Pain is born out of a combination of cultural, social, and individual factors: it has not had the same significance for all people in all times at all places. The ambivalent role pain has played in medieval religious self-flagellation, childbirth both before and after anaesthetics, or modern BDSM practices reveal how humans’ relationship to pain is deeply situational and affected by their gender, age, culture, and religious and philosophical beliefs.
This project examines, for the first time, the long-term history of embodied experiences of pain in the Anglo-American world during the period c.1600–1900. Analysing a broad variety of ego-documents describing emotional and sensory pain of a variety of individuals, the project traces historical breaks and continuities in how pain was experienced and expressed in the British Atlantic world and how social, cultural, and temporal change affected its embodiment on both an individual and social level.
The project started in September 2022, in the University of Helsinki. In this blog, we will share the steps in our journey and short pieces of interesting cases in our research. We hope you all enjoy following our research project!