My doctoral project, supervised by Dr Dániel Margócsy and Professor Liba Taub, investigates concepts of atmospheric toxicity in medieval and early modern English thought between 1300 and 1600. I approach this topic through several areas, including the threat of decaying matter, mitigation of stagnant air in valleys, mineshafts, and the holds of ships, and the toxicology of poisonous minerals and plants. Using vernacular texts on medicine and natural philosophy, the project closely examines the language and context of these various types of ‘bad air’, and their perceived impact on both human health and the surrounding landscape. It challenges the focus on pollution in historical studies of the atmosphere and attempts to recapture a ‘pre-Anthropocene’ history of the air in the contemporary context of climate change and the spread of air-borne diseases.
The project is funded jointly by the Open-Oxford-Cambridge AHRC DTP and Selwyn College, Cambridge, and builds on research undertaken for my MA in History at Durham University. As well as the histories of science and medicine, I am interested in environmental history and ecocriticism, and am a member of the Northern Environmental History Network.