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Hannah Newton

Affiliated Scholar

Email: hn268@cam.ac.uk

I am a social and cultural historian of early modern England, specialising in the histories of medicine, emotions, and childhood. I undertook an MA and PhD in Medical History at the University of Exeter in 2005–2009, sponsored by the Wellcome Trust. My thesis formed the basis of a book, The Sick Child in Early Modern England, 1580–1720, published in 2012 by Oxford University Press. It examines medical perceptions and treatments of children's diseases, and explores the emotional and spiritual experiences of sick children and their parents. Now out in paperback, The Sick Child has been awarded the European Association for the History of Medicine and Health 2015 Book Prize.

After completing The Sick Child, I took up a Wellcome Trust Fellowship at the University of Cambridge (2011–2014), and researched for my second monograph, Misery to Mirth: Recovery from Illness in Early Modern England (under contract, OUP). The book asks how recovery was defined and explained, and investigates the personal experiences of recovering patients and their relatives. Its aim is to rebalance our picture of early modern health, which hitherto has focused almost exclusively on disease and death. During my Fellowship, I was also Director of Studies for the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at St John's College. Since September 2014, I've been based at the University of Reading, lecturing history and continuing with my research.

Research interests

  • Early modern England
  • Social, cultural, and medical history
  • Perceptions and experiences of illness, health, pain, the body, recovery, and death
  • Emotions and spirituality
  • Childhood, parenthood, and family relationships
  • Lay and learned medicine
  • Gender and life-cycle
  • Child health and illness
  • Early modern primary sources
  • The five senses

The Sick Child in Early Modern England, 1580–1720 (OUP, 2012; paperback 2014)

Cover of 'The Sick Child in Early Modern England'This book is about the experience, perception, and treatment of illness in childhood between approximately 1580 and 1720. At this time, almost a third of young people died before the age of fifteen, and yet this subject has received little scholarly attention. Drawing on a range of printed and archival sources, the book brings together the histories of childhood, medicine, religion, and emotions.

The first part of the book investigates medical understandings and treatments of children. It shows that a concept of 'children's physic' existed amongst doctors and laypeople: the young were thought to be physiologically distinct, and in need of special medicines. These findings challenge the long-held belief that physicians treated children as 'miniature adults' until the nineteenth century. It also highlights the importance of age more generally as a category of differentiation in early modern times.

The next section examines the family's experience of child sickness and death, and shows that parents devoted considerable time and effort to the care of their sick offspring, and experienced devastating grief upon their illnesses and deaths. Mary Verney's words at the discovery of the death of her eight-year-old daughter Peg in 1647 encapsulates this agony: 'I am nott able to say one word more but that at this time there is nott a sadder creature in the world'. Contrary to expectations, fathers as well as mothers were involved in the practical tasks of tending their ill children, and both sexes expressed profound sorrow.

The third part of the book views sickness through the eyes of the child. Although the young rarely left written records, their voices have been preserved in the diaries and letters of parents. 'Father I goe abroode tomorrow and bye you a plomee pie', said three-year-old Elizabeth Wallington in 1625. The reason Elizabeth's father recorded this everyday sentence was that, 'These were the last words that I did heere my sweete child speeke'. I argue that while illness could be frightening and painful for children, it was also a time of love, power, and occasionally spiritual joy. Through this interpretation I hope to brighten our picture of early modern religious and medical cultures.

Current book project

Misery to Mirth: Recovery from Illness in Early Modern England, 1580–1720

One of the most unexpected findings of my research on childhood illness, was that sick children did not always die. Amongst the often heartrending accounts of children's illnesses and deaths, I encountered joyful stories of recovery, such as that of eleven-year-old Martha Hatfield, whose parents' 'hearts did rejoyce with a kind of trembling' at the sight of her on her feet after nine months sickness in 1652. I decided to write my second book on this happier subject, extending my field of interest to adults as well as children.

The book has four main aims: to ask how doctors and laypeople defined, explained, and conceptualised recovery; to explore the care of the convalescent; to investigate the emotional, spiritual, and physical experiences of recovering patients – how did they respond emotionally to the abatement of pain, the escape from death, and return to normal life? Finally, the project examines the reactions of the patient's family and friends to their loved one's recovery.

The ultimate goal of the project is to rebalance our picture of early modern health, which currently focuses on morbidity and mortality. It will complement the growing body of work on the patient's experience of pain, sickness, and death, and act as a platform from which the engage with a variety of wider historiographical fields, such as emotions and spirituality, bodies and disease, gender and age, family and friendships, and work and leisure. The sources include personal documents, medical texts and casebooks, philosophical and religious literature, and cure testimonials.

Publications

Books

Misery to Mirth: Recovery from Illness in Early Modern England (under contract with OUP)

The Sick Child in Early Modern England, 1580–1720 (Oxford University Press, 2012; paperback 2014)

This book has been awarded the 2015 European Association for the History of Medicine and Health Book Prize; it was also short-listed for the Longman/History Today Book Award 2013.

Reviews of book:

Journal articles

Book reviews

  • Carrera, Elena, Emotions and Health, 1200–1700 (2013), reviewed in Cultural History, 4 (2015), 206–7
  • Bailey, Joanne, Parenting in England 1760–1830: Emotion, Identity, and Generation (2012), reviewed in History, 98 (2013), 459–61
  • Churchill, Wendy, Female Patients in Early Modern Britain: Gender, Diagnosis, and Treatment (Farnham, 2012), reviewed in Social History of Medicine (advance access May 2013)
  • Crawford, Patricia, Parents of Poor Children in England, 1580–1800 (2010), reviewed in Women's History Review, 21 (2011), 506–8
  • Curth, Louise Hill, The Care of Brute Beasts: A Social and Cultural Study of Veterinary Medicine in Early Modern Medicine (2010), reviewed in Social History of Medicine, 24 (2011), 515–16
  • Dijkhuizen, Jan Frans van, and Karl A.E. Enenkel (eds), The Sense of Suffering: Constructions of Physical Pain in Early Modern Culture (2008), reviewed in Medical History, 54 (2010), 279–80
  • Miller, Naomi, and Yavneh, Naomi, Gender and Early Modern Constructions of Childhood (2011), reviewed in Women's History Review (advance access July 2012)
  • Mortimer, Ian, The Dying and the Doctors: The Medical Revolution in Seventeenth-Century England (2009), reviewed in Local Population Studies, 84 (2010), 116–17
  • Peterson, Kaara L., Popular Medicine, Hysterical Disease, and Social Controversy in Shakespeare's England (2010), reviewed in Social History of Medicine (advance access August 2011)
  • Poole, Rosemary, 'A Truly Happy and Affectionate Family': Life Among the Denmans, Crofts and Baillies 1733–1847 (2008), reviewed in Medical History, 55 (2011), 262–63
  • Stolberg, Michael, Experiencing Illness and the Sick Body in Early Modern Europe, translated by Leonhard Unglaub and Logan Kennedy (2011), reviewed in Social History of Medicine (advance access August 2012)
  • Withey, Alun, Physick and the Family: Health, Medicine and Care in Wales, 1600–1750 (2011), reviewed in Social History, 38 (2013), 131–32
  • Woods, Robert, Children Remembered: Responses to Untimely Death in the Past (2006), reviewed in Medical History, 53 (2009), 324–25

In preparation

  • (invited book chapter) 'The Holy Affections', in Susan Broomhall (ed.), Early Modern Emotions: An Introduction, Routledge (submission of manuscript, December 2015; contract issued)
  • (invited book chapter), 'She Sleeps Well & Eats an Egg: Convalescent Care in Early Modern England', in Sandra Cavallo and Tessa Storey (eds), Conserving Health in Early Modern Culture: Environment and Bodies, Francis & Taylor's Social History of Medicine series (book proposal in progress)
  • (invited book chapter), '"Rapt up in Joy": The Dying Child in Early Modern England', in Kimberley Reynolds, Katie Barclay, and Ciara Rawnsley (eds), Small Graves: Children, Emotion and Religion in the Early Modern Period, Palgrave's Studies in the History of Childhood series, ed. by Laurence Brockliss and George Rousseau (book proposal in progress)
  • (invited book chapter), '"My Greatest Want is Company": Solitude and Sociability in Sickness and Recovery, 1580–1720', in Elaine Chalus and Nina Javette Koefoed (eds), Routledge History Handbook of Loneliness (book proposal in progress)

Online items

Public engagement

  • BBC's The One Show short film on 'The History of Children's Medicine' (filming on 29 October 2014; broadcast 13 April 2015)
  • Podcast interview on 'Oliver Twist – What was it Really Like?', The Naked Scientists (21 October 2014)
  • Elsevier audio-slide to accompany article, 'The Sick Child in Early Modern England', Endeavour (June 2014)
  • 2 March 2013: Cambridge History for Schools Programme (outreach initiative run by Dr Ulinka Rublack), 'Disease and Medicine in Seventeenth-Century England'
  • 16 July 2012: New Forest Mothers' Union, Brockenhurst: '"With Great Care & Pains": Caring for the Sick Child in Early Modern England'
  • Article in the BBC History Magazine: '"Not a Sadder Creature in the World": Parent's Grief in Seventeenth-Century England', 11 (2010), 62–65
  • Podcast interview for the BBC History Magazine: 'The Sick Child in Early Modern England', October 2010
  • Presentation to the paediatrics department of the Royal United Hospital, Bath: 'Miniature Patients? Children's Medicine in Early Modern England, c.1580–1720' (16 December 2010)

Conference and seminar papers

Date; conference title and institution; title of paper

  • (forthcoming) 18 February 2016: University of Oxford, Medicine and Literature Seminar Series: 'The Sick Child in Early Modern England'
  • 11 November 2015: University of Reading, Annual Research Theme Autumn Colloquium: '"Nature Concocts & Expels": The Agents and Processes of Recovery from Disease in Early Modern England'
  • 24 September 2015: Annual Research Theme Symposium: Spaces and Places of Childhood and Youth, University of Reading: 'Eternal Places: Children's Emotional Responses to Death and the Afterlife in Early Modern England'
  • 6–8 July 2015: Early Modern Conference, University of Reading: '"Pluckt from the Pit": Escaping Death in Early Modern England'
  • 31 March–2 April 2015: Social History Society Conference, Portsmouth University: 'The Art of Recovery: Spiritual Responses to Deliverance from Disease in Early Modern England'
  • 26–29 March 2015: Renaissance Society of America Meeting; invited panel member for a roundtable discussion on 'Early Modern Pain', Berlin (organized by Professor Sara van den Berg, Saint Louis University, Missouri)
  • Keynote paper: 16 January 2015: 'Challenges in the History of Childhood Conference', Queen Mary University of London: my talk is the keynote lecture: 'Voices of Sick Children: Challenges and Solutions in the History of Childhood'. The talk was recorded for YouTube.
  • 9 December 2014: University of Bristol, Medical Humanities Seminar: 'The Sick Child in Early Modern England, 1580–1720'
  • 12 November 2014: University of Reading Departmental Seminar: 'The Sick Child in Early Modern England'
  • 6 September 2014: British Society for the History of Paediatrics and Child Health Conference, held in Norwich: prize-winning essay: 'The Sick Child in Early Modern England'
  • 22–23 July 2014: Early Modern Women, Religion, and the Body, Loughborough University: 'The Art of Recovery in Early Modern England, 1580–1720'
  • 8–10 April 2014: Social History Society Annual Conference, University of Northampton: '"Sicklish and Shatter'd": The Risk of Relapse in Early Modern England, 1580–1720'
  • 30 January 2014: History of Medicine Seminar at the University of Exeter: 'Nature's Office & Work: Defeating Disease in Early Modern England, 1580–1720'
  • 18–19 November 2013: 'This is My Body': Conference at Addenbrooke's Clinical School: '"O How Sweet is Ease!": Recovering from Illness in Early Modern England, 1580–1720'
  • 5 November 2013: Pre-Modern Medicine Seminar at the Wellcome Trust Library: '"Nature's Office & Work": Defeating Disease in Early Modern England'
  • 13–14 September 2013: Healthy Living in Pre-Modern Europe: The Theory and Practice of the Six Non-Naturals (c.1400–c.1700): Institute of Historical Research: '"She Sleeps Well & Eats an Egg": Convalescent Care in Early Modern England'
  • 4–7 September 2013: European Association for the History of Medicine and Health at the University of Lisbon, Portugal: Risk and Disaster in Medicine and Health: '"Sicklish and Shatter'd": The Risk of Relapse in Early Modern England, 1580–1720'
  • 26 June 2013: British History in the Long Eighteenth Century Seminar, at the Institute for Historical Research: The History of Emotions with Professor Thomas Dixon and Dr Hannah Newton: '"A Double Delight": Recovery from Illness in Early Modern England, 1580–1720'
  • 9 May 2013: Departmental Seminar, Department of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge: '"Nature Concocts & Expels": Recovery from Illness in Early Modern England, 1580–1720'
  • 25–27 March 2013: Social History Society Annual Conference, University of Leeds: '"Thy Bones Rejoyce": Recovering from Illness in Early Modern England, 1580–1720'
  • 19 March 2013: Life-Cycles Seminar, at the Institute for Historical Research: '"With Very Much Ado": Age and Recovery from Illness in Early Modern England, 1580–1720'
  • 5 March 2013: St John's College Young Researchers' Lecture, Cambridge: 'The Sick Child in Early Modern England, 1580–1720'
  • 21 November 2012: Queens' College Arts Seminar: 'Sick of Sickness: Recovering a Happier History in Early Modern England, 1580–1720'
  • 8 November 2012: Postdoctoral Seminar Series at Imperial College, London: '"Miserie to Mirth": Recovering from Illness in Early Modern England, 1580–1720'
  • 17 October 2012: Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities Postdoctoral Seminar at the University of Cambridge: '"Nature's Office & Work": Recovery from Illness in Early Modern England, 1580–1720'
  • 6 October 2012: Care in the Past: Archaeological and Interdisciplinary Perspectives, Durham University: '"With Great Care & Paines": Tending the Sick Child in Early Modern England, 1580–1720'
  • 10–12 September 2012: Society for the Social History of Medicine: Emotions, Health, and Wellbeing at Queen Mary University of London: '"Miserie to Mirth": Responses to Recovery in Early Modern England, 1580–1720'
  • 24 July 2012: Early Medicine Work-in-Progress Group, History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge: '"Nature Concocts and Expels": Recovering from Illness in Early Modern England, 1580–1720'
  • 1 February 2012: Interdisciplinary Early Modern Seminar at the University of Cambridge: '"Cur'd in a Different Manner": Children's Medicine in Early Modern England, c.1580–1720'
  • 1 November 2011: Early Medicine Seminar at the University of Cambridge: '"Nott a Sadder Creature in the World": Parental Grief in Early Modern England, 1580–1720'
  • 5–16 September 2011: 'Sick of Being Sick': Medical History Workshop for Postgraduates, at the University of Oxford: Question and Answer Panel about postdoctoral research and book contracts
  • 2–3 July 2011: 'The Language of Illness and Pain', Birkbeck College, London: '"On the rack": The Child's Experience of Pain in Early Modern England, c.1580–1720'
  • 29 June–1 July 2011: Anglo-American Conference, London: 'The Sick Child Recovered: The Recovery of Children from Illness in Early Modern England'
  • 28 April–1 May 2011: American Association for the History of Medicine Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: 'Tender Humours: Treating the Sick Child in Early Modern England, c. 1580–1720'
  • 14 March 2011: Guest Lecture at the Centre for Medical History, UCL, to MA students: 'The Experience of Childhood Death in Early Modern England'
  • 3 March 2011: History of Medicine Unit Seminar Series at Birmingham University: '"Tender Humours": Children's Medicine in Early Modern England, c.1580–1720'
  • 9–10 September 2010: 'In Sickness and in Health: Postgraduate Medical History Workshop', at the University of Exeter: '"Greedily suckt up": The Child's Experience of Medicine in Early Modern England, c.1580–1720'
  • 23–24 August 2010: '"The Burthen of the Mortal Body": Life, Death, Sickness and Health in the Early Modern Period', at the University of Exeter: '"Poore I poore I": The Child's Emotional and Spiritual Response to Pain and Sickness in Early Modern England'
  • 15–17 July 2010: Future of Medical History, Wellcome Trust Centre for Medical History, at UCL: '"Cruelly Afflicted": The Challenge of Accessing Children's Experiences of Illness in Early Modern England'
  • 26 November 2009: Centre for Medical History at the University of Exeter: 'Children's Physic: Medical Perceptions and Treatment of Sick Children in Early Modern England'
  • 29 September 2009: Women's Studies Group Seminar Series at Stuart House in London: '"Nott a sadder creature in the world": Mothers' and Fathers' Emotional Responses to their Children's Deaths in England, 1580–1720'
  • 8 July 2009: Early Modern Studies Conference at Reading University: '"Exceedingly rapt up in joy": Children's Emotional Responses to Death in England, 1580–1720'
  • 25–26 June 2009: History Lab (postgraduate wing of the IHR), 'Places and Spaces Conference': 'Eternal Places: Children's Emotional Responses to Death in Early Modern England'
  • 13 June 2009: Charity & Community Conference at Roehampton University: 'Sick Children's Experiences of Charitable Care in Early Modern England'
  • 26–27 May 2009: Humanities and Social Sciences Postgraduate Annual Conference at the University of Exeter: '"Exceedingly rapt up in joy": Children's Emotional Responses to Death in England, 1580–1720'
  • 28 January 2009: Work in Progress Seminar at the Wellcome Unit for Medical History, UCL: 'Just a Spoonful of Sugar: Children's Medicine in England, 1580–1720'
  • 5 July 2008: Gender, Health, and Medicine in Historical Perspective at the University of Exeter: 'Miniature Patients? Medical Perceptions of Children's Constitutions, Bodies, and Minds in England, 1580–1720'
  • 6 June 2008: Medical History Workshop at the University of Exeter: 'The Sick Child in Early Modern England, 1580–1720'
  • 31 January 2008: The Institute of Historical Research Postgraduate Seminar in Senate House, London: 'Tending the Tender: Caring for the Sick Child in England, 1580–1720'
  • 21 January 2008: The Wellcome Unit Seminar Series at the University of Oxford: 'Tending the Tender: Caring for the Sick Child in England, 1580–1720'
  • 14 November 2007: The Early Modern Seminar Series at the University of Exeter: 'Tending the Tender: Caring for the Sick Child in England, 1580–1720'
  • 2 October 2007: The Rural Medicine Seminar Series at Oxford Brookes University: 'Tending the Tender: Caring for the Sick Child in England, 1580–1720'
  • 4 January 2007: The British Society for the History of Science Postgraduate Conference, at the University of Durham: 'The Emotional Responses of Children and their Parents to Illness in Early Modern England'

Teaching

I have taught, or am currently teaching, the following modules:

University of Reading (2014–2016)

  • Journeys through History, 1200–2000 (1st Year core module)
  • Landmarks in History: 1492 (1st Year module)
  • Study Skills in History (1st Year module)
  • Cradle to Coffin: Living and Dying in Early Modern England, 1580–1720 (2nd Year module)
  • Themes and Issues in History: Emotions (2nd Year module)
  • Early Modern Emotions (MA module)
  • History, Theory, Practice and Themes: Social and Medical History (MA core module)
  • Historical Themes in Practice

St John’s College, University of Cambridge (2012–2015)

  • Director of Studies for History and Philosophy of Science
  • Study Skills Advisor for History

HPS and History Faculty, University of Cambridge (2011–2015)

  • Early Modern Medicine (team-taught 2nd Year module in HPS)
  • Disease, Death, and Gender in Early Modern England (History Faculty, 2012–2014)
  • Paper 9, British Economic and Social History, 1450–1750 (Team-taught 1st Year module, History Faculty, 2013–2015)

Bath Spa University (2009–2011)

  • Gender and Society in Eighteenth-Century England (3rd Year module, 2010–2011)
  • Tudor and Stuart England: A Social History (1st Year module, 2009–2010)

University of Exeter (2006–2009)

  • Marriage and Family in England, 1500-1800 (1st Year module, 2009–2010)
  • History Foundation (1st Year module, 2006–2009)

Supervision

Undergraduate and MPhil dissertations and essays I have supervised include:

  • Puerperal insanity in Victorian England
  • Religious responses to cholera in Victorian England (Winner of the Best History Undergraduate Dissertation Prize at the University of Reading)
  • Visual representations of Queen Elizabeth I
  • Yeomen's widows in early modern England
  • The care of sick horses in early modern England
  • Sleep and medicine in early modern England
  • Teething in early modern England
  • Men's grief in early modern England
  • Lovesickness in early modern England
  • Youth and emotion in early modern England

Hannah Newton