‘Bad history? Virgins, vibrators and Queen Victoria in the history of medicine’

Public Lecture at the University of Kent

Wed 30 May
5.15 pm
by Professor Helen King, Open University

‘Bad history? Virgins, vibrators and Queen Victoria in the history of medicine’

In this lecture, I shall be reflecting on current debates on doing historical research in the age of the internet. The amount of material that can be accessed continues to grow on a daily basis, and is often in full-text searchable form. So, while the length of time spent finding sources has been reduced, the amount of material to be mastered has grown. In the less formal side of the internet, history is now being written in blogs, and some bloggers are acting as gate-keepers to the field.

I shall be concentrating on how historical myths are spread through the internet; in particular, the myth of Queen Victoria’s use of cannabis, and the myth of the early history of therapeutic masturbation. While acknowledging that the difference between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ history does not necessarily correspond to that between ‘professional’ and ‘amateur’ historians, I shall be asking how historians can engage with emerging debates in the blogosphere, and trying to define what counts as ‘good’ history today.

Professor Helen King, Professor of Classical Studies
The Open University

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