Dr Alun Withey

Research interests

I am a Wellcome Research Fellow at Exeter, and have recently embarked on a major study of the history of facial hair in Britain, between 1700 and 1918, funded by a fellowship from the Wellcome Trust. Whilst some attention has been paid to the relationship between facial hair and constructions of masculinity, the place of facial hair within health and medicine has largely been overlooked. This project therefore aims to provide a new study of the health and hygiene history of facial hair over two centuries.

Among the themes are new studies of the changing understandings of tha nature of facial hair, but also of the practices associated with managing it. This will include a new study of the changing role of barbers/barber-surgeons, and of the impact of new technologies upon decisions to shave. To do this it will survey a mass of material from medical and other printed literature, portraiture, trade records and advertising, along with personal sources such as diaries and letters.

Outcomes of the project will include a major new academic monograph, a public exhibition and other related engagement events.

My broader research interests lie in medical history of the early moden period, (roughly c. 1600-1800) and include themes such as the body, early modern medical practice and practitioners, technologies of the body, domestic medicine, remedy culture and Welsh medicine.