Skip to main content Skip to navigation

e-portfolio of Daniel Gettings

Sustaining Body and Soul: The Early Modern English and their water, 1550 - 1750

Supervisor: Beat Kümin


'But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life'

- John 4:14 KJV

'Innumerable are the Benefits, and so various the Uses thereof, both in the Generation, Nourishment and Increase of things, that some of the Wise Men have concluded, that water was the beginning of all things, and the first of all elements, and the most Potent, because it hath the mastery over all the rest...'

-Thomas Tryon, A discourse of waters... (1696) pp. 2-3

'by His Over-ruling Providence, sometimes makes the Heavens as Brass, parching the Ground with Scorching Droughts, and at other times opens the Bottles of Heaven, to wash away the hopeful Fruits of the Teeming Earth with Deluges of Water.'

Anonymous, Sad news from the countrey... (1674) pg. 3

Water holds an unusual and often contradictory place in human history. Without it, life itself is impossible but the destructive forces unleased through its abundance prove devastating to communities to this day. Early modern people would have been fundamentally aware of waters' associations with purification and re-birth through Christian theology, but also lived in a time where drowning represented a very real, almost omnipresent, threat to life. How did these contradictory natures contribute to understandings of water in this period? What did water mean to early modern people?

My thesis, supervised by Beat Kümin, looks to explore the relationship between people and water in early modern England. In recent years, historians have begun to pay more and more attention to water with several global histories written or in progress on the subject. However, the enormity of the task of studying water as a historical concept across not only all of time but the entire world has proved challenging. My thesis attempts to provide a different approach to this topic, focusing on a single nation rather than the entire world, but still adopting the broader thematic analysis that global history makes such excellent use of.


  • BA (Hons) History - University of Warwick, 2016-2019
  • MA Early Modern History - University of Warwick, 2019-2020
  • PhD History - University of Warwick, To be completed 2024

Conference Papers

  • Water: tool of violent repression and symbol of defiance in early modern English print

Media and Public (Dis)Order - University of Warwick and Technische Universität Dresden, Virtual Conference

  • ‘Internal’, ‘External’ and ‘Super essential’: water, environment and the early modern body

Department of History Postgraduate Conference 2021 - University of Warwick, Virtual Conference

  • ‘Streetlookers’ and confiscated pails: wells and the construction of community in early modern England

Warwick Food and Identity conference - University of Warwick, Virtual Conference

  • Sobriety, Life and Community: Water in the Early Modern English Public House

University of Bristol Drinking Studies Network Workshop

  • 'With wine the conduits flow': Water, Wine and morality in early modern England

Seventh International Convention on Food and Drink Studies - IEHCA, Tours, France.

  • Oppertunity in exhaustion: The social and economic freedom of water work in early modern England

Freedom and Work in Western Europe (c.1250 - 1750) - University of Exeter

  • 'That Water is Esteemed to Bee the Best and Wholsomest': The Production and Impact of Drinking Water Typologies in Early Modern England

FOOD! Gastronomic Discourse in Early Modern Europe, International Workshop - Medici Archive, Florence, Italy.

  • 'That Water is Esteemed to Bee the Best': The Production and Impact of Drinking Water Typologies in Early Modern England

2023 Multidisciplinary Graduate Conference in Premodern Studies - Newberry Library, Chicago, IL.

  • "The foundation to all good nourishment": Drinking water for good health in seventeenth century England

Dietary Dilemma's: Influencs on Consumer 'Choice' in Preindustrial societies, BrIAS Workshop - VUB, Brussels, Belgium

  • 'The myghtiest fast is water and bread': water, fasting and religious change in early modern England

Food and religion in early-modern Europe - Université de Lille, Lille, France

  • “The most plentiful and truly pleasant of all Drinks”: discourses of drinking water in Early Modern England

Boire à la Renaissance (XIVe-XVIIe siècle) 65e Colloque d’études humanistes 2023 - CESR, Tours, France

  • To drink or not to drink: understanding ‘types’ of water in seventeenth century England

Cabinet of Natural History - Seminar series - Department of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge

Conference Reports

  • Report for "Parish, Power and Politics. Nineteenth Warwick Symposium for Parish Research."

Online Publications

  • Forsaken baptisms and crocodile tears: how water revealed witchcraft in early modern England

  • 'Noisesome stinking scum': how Londeners protested river pollution in the 1600's

Public Engagement

  • Helped in the organisation of and provided content (a blog and video) for FEAST, an event celebrating global feast culture as part of the Coventry city of culture celebrations:
    • Coventry God Cakes: the sweet treat "peculiar to that place"


Humanities Building, Coventry, CV4 7AL

Office Hour:

Friday, 10-11 am

Humanities Building, 3.45