Historians, Bodies and Visual Culture

Andreae Versalii Bruxellensis, Fabrica, 1555

A seminar with Professor Ludmilla Jordanova

In many ways, history is a field that cleaves to central themes over substantial periods of time, as is reflected in the long-standing distinction between political, economic and social history. Arguably political history generously defined still takes pride of place, despite the rise of cultural history from the 1980s. At the same time, it is evident that political movements, such as the struggle for gay rights, have a huge impact on historical practice. One notable shift over the last half-century has been an expansion of the types of sources historians use, expressed in phrases such as 'the visual turn' and 'the material turn'. In this talk I want to reflect on the changes that have taken place over the last 50 years, including a growing interest in 'the body', which has brought together scholars whose interests originate in a range of fields, such as women's history, the histories of science and medicine, literary studies, and art history. The idea of interdisciplinary history is not new, but it is always worth reassessing how historians interact with those in related areas. It is incumbent on historians to be historical about the ways in which they work and about how their contexts shape their ideas, commitments and writings.

Ludmilla Jordanova is Emeritus Professor of History and Visual Culture at Durham University in the UK. She joined DU in 2013 to help develop the study of visual culture and she directed the Centre for Visual Arts and Culture there for several years. Her previous posts have been at King's College, London, the University of Cambridge, and the Universities of East Anglia, York and Essex. After a research fellowship at Cambridge, she worked in the Wellcome Unit for the History of Medicine in Oxford. Trained successively in the natural sciences, history and philosophy of science and art history and theory, she has long been interested in medicine broadly defined. Her books include Sexual Visions (1989), Defining Features (2000) and Physicians and their Images (2018). She is working on a book for Bloomsbury entitled Traces of Life: Portraits since 1600.

Date & time

Wed 05 Jun 2024, 4.15–5.30pm


Level 1 Auditorium (1.28), RSSS Building 146 Ellery Cres. Acton 2601, ACT


Professor Ludmilla Jordanova (Durham University)


School of History


David Romney Smith


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