imagesWith Alun Withey, Framing the Face: new perspectives on the history of facial hair (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018)

This history led multi-disciplinary edited collection brings together a range of scholarly essays to re-examine the role of facial hair in the histories of masculinity, the body, and medicine, amongst others. Over the past five centuries, facial hair has been central to debates about masculinity. Over time, changing views of masculinity, self-fashioning, the body, gender, sexuality and culture have all strongly influenced men’s decisions to wear, or not wear, facial hair. For British Tudor men, beards were a symbol of sexual maturity and prowess. Throughout the early modern period, debates also raged about the place of facial hair within a humoural medical framework. The eighteenth century, by contrast, saw beards as unrefined and uncouth; clean-shaven faces reflected enlightened values of neatness and elegance, and razors were linked to new technologies. Victorians conceived of facial hair in terms of the natural primacy of men, and new models of hirsute manliness. All manner of other factors from religion to celebrity culture have intervened to shape decisions about facial hair and shaving. And yet, despite a recent growth in interest in the subject, we still know little about the significance, context and meanings of beards and moustaches through time, or of its relationship to important factors such as medicine and medical practice, technology and shifting models of masculinity. Providing a new and deep understanding of the often-complex meanings and motivations behind the wearing (and not wearing) of beards, moustaches and whiskers across time, we are proposing a new edited collection addressing a range of themes in the history of facial hair across time and space.

coverWith Sara Read, Maladies and Medicine: Exploring Health and Healing 1540-1740 (Pen and Sword Press, July 2017)

Maladies and Medicine offers a lively exploration of health and medical cures in early modern England. The introduction sets out the background against which the body was understood, covering the theory of the four humors and the ways that male and female bodies were conceptualized. It also explains the hierarchy of healers from university trained physicians to the itinerant healers who travelled the country offering cures based on inherited knowledge of homemade remedies. It covers the print explosion of medical health guides which began to appear in the sixteenth century from more academic medical text books to cheap almanacs. The book has twenty chapters covering attitudes towards and explanations of some of the most common diseases and medical conditions in the period and the ways people understood them, along with the steps people took to get better. It explores the body from head to toe, from migraines to gout. It was an era when tooth cavities were thought to be caused by tiny worms and smallpox by an inflammation of the blood, cures ranged from herbal potions, cooling cordials, blistering the skin, and of course letting blood. Case studies and personal anecdotes taken from doctors’ notes, personal journals, diaries, letters and even court records show the reactions of individuals to their illnesses and treatments, bringing the reader into close proximity with people who lived around 400 years ago. This fascinating and richly illustrated study will appeal to anyone curious about the history of the body and the way our ancestors lived.

evans_2ndpassWith Ciara Meehan, Perceptions of Pregnancy from the Seventeenth to the Twentieth Century (Palgrave Macmillan, January 2017)

Available here.

This multi-disciplinary collection brings together work by scholars from Britain, America and Canada on the popular, personal and institutional histories of pregnancy. It follows the process of reproduction from conception and contraception, to birth and parenthood. The contributors explore several key themes: narratives of pregnancy and birth, the patient-consumer, and literary representations of childbearing. This book explores how these issues have been constructed, represented and experienced in a range of geographical locations from the seventeenth to the twentieth century. Crossing the boundary between the pre-modern and modern worlds, the chapters reveal the continuities, similarities and differences in understanding a process that is often, in the popular mind-set, considered to be fundamental and unchanging.

Aphrodisiacs, Fertility and Medicine in Early Modern England (Boydell & Brewer, October 2014).

Available here Boydell & Brewer, Royal Historical Society Studies in History New Series.

It was common knowledge in early modern England that sexual desire was malleable, and could be increased or decreased by a range of foods – including artichokes, oysters and parsnips. This book argues that these aphrodisiacs were used not simply Picture1for sexual pleasure, but, more importantly, to enhance fertility and reproductive success; and that at that time sexual desire and pleasure were felt to be far more intimately connected to conception and fertility than is the case today. It draws on a range of sources to show how, from the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries, aphrodisiacs were recommended for the treatment of infertility, and how men and women utilised them to regulate their fertility. Via themes such as gender, witchcraft and domestic medical practice, it shows that aphrodisiacs were more than just sexual curiosities – they were medicines which operated in a number of different ways unfamiliar now, and their use illuminates popular understandings of sex and reproduction in this period

Her book reveals that aphrodisiacs were more significant to early modern sexual health practices than historians have realized, which has important ramifications for the history of reproduction and medicine.

Olivia Weisser, Journal of British Studies

This is a highly readable, thought provoking account of the role aphrodisiacs played in England from c. 1600–1800 in ensuring not just a lusty appetite for sex but also a healthy conception and pregnancy … Evans has successfully moved the use of aphrodisiacs from the periphery of knowledge concerning early modern medical care to the center. She convincingly argues that one must see the promotion of sexual desire through the use of certain foods as attempts to treat infertility, regulate fertility, and increase the chances of producing healthy babies who would grow to adulthood. Evans draws on diverse sources to prove her case; they include ballads, herbals, medical treatises, erotic literature, advertisements for fertility aids, witchcraft, spells, and enchantments. Chapters focus on the markets for aphrodisiac literature, the workings of the fertile and infertile body, how lust was believed to be essential to conception, the perils and treatment of magically caused sterility, and how aphrodisiacs were used to regulate menses and prevent miscarriages. What emerges is a rich, nuanced discussion of the shifting understandings of sex and reproduction over 200 years.

L. E. Payne, Choice


  • ‘“They are called Imperfect men”: Male Infertility and Sexual Health in Early Modern England’, Social History of Medicine, 29/2 (2016), 311332. Available open access here.
  • with Sara Read, ‘“Before Midnight she had miscarried”: Women, Men and Miscarriage in Early Modern England, forthcoming, The Journal of Family History, 40 (January 2015), 323.
  • ‘Female Barrenness, Bodily Access and Aromatic Treatments in Seventeenth-Century England’ Historical Research, 87/237 (August 2014), 423-443. Available open access  here.
  • ‘gentle Purges corrected with hot Spices, whether they work or not, do vehemently provoke Venery’: Menstrual Provocation and Procreation in Early Modern England, Social History of Medicine, 25/1 (February 2012), 2-19. Awarded the Jerry Stannard Memorial Prize in 2012.
  • ‘It is caused of the Womans part or of the Mans Part’: The Role of Gender in the Diagnosis and Treatment of sexual dysfunction in early modern England, Women’s History Review, 20/3 (July 2011), 439–457. Awarded the Clare Evans Prize by the Women’s History Network in 2009.

Engagement pieces:

A physician examining a flask of urine brought by a young woman
A physician examining a flask of urine brought by a young woman
  • ‘Shameful Secrets, Men’s Sexual Health’, History Today, (January 2016).
  • ‘Hopes, fears and frustrated dreams: infertility in early modern England’, Wellcome History, Issue 54 (Winter, 2014).
  • ‘Being a Woman, being a Mother: infertility in early modern England’, Feminist and Women’s Association (UK) blog, (November 2014).
  • ‘When Beans were the Food of Lust’, BBC History Magazine, April 2014.
  • ‘Anthony Lewis and the Aphrodisiac Remedy’, The Recipe Project: Food, Magic, Science and Medicine (29 October 2013).
  • ‘Bewitched in their privities: Medical Responses to Infertility Witchcraft in Early Modern England’, in Societas Magicas Newsletter, issue 27 (Spring 2012), 1-5
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