Holly Fletcher

Holly Fletcher completed her BA, MPhil and PhD (2020) at the University of Cambridge.

Her doctoral research, which was funded by the Cambridge Trust, explored the cultural significance of bodyweight in early modern Germany. Following her PhD she taught undergraduate History at the University of Sussex, convening a Special Subject on early modern witches and witch-hunts.

From October 2021 she will take up a postdoctoral position at the University of Manchester, working on the Wellcome Trust funded project ‘Sleeping Well in the Early Modern World: An Environmental Approach to the History of Sleep Care’.


Experience as a Santorio Fellow

The 2021 CSMBR Summer School ‘Latitudes of the Body’ was an excellent event based around the exciting topic of human-based measurement in the early modern period. This was a subject that spoke closely to my own doctoral research on bodyweight in sixteenth-century Germany, for which I explored the proportion studies of the artist Albrecht Dürer as well the role of clothing in the measurement and experience of bodily form. I was particularly interested, therefore, in the event’s discussion of the ‘three-dimensionality of the body’ in theories of proportion, as this aligned with my own investigation of Dürer’s interest in bodily forms which did not fit within standardised canons of measurement. I was also excited by the event’s interest in the relationship between measurement and the senses, as in my work on clothing and bodyweight I suggest that clothing shaped the sensation of personal bodily proportion in the early modern period. Receiving the Santorio Fellowship gave me the opportunity to present my ideas on measurement and bodyweight to the speakers and attendees, and the feedback I received will be invaluable as I prepare my forthcoming monograph based on this research. The comments and questions from the group have not only helped me to develop my existing arguments but have also suggested new avenues of research which I am looking forward to pursuing.

Moreover, engaging with the other speakers at the Summer School has enriched my understanding of human-based measurement more broadly, introducing me to new ways of thinking about measurement and the body, including in relation to music, colour, taste and the environment.

It has been a privilege to learn from such eminent scholars in the history of art and medicine and I have no doubt that what I have learnt at the CSMBR Summer School will inform my future work on the history of the body.

As a Santorio Fellow I have also benefitted from other opportunities offered by the CSMBR, as I have been invited to speak on the panel ‘Extreme Bodies: Norms, Excess and Transgression in Western Medicine’ in Vienna this September. Like the Summer School, my involvement in this panel will allow me to share my research with an international audience which I may not otherwise have had access to without the support of the CSMBR.

Holly Fletcher