Seminar: Dr Kathryn Woods (Warwick) 'No Carrots, No Carrots': Hair Colour, Humoral Medicine and Social Difference in Early Modern Britain'
At hustings for the Middlesex election in 1705, the mob cried out ‘No Carrots! No Carrots!’, taking aim at the red-haired children of the Whig candidate, Mr Barker. Quite what Mr Barker’s children had to do with these proceedings is unclear, but this instance reveals how hair colour informed aspects of people’s lived experiences, and could impact on the way people were perceived and treated by others in early modern Britain. Through analysis of anatomy texts, medical advice books, philosophical tracts, and beauty and hairdressing manuals, this paper examines what hair colour was thought to suggest about a person’s humoral ‘complexion’, physiology and social difference, and the medical, social and cultural meanings attached to different hair colours.
Investigation of changing conceptions of the causes of differences in hair colour and the meanings associated with specific hair colours, this paper will argue, reveals insights into the role of embodied appearance in social interaction; anatomy’s impact on physiological conceptions of the body; changing understandings of the boundaries between the ‘inner’ and ‘outer’ body; the decline of humouralism; ideas about national and racial difference; and, last but not least, the origins of many of those jeers still aimed at gingers in school yards up-and-down the country!