History seminars at the IHR

Life-Cycles

This seminar will address issues relating to the life-cycle such as age, intergenerational relationships, parenthood, ageing, childhood and youth, from long-chronological and interdisciplinary perspectives.

Convenors: Dr Mary Clare Martin (University of Greenwich); m.c.h.martin@greenwich.ac.uk,  Dr Ofra Koffman (King's College London); ofra.koffman@kcl.ac.uk, Dr Tim Reinke-Williams (Northampton), Dr Simon Sleight (King’s College, London)

Venue:  John S Cohen Room 203, IHR, 2nd floor

Time: Tuesdays, 17.15

We usually go for a drink and a meal afterwards.  ALL WELCOME.

Spring Term 2015
DateSeminar details
20 January Old Age and Disability in Medieval Europe

Dr Irina Metzler (Wellcome Trust/MEMO Centre, University of Swansea)

The third chapter of my book, A Social History of Disability in Medieval Europe: Cultural Considerations of Physical Impairment (Routledge, London, 2013) entitled 'Ageing' describes how previously able bodies become disabled, through pathological physical and mental changes in old age. Contextualised case-studies of disabled old people across a range of social groups (peasants, urban populations, men and women of the church, with a few nobles and rulers) are used in conjunction with normative texts (medical, philosophical, scientific, religious) to investigate notions of disability in old age and to provide a picture of medieval mentalities and attitudes concerning what it meant socially to be old and disabled. The particular abhorrence of the old female body is highlighted, while less gendered themes include the practical aspects of care provisions for the elderly in the form of pensions and corrodies, concluding with an overview of the hitherto neglected topic of senile dementia and depression.


3 February Infancy Rites of Passage in Mamluk Society (Egypt & Syria, 1250-1517)

Catherine Rose (Queen Mary, University of London)

Some of the many rites of passage which might punctuate the first couple of years in the life of a child growing up in Mamluk society, including taḥnīk (rubbing something sweet on a newborn’s palate) and tahlāq (shaving the baby’s hair), were Islamic rituals that were and continue to be widely practised throughout the Muslim world.  Others, such as talūwʿa isnān, which marked the emergence of the first tooth, were celebrations of key milestones in a child’s early development.  The experience of these rituals differed for male and female children, as it did for fathers and mothers.  Where fathers often played a dominant role, certain rituals, such as the ḥamām al-arbʿaīn (40th day bath), which has obvious parallels with the Christian practice of 'churching', were exclusively attended by women and children.  Some were carried out in private, domestic contexts and others were more public.  All marked the transition from one, often dangerous, life phase to another.  If we accept W. Lloyd Warner’s position that a rite of passage is a demonstration of the significance of the individual to other members of his or her community, we must ask what the notably high number of infancy rituals performed at this time tells us about contemporary attitudes towards children. Using autobiographical accounts and popular contemporary literature to enhance evidence from normative sources, this paper will discuss the spiritual and social significance of these rites of passage and offer insights into what they can reveal about attitudes, gendered and otherwise, to children and childhood in Mamluk society. 


17 February After the Accident: Disability and Work in British Coalmines, 1880-1948

Dr Mike Mantin (University of Swansea)

When a worker in one of Britain’s notoriously dangerous coalmines met with an accident causing permanent injury, a common sympathetic trope stated that they would never work again. However, many continued with their working lives. This paper explores the situations facing those disabled miners who chose to continue in the places which defined their lives and communities, or were forced to out of economic necessity. Although some returned underground, most disabled workers took part in ‘light work’ on the surface such as picking coal or staffing equipment rooms. These jobs were often lower in pay and status, and subject to uncertainty in times of economic difficulty for the industry. By looking at examples of the post-accident lives of disabled people and the social attitudes and economic boundaries they faced, this paper aims to ask new questions about the history of disability and work.


3 March Faith, family and healing in post-war England: The career and marriage of Trevor Dearing, 'the exorcist vicar'

Dr Neil Armstrong (University of Teeside)

In the mid-1970s the Anglican priest Trevor Dearing (b. 1933) became something of a minor celebrity due to the sensational ministry of faith healing he forged in an East London housing estate parish.  His ministry included the rite of exorcism, which Dearing utilised to effect the cure of a range of psychological and somatic ailments.  In order to justify and promote his controversial services, Dearing fashioned a life story which was framed by cycles of ill-health, career failure and spiritual dearth, and made miraculous by dramatic conversions.  It was also underpinned by the happiness afforded him by his wife Anne and their four children.  Theologically Dearing undertook an eclectic adventure including involvement in Methodism, Anglo-Catholicism, the Charismatic Movement and a reported late conversion to the Roman Catholic Church.  Yet whilst his marriage could be understood in terms of an evangelical model of gendered ‘complementarity’, Anne Dearing’s own narrative of their life together suggests tensions as she struggled to adapt to Trevor’s growing notoriety and move towards an increasingly global itinerant ministry in the second half of the 1970s.  This paper uses the Dearings as case study to explore the concepts of personal authenticity and clerical masculinity in life histories of career and marriage in the permissive age.


17 March 'We were very sociable together': Sociability and Meaning in the Life of Elizabeth Wynne Fremantle (1778-1857)

Professor Elaine Chalus (Bath Spa University)