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The Body in History
Europe from the Palaeolithic to the Future


Award Winner
Oliver Harris, John Robb, Dušan Borić, Preston Miracle, Katharina Rebay-Salisbury, Marie Louise Stig Sørensen, Jessica Hughes, Robin Osborne, Simon Stoddart, Sarah Tarlow, Maryon McDonald, Marilyn Strathern
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  • Date Published: February 2016
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521124119

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About the Authors
  • This book is a long-term history of how the human body has been understood in Europe from the Palaeolithic to the present day, focusing on specific moments of change. Developing a multi-scalar approach to the past, and drawing on the work of an interdisciplinary team of experts, the authors examine how the body has been treated in life, art and death for the last 40,000 years. Key case-study chapters examine Palaeolithic, Neolithic, Bronze Age, Classical, Medieval, Early Modern and Modern bodies. What emerges is not merely a history of different understandings of the body, but a history of the different human bodies that have existed. Furthermore, the book argues, these bodies are not merely the product of historical circumstance, but are themselves key elements in shaping the changes that have swept across Europe since the arrival of modern humans.

    • Has a broad geographical and temporal scale (covers all of Europe, 40,000 BC-present)
    • Cross-disciplinary, integrating anthropology, archaeology, classics and history
    • Well-illustrated, with over one hundred images
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    • Winner of the 2013 PROSE Award for Excellence in the Social Sciences

    Reviews & endorsements

    'This book is amazing. Robb and Harris take us on a grand tour of the human body, tracing its diverse forms and attachments over a span of 50,000 years. Rarely do so many fascinating ideas come together in one place. For scholars who study the body in Africa, Asia, or the New World, the book offers a steady stream of comparative insights. As an experiment in multiscalar analysis, The Body in History is a tantalizing, indispensable model for future work.' Andrew Shryock, University of Michigan

    'An encyclopedic collection of articles that addresses the crucial question of how and why bodily understandings and practices change throughout history. Wide-ranging and creative in its sources, and innovative theoretically and methodologically, The Body in History is an invaluable contribution to, and will be required reading for anyone interested in, the field of body studies.' Chris Shilling, author of The Body and Social Theory

    'A masterful book that brings multidisciplinary analysis to bear on the question of the social body. The focus on diachronic change – on transition and transformation – as well as on scales of practice, makes this an original and much-needed contribution that will be of interest not only to historians and archaeologists but also to scholars from diverse fields that engage with study of the body. This text is a must-read that will be used in both teaching and research.' Barbara L. Voss, Stanford University, California

    'This remarkable volume demonstrates how the idea of the body has been dramatically reworked in successive eras, from the Pleistocene to the present day. Spanning archaeology, history, and cultural studies, the chapters argue that, more than a concept, the body is simultaneously a collection of gestures and comportments that can vary from one era to the next. In a world transfixed by the prospects for robotic and bionic engineering, where the body/technology boundary is becoming increasingly porous and zombies are everywhere, this beautifully written study demonstrates how the body itself has always been in history.' Daniel Lord Smail, Harvard University, Massachusetts

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    Product details

    • Date Published: February 2016
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521124119
    • length: 300 pages
    • dimensions: 281 x 216 x 15 mm
    • weight: 0.85kg
    • contains: 179 b/w illus. 27 colour illus. 3 maps
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. O brave new world, that has such people in it Oliver Harris and John Robb
    2. Body worlds and their history: some working concepts Oliver Harris and John Robb
    3. The limits of the body Dušan Borić, Oliver Harris, Preston Miracle and John Robb
    4. The body in its social context Oliver Harris, Katharina Rebay-Salisbury, John Robb and Marie Louise Stig Sørensen
    5. The body and politics Oliver Harris, Jessica Hughes, Robin Osborne, John Robb and Simon Stoddart
    6. The body and god Oliver Harris and John Robb
    7. The body in the age of knowledge Oliver Harris, John Robb and Sarah Tarlow
    8. The body in the age of technology Oliver Harris, Maryon McDonald and John Robb
    9. The body in history: a concluding essay Oliver Harris and John Robb
    10. Epilogue Marilyn Strathern.

  • Editors

    John Robb, University of Cambridge
    John Robb is Reader in European Prehistory at the University of Cambridge. He has worked extensively in Central Mediterranean prehistory and archaeological theory and human skeletal studies, and is the author of The Early Mediterranean Village (Cambridge, 2007). He edits the Cambridge Archaeological Journal and is currently researching prehistoric art in Europe.

    Oliver J. T. Harris, University of Leicester
    Oliver J. T. Harris is Lecturer in Archaeology at the University of Leicester. He is the co-director of the Ardnamurchan Transitions Project, which examines the long-term occupation of the Ardnamurchan peninsula in western Scotland and excavates sites from all periods including Neolithic, Bronze Age, Iron Age, Viking and post-Medieval. He has published on Neolithic Britain and archaeological theory in a range of journals including Archaeological Dialogues, World Archaeology and the European Journal of Archaeology. He is currently writing a book on the archaeology of communities.


    Oliver Harris, John Robb, Dušan Borić, Preston Miracle, Katharina Rebay-Salisbury, Marie Louise Stig Sørensen, Jessica Hughes, Robin Osborne, Simon Stoddart, Sarah Tarlow, Maryon McDonald, Marilyn Strathern


    • Winner of the 2013 PROSE Award for Excellence in the Social Sciences
    • Winner of the 2013 PROSE Award for Archaeology and Anthropology

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