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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 the summer of 1948 Alexander Fleming, known around the world as the discoverer of penicillin, visited Spain. Fleming had published his famous paper on the antimicrobial effect of the Penicillium notatum mould in 1929.
The greatest indictment of the hard-driving slave system in the 18th-century British Caribbean was that the enslaved population never achieved natural population increase (except briefly in Barbados but only by 1810). Abolitionists seized on the failure of slave populations to thrive as a sign that slavery was immoral.
In the late 19th century, the issue of infanticide captured the attention of a significant number of journalists, psychiatric and medical writers and social commentators. The act of intentionally killing an infant within 24 hours of its birth was by no means new to this period.
I was 16 or 17 when I first read Pat Barker’s Regeneration trilogy, and 26 when I completed my PhD on shell shock in First World War Britain.