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July 20, 2010

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» On the Beach

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Andy Croll recommends some summer reading

It’s that time of year again. Put down your history books for a couple of weeks, slap on the sun cream and head for the beach. Think again! Here’s some good news for you. You can take some history books with you next time you head for Barry Island.

As all good history students know everything has a history. This even goes for a space as apparently ‘natural’ as a beach. The Beach: The History of Paradise on Earth (1998) by Lena Lencek and Gideon Bosker is a wonderful reminder that the beach is in fact a social and cultural artefact – it has a history that changes over time.

If lying on a beach can seem like a timeless experience (surely people in every age have enjoyed frolicking in the waves on a hot summer’s day?) read about the ‘beach phobia’ that gripped medieval society, ponder the rediscovery of the beach that took place in the eighteenth century and consider the changing ways in which the beach has been experienced in the intervening two centuries – from a place of recuperation for the sick and weakly to a site of pleasure.

The Beach is longue durée history that will make you appreciate afresh an everyday phenomenon. You’ll never be able to don your swimming costume again without thinking about how much beach attire has changed – in just the last one hundred years.

From a formal three-piece suit in the Edwardian period to skimpy Speedos in just half a century – the speed with which we’ve exposed ever larger areas of flesh to the sun and to the gaze of strangers is another remarkable indicator of just how much the way we experience the beach – and our bodies – has been transformed over time.

So, pack your sun cream, swimming costume – and The Beach – and enjoy your summer holiday!

Andy Croll

March 9, 2010

History Division News
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» Recipes, Remedies, Receipts: seventeenth-century medicine revealed!

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New Website: Early Modern Remedies

Three hundred years ago, ‘snail water’ and ‘oil of swallows’ were just two out of thousands of everyday remedies that people routinely used to cure their variety of ailments. But where did this knowledge come from?

In the early modern period, every household was a potential storehouse of medical knowledge, with its own tried and trusted remedies. Medical remedies were shared freely from person to person and, in literate households, were often compiled into single volumes. These were valuable and enduring documents, often being handed down, and added to, over generations. For historians, they can provide a unique glimpse into the types of remedies and ingredients used, early modern illnesses and disease names, as well as a wealth of other information about compilers and the world they inhabited.

To coincide with the Wellcome Trust’s digitization of its important collection of these sources, a new website has been developed in conjunction with Warwick University to act as both an introduction to those wishing to find out more about these fascinating documents, and to forge links between groups of historians working on similar themes. The site includes a number of short contextual articles about the seventeenth-century medical world, links to online resources, including digitized collections, and also news and upcoming events. Much is already available, with more to come soon, and you may even spot an entry or two by a familiar Glamorgan historian!

Alun Withey

February 4, 2010

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» Desperate Remedies?

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The History Society Presents ... Alun Withey

What was it like to experience illness or surgery during the seventeenth century? This was a time when trained doctors were rare, surgery excruciatingly painful, if not fatal, and remedies concocted from a dazzling array of plant and animal products. People saw illness as arising from any number of factors, from an imbalance of bodily ‘humours’, planetary activity or even a punishment from God. From today’s standpoint, it seems miraculous that anyone could survive illness; but survive they often did.

In this paper, we will explore something of the experience of illness and surgery during the early modern period. We will look at how people understood illness and their bodies, the types of remedies used to cure them as well as doctors, surgeons and their techniques. While it is easy to poke fun at the sometimes apparently weird cures, we will also look at the ways in which our seventeenth-century predecessors were actually little different to us; they had the same fears about illness, the same desire to rid themselves of painful symptoms and, in some cases, provided us with remedies which are still used today.

Alun Withey is a research assistant at Glamorgan's History Division. He will speak about medicine in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries at an event organised by the Glamorgan University History Society: on Tuesday 9th February 2010, 17.00, G308 (Treforest Campus). Admission is free and open to all, and any Glamorgan staff or students interesting in joining the History Society are warmly invited to attend its meeting on the same evening at Rickards Pub Function Room, 19.10. Please contact 03020002@glam.ac.uk for more details.

January 19, 2010

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» The History Society Presents ...

Fiona Reid

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Glamorgan University's new History Society has been a huge success: membership is growing and the Society has led the first of many expeditions, to the British Museum's Moctezuma Exhibition.

The next enterprise is a series of guest lectures, open to all staff and students of the university. Dr Fiona Reid of the Glamorgan History Division is the first speaker: she is on research sabbatical this year, but returns to Treforest to share her findings on war, medicine and society in the early twentieth century.

Admission is free and all are welcome to attend this lecture in G303 (Glynneath) at 17.00, 20th January 2010.

For more information about the History Society or about this event, please contact Pete Driscoll (08037582@glam.ac.uk), Secretary.

October 21, 2008

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» Forthcoming paper: Alun Withey on early modern medicine

‘The ‘Dyn Hysbys’ and the Doctor: reassessing the medical history of early modern Wales’

Wednesday 29 October 2008

2.30pm, D121b, University of Glamorgan (Treforest Campus)

Alun Withey graduated with first class honours in History from Glamorgan in 2005 and his undergraduate dissertation was immediately seized for publication by Welsh History Review. He took an M Res at Cardiff and is currently studying for an AHRB-funded PhD at Swansea. His article ‘Unhealthy Neglect? The Medicine and Medical Historiography of Early Modern Wales’ appeared in the Social History of Medicine, vol. 21 no.i, April 2008.

The ‘Dyn Hysbys’ referred to in the title is a cunning man or local wizard.

The paper is hosted by the Centre for Modern and Contemporary Wales. For further details contact Prof Gareth Williams. For directions, click here.

CROESO I BAWB. ALL WELCOME.