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This paper argues that lay people across the eighteenth-century British Isles demonstrated a highly localised understanding of environments and bodily experience. It draws on a corpus of familiar letters that were exchanged between a variety of locations across England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales. Letters, a genre of writing which connected separated bodies and places, reveal the extent to which bodily experience was bound up in the specifics of regional environmental conditions. Eighteenth-century lay understandings of the relative health of bodies and constitutions were deeply influenced by the 'Airs, Waters, Places' tradition, but the letters considered in this study challenge medical narratives which promoted theories of a national ‘British’ climate which best suited ‘British’ bodies. Instead, letter-writers demonstrated an understanding of deep and granular variation across the British Isles, of not one British climate or constitution, but many. The rise of the familiar letter in the eighteenth century permitted local expertise in matters of environment and health to be communicated across large distances, and facilitated understandings of regional difference, and highly regional bodily experiences, across the British Isles.  

Comment by Holly Fletcher, University of Manchester

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