The Body in Early Modern England: Context (HIH3133)

StaffDr Sarah Toulalan - Convenor
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15.00
NQF Level6
Pre-requisitesAt least 90 credits of History at level 1 and/or level 2
Co-requisitesHIH3132: The Body in Early Modern England: Sources
Duration of Module Term 1: 11 weeks; Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module aims

To analyse the history of the body in early modern England.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Evaluate the various themes in the history of the body in early modern England.
  • 2. Assess key developments both in terms of medical and scientific knowledge and in representation during the period developed through independent study and seminar work.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 3. Analyse the key developments within a particular historical environment
  • 4. Focus on and comprehend complex issues.
  • 5. Understand and deploy relevant historical terminology in a comprehensible manner.
  • 6. Ability to follow the complex reasoning inherent in historical discourse.

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 7. Independently and autonomously study and also work within a group, including presentation of material for group discussion, developed through the mode of learning
  • 8. Digest, select and organise material to produce, to a deadline, a coherent and cogent argument, developed through the mode of assessment
  • 9. Present complex arguments orally

Syllabus plan

The syllabus will include some, or all, of the following topics.

Anatomy. Sex and gender. Medicine, health and disease. Body functions. Life-stages from infancy to old age. Death and dissection. Clothing and nakedness. Conception, pregnancy and childbirth. Sex, sexuality and sexual regulation. Pornography and prostitution. Deformity, disability and ‘other’ bodies.

Students will be expected to do some general reading to familiarise themselves with the early modern world if they have not previously studied the period (a reading list will be provided). Seminars will include a range of teaching and learning methods such as individual and group presentations and group discussions. The co-requisite module (Sources) will concentrate on the historical sources available for detailed analysis of the subject so complementing this module. The seminars will focus on exploring key issues in the study of the body to place them in historical context allowing students to develop their skills and knowledge more fully. Students will be expected to prepare for seminars by reading and evaluating examples of modern historical writing on the body and related subjects and will discuss the questions and issues raised in the seminar itself.

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching activities44Seminars (2hr x 22)
Guided independent study256Independent study

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Seminar discussionOngoing throughout module1-7,9Verbal from tutor and fellow students.

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay253,000 words1-8Verbal and Written
Essay253,000 words1-8Verbal and Written
Unseen Exam502 questions in 2 hours1-8Verbal and Written

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Two EssaysTwo essays1-9Referral/deferral period
Unseen ExamUnseen Exam1-9Referral/deferral period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Feher, Michel (ed. with Naddaff, Ramona and Tazi, Nadia), Fragments for a History of the Human Body: Parts One, Two and Three (New York: Zone Books, 1989)
Fisher, Kate and Sarah Toulalan (eds), Bodies, Sex and Desire from the Renaissance to the Present (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011)
Gent, Lucy and Nigel Llewellyn (eds), Renaissance Bodies: the Human Figure in English Culture, c.1540-1660 (London: Reaktion, 1990)
Hillman, David and Mazzio, Carla (eds.), The Body in Parts: Fantasies of Corporeality in Early Modern Europe (London and New York: Routledge, 1997)
Hunt, Lynn, (ed.), The Invention of Pornography: Obscenity and the Origins of Modernity, 1500-1800
(New York: Zone Books, 1993)
Porter, Roy and Hall, Lesley, The Facts of Life: The Creation of Sexual Knowledge in Britain,
1650-1950 (New Haven and London: Yale UP, 1995)
Sawday, Jonathan, The Body Emblazoned: Dissection and the Human Body in Renaissance Culture, (London and New York: Routledge, 1995)
Toulalan, Sarah and Kate Fisher (eds.), The Routledge History of Sex and the Body in the West, 1500 to the present (Oxford and New York, 2013)
Turner, David and Kevin Stagg (eds), Social Histories of Disability and Deformity: Bodies, Images and Experiences (London: Routledge, 2006)

Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

English Broadside Ballad Archive -
Proceedings of the Old Bailey -
Lives -

Indicative learning resources - Other resources

Other material from module lecturer(s) as needed.

Available as distance learning?


Last revision date


Key words search

Body; bodies; sex; sexualities; gender; medicine; health; anatomy; pregnancy; childbirth; prostitution; pornography; deformity; disability