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Open Access (free)
Body and experience in the archaeological and historical record
Karen Harvey

Despite a growing interest in ‘embodiment’, historians of the body rarely consider the extant material remains of their subject. This chapter seeks to contribute to a discussion about how historians and other scholars might examine the archaeological (and particularly bioarchaeological record) and the historical record together in order to better understand the embodied experiences of people in the past. This chapter offers new ways to study past embodied experiences as an outcome of the material, social and cultural. Focusing on two non-elite individuals from the north of England between 1793 and 1849, it draws on the rich but also incomplete evidence to reconstruct their lives as lived. The first case study explores the themes of risk, youth and masculinity, focusing on James Simpson (1815–34), the son of a currier and leather cutter in Sheffield. This case underscores the advantages of class and gender, as well as the risks of damage posed to young men’s bodies in early nineteenth century towns. The second case study is Ann Purvis (c.1793–1849), a member of a family of river pilots in South Shields. The analysis exposes the vulnerabilities caused to women by poverty and singlehood, as well as the evident care and social status available to such women within the family. The chapter demonstrates that bringing the bioarchaeological, material and historical record together and, in particular, in exploring the tensions between them, produces new knowledge about the lived experiences of non-elite individuals in the past that would otherwise be inaccessible.

in The material body
Open Access (free)
Embodiment, history and archaeology in industrialising England, 1700–1850

The Material Body exploits the possibilities of studying the material body in the past primarily through the sources and approaches of archaeology, history and material culture studies. Together, these seven chapters draw upon collections of human remains, material culture and documentary evidence from Britain during the period 1700–1850; major themes are gender, class, age, disability and maternity. Some contributions are co-authored by a historian and archaeologist; others are single authored. But each chapter explores the lived experiences of the material body drawing on disciplines which share an interest in the material or embodied turn. The volume demonstrates new interdisciplinary ways of looking at experiences of the body. It brings together archaeological and historical data to reconstruct embodied experiences and represents the first collection of genuinely collaborative scholarship by historians and archaeologists.

Open Access (free)
The material body in archaeology and history
Elizabeth Craig-Atkins
and
Karen Harvey

The introduction to The Material Body examines the theoretical frameworks of the material turn, new materialism and embodiment and explores how the social and material are combined in the making of embodied experience. It also reveals how archaeologists and historians – when they work together – are uniquely placed to revolutionise the study of people as embodied subjects. The Introduction explores how the chapters collectively integrate sources, concepts and methods from archaeology, history and material culture studies to study embodied lives in the past. The selection of studies of the period c.1700–1850 exploits the rich and diverse archaeological, bioarchaeological, material and historical sources available for that period. It also brings into focus bodies that might be considered ‘ordinary’ and ‘marginalised’ and draws attention to temporally significant categories of identity – including age, gender, class and disability – in ways that highlight structures of matter, thought, culture and power through which embodied experiences were formed. The introduction also draws out the significance of the innovative methods presented in this book: the collaboration of archaeologists and historians in devising and writing chapters; the study of the material body through novel combinations of skeletal remains, material objects, text and image; the deployment of different scales of analysis, from the personal to the national; and the use of reflective practice among co-authors to explore productive tensions in evidence and epistemology.

in The material body