Birth: personal stories to population policies


The Sex and History Project: Using historical objects in sex education classes

Professor Kate Fisher

Sex and History is a public engagement initiative run by Professor Kate Fisher (History) and Dr Rebecca Langlands (Classics) at the University of Exeter’s Centre for Medical History. It applies their research into the history of human sexuality to the improvement of sexual health and wellbeing, by empowering people of all ages – and especially young people – to talk more openly about the issues that matter to them today. Working with museums, educators and sexual health professionals, this project has developed ways of using artefacts from past cultures as a highly effective stimulus for uninhibited and productive discussion of traditionally challenging subjects such as relationships, emotions, power, gender roles, trust, control and consent.

Kate Fisher is a Professor of Social and Cultural History at the University of Exeter. She has written four books: Birth Control, Sex and marriage in Britain 1918-1960 . OUP, 2006; Sex Before the Sexual Revolution (with Simon Szreter), CUP, 2010; Bodies, Sex and Desire from the Renaissance to the Present  (co-edited with Sarah Toulalan), Palgrave, 2011; and The Routledge History of Sex and the Body 1500 to the Present  (co-edited with Sarah Toulalan), Routledge, 2013. She is co-authoring, with Dr Jana Funke, a book on the uses of the past in the construction of sexual knowledge in the late nineteenth and early twentieth . She is director (with Rebecca Langlands) of an interdisciplinary project Sexual Knowledge, Sexual History (within the Centre for Medical History at the University of Exeter) which explores the way that both popular and academic ideas about sex and sexuality have been articulated from the 18th century to the present day with reference to erotic material from past cultures, societies and civilisations. As part of this research she is running a project called Sex and History to bring the fruits of this research to the wider community. They are working with museums, schools, and other groups throughout the South West to develop ways of using museum artefacts to stimulate discussion about contemporary sexual issues among young people.

Births and the collective provision of welfare- the long view c.1550- 2014

Professor Simon Szreter (St John’s College, University of Cambridge)

Statutory collective provision of welfare services has an extremely long history in England and Wales, stretching back across the last half-millenium, in fact. Furthermore, the exploitation by demographic historians of information from an accompanying nationwide system of parish-based vital registration established in 1537, enables us to look at long-term patterns of the relationship between births and changing historical regimes of collective welfare provision. This indicates that the reproductive patterns of the population have been sensitive to the public policy decisions of the wider society and polity for far longer than the most recent period of history since Beveridge’s welfare state was created after World War II.

Simon Szreter, M.A. Ph.D, is Professor of History and Public Policy in the History Faculty, University of Cambridge and Fellow of St John’s College, Cambridge. He is a founding member of the History and Policy Network and Chief Editor of its electronic journal, His main fields of teaching and research are demographic, social and economic history and the relationship between history, development and contemporary public policy. In 2009 he was awarded the Viseltear Prize by the American Public Health Association for outstanding contribution to the history of public health.

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