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A Glossary on Mary Seacole

for GCSE History Students and Teachers

Alma, Battle of, 20 September 1854
first battle of the Crimean War
Balaclava, Battle of, 25 October 1854
second battle of the Crimean War
Black (race)
Seacole employed blacks in her businesses and travelled with two black servants
Black Sea
Sebastopol, on the Crimean peninsula, was Russia’s great Black sea port
Scutari
across the Bosphorus from Constantinople; the British hospital base
British Hotel
Seacole intended to open a hotel for officers, but kept it to a restaurant/ store/ takeaway/ catering service for officers; no overnight stays
Calomel
mercury chloride, a toxic drug Seacole used as a cholera remedy
Canteen
for soldiers, who could not use the space for officers
Cholera
then a deadly disease, now easily treated with oral rehydration therapy
Constantinople
now Istanbul, capital of Turkey
Creole
Jamaican, mixed race, white and African
Seacole called herself “Creole” (pp. 1-2)
Crimea
peninsula in Black Sea, under Russian control
Britain, France and Turkey invaded it in September 1854
Crimean Medal
awarded to British military (Seacole did not get one)
Crimean War 1854-56
Britain, France and Turkey invaded Crimea in September 1854
ostensible causes: control over holy sites in Jerusalem
“real” cause: incursion of Russia south of the Danube, and its sinking of the Russian Navy in 1853
Doctress, herbalist
Seacole called her mother an “admirable doctress” and used “doctress” also for herself
also “doctress, nurse and mother” (p. 124)
Emetics (cause vomiting)
Seacole used emetics as a cholera treatment (p. 31)
Inkermann, Battle of, 5 November 1854
the 3rd battle of the war
Nightingale and her nurses arrived in Turkey that day
Lead, “sugar of”
lead acetate—a toxic substance Seacole added to her cholera remedies (harmful in any dose, also dehydrates)
Legion of Honour (French government)
awarded to military on recommendation of British Army
Medjidie Medal (Turkish government)
awarded to military on recommendation of British Army
Mess table
dining room for officers, as in “Officers’ Mess”
Nurses, British
the first team: Nightingale & 38 nurses left 21 October 1854
the second team: about 50, left 2 December
both teams had Roman Catholic Sisters of Mercy; the first also had Anglican sisters
Nurses, French
(all Sisters of Charity)
Nurses, Russian
(all recruited for the war as unpaid volunteers)
Officers
commissioned officers, lieutenant and up
Peace Treaty
“Treaty of Paris,” signed 30 March 1856
formally ended the war (last battle was 8 September 1855)
Plunder (from battlefield) see “Trophies”
Scutari
across the Bosphorus from Constantinople
site of the major British war hospitals
Sebastopol
Russia’s major port and base of its Black Sea Navy
Siege of Sebastopol
5 November 1854 to 9 September 1855 (from the Battle of Inkermann until the Russians left it)
Soldiers (enlisted men/ordinary soldiers, privates)
took orders from officers and non-commissioned officers
Tchernaya, Battle of, 16 August 1855
Seacole took supplies for sale at it; gave first aid after
Trophies (loot, plunder)
Seacole took “trophies” from the battlefield, e.g., buttons cut from soldier’s coats and art stolen from Sebastopol Russian Orthodox churches
Turkey
Britain and France were allies with Turkey against Russia
Turks
Seacole called Turks “the degenerate descendants of the fierce Arabs,” “deliberate, slow and indolent, breaking off into endless interruptions for the sacred duties of eating and praying, and getting into out-of-the-way corners at all times of the day to smoke themselves to sleep” (p. 106, 109)
Yellow (complexion)
Seacole used for her skin colour, indicating fair complexion
Yellow fever
then a deadly disease
Seacole tried to help victims in Jamaica in the 1853 epidemic, but found she could do nothing (Chapter 7)

References are to Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole in Many Lands, 1857, edited by W.J.S.

Topics for discussion:

1. Science: the use of toxic substances in “remedies”
What do we know about lead and mercury?
Were Mrs Seacole’s remedies better or worse than those used by doctors at the time?
2. Ethics, personal morality
is it right to take “souvenirs” or “trophies” from dead soldiers on the battlefield (enemy soldiers?), and accept “plunder” stolen from Russian churches?
3. Ethics, social issues, cultural appropriation
is it right to use a person, e.g. change their self-identity, for a worthy object like diversity, to encourage minority persons in a profession?

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