‘Mary Toft’s Monstrous Births of 1726: Then and Now’

mary-toft

William Hogarth, ‘Cunucularii or the wise men of Godlimen in consultation’ (1726) Wellcome Library no. 17342i

The Annual Bedford Centre Lecture 2017

By Professor Karen Harvey, University of Sheffield

Thursday 2nd February, 6-8pm Moore Building Auditorium

at Royal Holloway, University of London, Egham, Surrey

Click here to listen to a podcast of the lecture and view Karen slides

It is also available on our Podcast Resources page

In 1726 Mary Toft gave birth to seventeen rabbits or parts of rabbits in Godalming, Surrey. Toft had looked at the animals during her pregnancy and their image was imprinted on her foetus. Based on new research, Karen’s engaging presentation explores why so many contemporaries, including eminent male Physicians, believed in the hoax.  Many portrayed Toft as a devious woman who set out to hoodwink the doctors and make her fortune, yet this lecture offers other explanations for the extraordinary actions of Toft and her family.  It also explores the social, physical and emotional experiences Toft underwent in the contexts of the work of contemporary midwives, gynaecologists and reproductive medicine.

The Bedford Centre is particularly delighted to welcome back Karen Harvey, who is a Royal Holloway alumna and started her career as a student on the MA in Women’s and Gender History.

Karen is now a Professor of Cultural History at the University of Sheffield and her numerous publications include The Little Republic: Masculinity and Domestic Authority in Eighteenth-Century Britain (Oxford University Press, 2012) which is Open Access and available to read online, and Reading Sex in the Eighteenth Century: Bodies and Gender in English Erotic Culture (Cambridge University Press, January 2004).  Karen works on material culture and is committed to the public understanding of History and the past. She has been Academic in Residence at Bank Street Arts, in Sheffield, since 2012.

This engaging public lecture is free (no booking required) and everyone is  warmly invited to to join us for a wine reception afterwards.  We look forward to seeing you there!

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