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London’s dreadful visitation: or, a collection of all the Bills of Mortality for this present year: beginning the 27th of December 1664 and ending the 19th of December following: as also the general or whole years bill. According to the report made to the King’s most excellent Majesty / by the Company of Parish-Clerks of London. Wellcome Collection. Public Domain Mark

This blog post introduces the morning session at the upcoming History Day, a free one day event enabling people to explore collections and sources. This year’s theme will be ‘Human Discovery: Experiencing Science’. This event is part of the Being Human festival, the UK’s national festival of the humanities, taking place 10–19 November 2022.

The People’s health histories and public policy session will be chaired by Professor Philip Murphy, Director of History & Policy. It will explore the history of health crises as documented in library and archive collections and look at how understanding history can help to navigate and deal with modern medical crises.

The speakers represent a range of institutions and will talk about collections covering from medieval to modern history. It will be of broad appeal both to people interested in histories of health and medicine and people interested in social history and public policy more generally. The speakers will also discuss some of the challenges of collecting medical history.

Philip Murphy says:

“Some of the most exciting historical research currently taking place is in the field of medical history. But the subject of our discussion will be of interest to anyone who has witnessed the attempts of policy-makers to deal with the recent COVID pandemic. We naturally wonder how previous generations dealt with medical emergencies in terms not just of planning and remedies but also of their psychological impact. This session will explore how historians go about investigating this field, and some of the resources available to them.”

Speakers will introduce themselves and their collections with lightning talks, followed by a discussion and questions from the audience. The speakers and provisional topics are:

  • Katie Birkwood (Rare Books Librarian, Royal College of Physicians) – collections on Edward Jenner and the Cholera Committee collections at the Royal College of Physicians
  • Victoria Cranna (Archivist, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine) – on researchers who used Ebola records in 2014 and the Infected Blood Inquiry who recently used LSHTM’s HIV and AIDS collections
  • Isabelle Chevallot (Assistant Librarian, Guildhall Library) – collections about the Great Plague of 1665 including Bills of Mortality which show how London responded to the medical crisis which lead to the death of more than 100,000 Londoners
  • Elma Brenner (Medieval and early modern specialist, Wellcome Collection) – medieval materials and perspectives on the theme of medical crises
  • Tilda Watson (Archivist, Wellcome Sanger Institute) – documenting the Wellcome Sanger Institute’s Response to the Covid-19 Pandemic

The day also includes a live session on Everyday Technology Firsts, where stories and memories from individuals and collections will be shared live in the session and on Padlet. Read more about that in a previous post. There will also be pre-made blogs, galleries and videos to explore during and after the day.

Sign up to join in with History Day 2022 at history.ac.uk/events/history-day22  

Sign up to join in with History Day 2022 at history.ac.uk/events/history-day22.