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Students of history are not always aware when they live through major historiographic change; shifts are sometimes only recognizable in hindsight, with accumulated divergences sharply evident against the backdrop of the field.
The case of Mary Toft—the woman who gave birth to rabbits in 1726—has an enduring appeal. I remember the first time I encountered her as a final year undergraduate, both fascinated and appalled by the details of the case.
In early 1780 the rebuilding of Newgate Prison was very nearly complete. Thirty years of debating, campaigning, and planning had finally resulted in the construction of a new and improved jail, which would stand as a permanent monument to England’s commitment to prison reform.
Good reference books on the history of alcohol remain few and far between, despite increased interest in the area in the last 20 years.
Ina Zweiniger-Bargielowska’s new history of the body, health and fitness in Britain is a wide-reaching and detailed study of relevant cultural practices and government policies between the Victorian period and the eve of the Second World War.
In November of 2011, I listened to Dr Samuel Alberti present a paper on ‘Body parts in Bart's’ – one of a series of seminars held in St Bartholomew’s pathological museum in West Smithfield. The museum is a cavernous room surrounded on all sides by glass specimen jars, making the visitor feel it is they who are as much under scrutiny as the specimens themselves.