Hannah Ahlheim (Giessen) and Elizabeth Hunter (QMUL): Sleeping Through the Ages: Two Lectures on the History of Sleep in the Seventeenth and Twentieth Centuries

07.12.2021, Vortrag, online


GHI London Lecture

  • Elizabeth Hunter: Wonderful Sleepers: Medical and Supernatural Explanations for Extraordinary Sleep in Seventeenth-Century England

Seventeenth-century readers were fascinated with stories of wonderful sleepers. Wonder books contained marvellous and terrible tales of people who slept without interruption for days, months, or even years, and of those who got out of bed while still asleep to compose poetry, walk on rooftops, or commit terrible acts of violence. These were linked to descriptions of the amazing sleeping habits of the dormouse and the snake in books of natural history, and to accounts of witchcraft, possession, and ghost sightings. While wonderful sleep might appear to provide evidence of a world beyond the material, it was generally agreed that the explanation could be found in the secret workings of the body.

Elizabeth Hunter is an Honorary Research Fellow at Queen Mary, University of London. She is currently writing a monograph entitled The Secrets of Sleep, funded by the Wellcome Trust. Some of this research has been published in the journals Social History of Medicine (forthcoming) and The Seventeenth Century (2020).

  • Hannah Ahlheim: The Sleep of our Dreams?

We sleep away almost a third of our lifetimes. This unconscious, unproductive third often seems to be an obstacle to a lively 24/7 society. At the same time, sleep is not only vital for life and health, but offers space for dreaming. How does a modern society governed by science, rationality, and efficiency deal with the unruly phenomenon of sleep? The lecture tells a history of sleep in the twentieth century that is linked to a history of work and tired soldiers, but also to a history of culture, consumption, and the sciences.

Hannah Ahlheim is Professor of Contemporary History at the University of Giessen. After studying in Berlin, she received her doctorate from the Ruhr University Bochum and taught at the University of Göttingen. Her research interests include the history of National Socialism and antisemitism, the social and cultural history of sleep, and science and the history of time.

This lecture will take place online via Zoom or possibly as a hybrid event with limited in-person attendance at the GHIL. Please check back later for more information on the venue. In order to register for this event, please follow this link to Eventbrite.