Desirable Bodies and Eugen Sandow’s Curative Institute in Edwardian England

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2 Citations (Scopus)


In 1907, Eugen Sandow, a famous strength performer, opened an ambitious business adventure centred on the eradication of disease without 'harmful' medicines. Sandow's 'Curative Institute' was located in London, employed registered physicians to act as advisers and claimed to enjoy the patronage of thousands. Purporting to heal a variety of diseases through exercise and diet alone, Sandow's Curative Institute, and his relationship with the medical community in England, has not previously enjoyed sustained study. Surveying Sandow's Institute, the article highlights the manner in which Sandow co-opted, and was in turn co-opted by, the Medical community. For Sandow, associating with trained physicians gave a respectability and kudos to his endeavours. Among physicians, Sandow marked a point of knowledge, celebrity and, in the case of his Institute's physicians, a living. Initially harmonious, for the most part, Sandow's relationship with the medical community deteriorated in 1910 following the publication of a series of grandiose advertisements. Such advertisements were used by the General Medical Council (GMC) as a means of disbarring Sandow's physicians and delineating public and private knowledge. Done at a time when the medical marketplace in England was teeming with competition, Sandow's Institute, and his actions, represented a unique, and commercialised, medical enterprise. Studying Sandow's Institute, and his conflict with the GMC in 1912, this article examines the limits of commercial medicine during this time, as well as the nexus between trained and untrained practitioners.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)195-216
Number of pages22
JournalSocial History of Medicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 1 Feb 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2021


  • Edwardian England
  • Eugen Sandow
  • General Medical Council
  • medical malpractice
  • physical culture


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