Mesmerism spread to Britain in the 1780s. The establishment were sceptical. They saw mesmerism as unscientific, and worse, un-English. The Frogs and the Krauts might go in for such effeminate mumbo-jumbo, but John Bull was not going to fall for such nonsense. Despite this, the political classes got quite hysterical about it during the revolutionary wars. They worried that the French were using ‘magnetic spies’ to pry into the minds of British.
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‘There is only one illness,’ pronounced Franz Anton Mesmer, ‘and only one cure.’ This cure was animal magnetism, a practice that united eighteenth century society in debate. From royalty to peasants, politicians to revolutionaries, scientists to Freemasons: everyone had an opinion on magnetism. Continue reading