”

  • bizzle

    Good thing I have an understanding boyfriend. We’ve never let my female hysteria get in the way of our relationship.

  • regdwight

    As to female hysteria, I can tell you two things.

    1. it is still quite common

    2. the treatment still works

  • hercomscese


    • LOL WUT


  • jess

    I now wish I had a time machine! Sure you didnt live as along and could die from a simple cut but I’d take that risk to live in a time where I could go to the doctor for a orgasim and just walk into a drug store for real working drugs no questions ask

  • lortlaply


  • knofflymn


  • djC

    How about injecting mercury to treat syphilis?

  • ngips

    the no. 1 list was meant to be a

  • Shooter

    Excuse me, but I am skeptical of this “wife-selling”. First of all, marriage was a sacred union between a man and a woman, and should a man even hit his wife, he would be sentenced to 40 lashes of the whip, 5 years in prison, and even death from vigilantes.

    “Women were complete subordinates to their husbands” – Oh, THAT rhetoric. The whole ‘Women were oppressed’ rhetoric that has been used by feminists since forever. For a Listverse, you’re supposed to be exposing myths. So why are do you claim in one article that women were treated fairly, and in this one you don’t?

    During “medieval times” women were to be treated with the utmost dignity. It seems odd and even backwards to say one thing and say another without sourcing. I’m sorry, but “wife-selling”? That sounds like something right out of a feminist novel, and it doesn’t sound like history, but HERstory. To even suggest that husbands wished to sell their wives like cattle is a hate crime against men. Why did men waste their time on marriage, when they could’ve sold them like cattle?

    I’m sorry, but if you’re going to convince people, you need to double check what you’re saying. In your Top 10 Myths of the Middle Ages it stated that it was a myth that women were oppressed. Now in this one it says women were sold like cattle. I am not convinced by your word. I highly doubt that actual PRIMARY sources state this ludicrous idea.

  • adamneira

    The true orgins of the divine right of kings is interesting. Your article does not really do the subject justice. The other nine episodes and practises mentioned above are on the ball however. FYI, the Jews had a monarchy that lasted for 420 years more than two and half thousand years ago. The Jewish monarchy preceded the British, Danish, Swedish, Spanish, Norwegian, Dutch, Belgian, Thai and the other 36 monarchies present on Planet Earth today by many centuries. The concept of a real monarchy with actual legitimacy from G-d was actually a Jewish innovation. The true concept of the “Divine Right of Kings” comes from the times of Samuel, Saul and David. It has been prophesied that another monarchy, with a male with patrilineal descent from David via Solomon as its head, will reign at some point in time.

  • Pemospeap


  • Freddie

    I chuckled a lot at the following:
    – guy who invented labotomies won a Nobel!
    – black slaves who wanted freedom were considered sick!
    – pelvic massages, ’nuff said

  • pammz

    So the reason why women today doesn’t suffer of hysteria is because we experience “hysterical paroxysm”! I wonder if some physicians still give these massage treatment. I’d gladly try one for curiosity.