Monthly Archives: May 2014

Wellcome Unit Seminars, 12/5/14

Trinity Term 2014 Seminar Series

At: The Wellcome Unit for the History of Medicine
Seminar Room, 47 Banbury Road, Oxford

Coffee is available from 2.00pm – Seminars begin at 2.15pm prompt

‘Reproduction, Gender, and Sexuality in the History of Medicine’
Conveners: Marisa Benoit and Julianne Weis

Week 3 – 12 May
Sarah Toulalan, University of Exeter
‘”Elderly years cause a Total dispaire of Conception”: old age and infertility in early modern England’

Although a great deal has now been written about the history of old age, the issue of sex in relation to the elderly still remains relatively under-explored. This paper will investigate old bodies in the context of contemporary ideas about their sexual and reproductive suitability: in the humoural model of the body it was understood to become more dry and cold in old age – the direct opposite of the qualities needed for successful reproduction. A key characteristic of the old body was therefore its decline into both increasing decrepitude and infertility. Anxieties and concerns about the sexual behaviour of the old (that were exhibited in jokes and contemporary stereotypes such as the lusty widow, the lecherous old man, and the inevitably cuckolded old man with a young wife) were to do with their relationship to fertility. Old bodies were bodies that were regarded as unsuitable for sexual activity because they had lost, or were increasingly losing, generative ability. At a time when the primary aim of marriage and sexual intercourse was procreation, with the production of offspring understood as essential for the preservation of familial, social, political and economic stability, and mortality, especially infant, was high, such anxieties were significant.

Dr Toulalan’s main area of research is in the history of the body, with particular interests in gender, sex, sexuality, ageing, body size, shape and management, health and medicine in early modern England. She is currently working on a project on ‘Children and sex in early modern England: knowledge, consent, abuse c.1550-1750′ generously funded by a Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship. Earlier work on this project was funded by a British Academy Small Research Grant.
An edited collection (with Kate Fisher) has just been published by Palgrave, entiled Bodies, Sex and Desire from the Renaissance to the Present, including a chapter on ”Unripe’ bodies: children and sex in early modern England’. She is currently supervising doctoral theses on medical conceptions of sexual consent in Victorian England and cultural conceptions of cancer in early modern England. Dr. Sarah Toulalan

Selected Publications

with K Fisher, The Routledge History of Sex and the Body in the West, 1500 to the present, London, Routledge, 2013.
with K Fisher, Bodies, sex and desire from the Renaissance to the Present, Basingstoke, Palgrave, 2011.
Imagining Sex: Pornography and Bodies in Seventeenth-Century England., Oxford University Press, 2007.


Please note there is no parking at the Unit

History of Herbal Medicine Day Seminar

Illustration and Identification in the History of Herbal Medicine Day Seminar

Wednesday 18th June 2014, 10.30am-4.30pm

Jodrell Lecture Theatre, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond

The aim of this day seminar is to bring together researchers to explore issues related to plant illustration and identification in the history of herbal medicine. Correct identification of plants in the past has been of great importance, whether for foods, medicines or other purposes. But to what extent did people in medieval and early modern times learn about plants with medicinal uses from illustrations in herbals or elsewhere? Matters of interest include ways in which illustrations were produced, the role of illustrations, dissemination of information about plant identification, significant observers of plants and their approaches to plant description. This day seminar at Kew Botanic Gardens near London, UK, has been organised with a particular focus on presenting research into finding and interpreting archival and other sources relating to the history of herbal medicine.

This event is organised by the Herbal History Research Network group which aims to promote research into the history of herbal medicine. The Network helps to connect together people who share common interests in researching the history of herbal medicine through seminars and other events. For further details of the Network contact Anne Stobart at, visit the event page at the IHR, or view the event poster here.


Opening hours w/b 5/5/14

We will have shortened hours again this week, due to the Bank Holiday and running a User Education Session.

We will be closed on Monday 5th May, and likewise unstaffed on Thursday 8th May. On Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday we will be open 2.15-5pm. As ever, please get in touch if you would like to visit.

Wishing you a lovely Bank Holiday Weekend, if you have one!