Talk: Concerning Beards: Facial Hair, Health and Hygiene in Britain, c.1650-1900


Despite growing historical interest in the male body, historians have, until fairly recently, overlooked a principle component of both men’s bodies and masculinity - facial hair.

Little is yet known about the significance, context and meanings of beards, moustaches and, indeed, beardlessness through time, or their relationship to important medical factors including health norms, medical practice, technology and shifting models of the male body.

Dr Alun Withey, University of Essex, draws on the findings of a three-year research project funded by the Wellcome Trust, this talk will explore the diverse health and medical contexts of facial hair between 1650 and 1900.

Often seen as a quirky irrelevance, facial hair, and indeed beardlessness, offers a new lens through which to view changing concepts of bodily appearance, medical practice and practitioners, and the impact of technology upon the male body.