The History Department welcomed two historians to school this week, to help deliver the final History “Shine” session of the year. These are a series of sessions where academic historians come to school to deliver a presentation on their area of expertise.

This week we had the pleasure of welcoming Dr Tara Hamling from the University of Birmingham and Dr Sara Read from Loughborough University.

On Tuesday, 41 pupils heard Dr Tara Hamling’s session. Tara is a specialist in early modern material culture, with a particular focus on the domestic household and the visual arts (objects) of early modern England. Her research participates in four key areas of early modern studies: Visual and material culture (esp. decorative arts), domestic and social life (esp. non-elite material culture and social practices), reformation Studies (esp. post-Reformation imagery; lived religion) and Shakespeare studies (the material culture of Shakespeare in Stratford-upon-Avon).

Elizabethan nit comb

Her talk on the history of Elizabethan England was centred on 10 objects. These ranged from ear scoops to nit combs and Tara took us through different elements from across the globe, all relating to Elizabethan England. This provided a greater understanding of the period as a whole. Religion was a central theme to everyday life in Elizabeth England and this was evident in all the objects studied, even though not obvious at first.


On Wednesday, Dr Sara Read presented to 68 pupils, so many that we had to find a larger than anticipated venue! Sara is a specialist in early modern literature and medicine, specifically focused on women’s reproductive health.

She started looking at common ideas of the causes of illness during the Renaissance before moving into the weird and wonderful treatments. From ‘cowdung’ to the ‘common worm’, nothing was wasted during this time! Sara then discussed the amazing work of Vesailus (and its forgeries!) and Harvey and its impact on medicine on the time.

Elizabethan Ear Scoop

Though, they weren’t always feeling valued, Harvey noted that “Much better is it oftentimes to grow wise at home and in private, than by publishing what you have amassed with infinite labour, to stir up tempests that may rob you of peace and quiet for the rest of your days” in response to the abuse he received from publishing his work which disproved theories of the time.


Sara’s talk offered timely revision for those GCSE pupils heading into their final or mock exams and also offered a brief insight into what we would see as a weird and wacky time for medicine.

 Tara gave us some feedback:

The talk was a pleasure– I was really impressed with how attentive/engaged your students are. You’re clearly doing an excellent job in imparting enthusiasm and confidence.