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Kui haiged olid talurahva silmad Liivimaal 19. sajandi alguses? / How common were eye illnesses amongst the peasantry in Livonia at the beginning of the 19th century?

Keywords: sotsiaalajalugu , social history , talurahvas , peasants , eluolu , daily life , silmad , eyes , silmahaigused , eye diseases , suitsutoad , chimneyless dwellings , hügieen , hygiene , Liivimaa kubermang , Livonian Province , 19. saj. algus , beginning of the 19th century

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Abstract:

By the end of the 18th century both government and public interest in public healthcare reached a new level. Contemporary literature and sources of that time stress that eye illnesses were especially common amongst the peasantry in the Baltic provinces. This knowledge has been shared in historical and ethnological literature. However, the claims of the strong presence of eye illnesses amongst the peasant population are not proved, and the actual state of the health of the Estonian peasants is a poorly researched theme. According to the available sources it has been difficult to draw more exact conclusions on the frequency of eye-related diseases amongst the peasantry. In the Estonian Historical Archives, the materials related to the travels of the court oculist of St. Petersburg, Dr. Joseph Raineri, have been preserved and help to shed new and early light to the theme. Joseph Raineri (1759–1835) was born in Venice; in 1795 he arrived in St. Petersburg where he became the first specialised oculist in Russia. He dedicated the rest of his life to the establishment of Russian ophthalmology. Beginning in 1798 he travelled through the Russian provinces and towns and offered his services. The first account of Ranieri’s trip to the Baltic provinces is from 1802. The purpose of this visit was to collect more accurate data from the Livonian manors about the eye illnesses. The data from 58 manors have been preserved; there were altogether 676 eye-sick or blind people. According to the partial data from 1802, the average of eye sickness amongst the peasantry was 23.5 per thousand (with the full range being 1.9 to 77.8 per thousand per manor) – see Table 1. Raineri returned to the Baltic provinces in 1810 (Tartu), 1811 (P rnu), 1813 (Riga), and 1817–1818 (many towns in Livland and Courland). The materials of the magistrate court of P rnu give a detailed overview of Raineri’s visit to the town of P rnu in 1818. According to the data of this visit, the county of P rnu had on average nine people with eye sicknesses per thousand inhabitants (Table 2). In little more than three weeks (4–23 March) Dr. Raineri received 130 patients, mostly peasants from the manors near P rnu (altogether 110 peasants from 34 manors). In total, Dr. Raineri gave 184 diagnoses with 25 different names (Table 3). Unfortunately due to the very general and laconic diagnoses by Raineri it is not possible to draw any conclusions on the exact causes of the peasants’ eye diseases. The proportion and causes of eye diseases amongst the peasant population in Livonia arose as a scientific problem in the 18

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