Marsha Wubbels

Marsha is a third-year PhD student at the University of Exeter, working on popular practices concerning diet, exercise, and body weighing in eighteenth-century England. She completed both her BA and MA at the University of Exeter with a focus on the history of medicine. The title of her MA thesis was: “Indisposed to Stir’: the role of motion, exercise and physical (in)capacity in discussions of the fat body in English Health Literature, 1680-1820’.

Experience as a Santorio Fellow

The 2021 CSMBR Summer School has been an unforgettable experience and I am immensely grateful for having had the opportunity to attend it. The presence and presentations of many scholars of note including Vivian Nutton, Michael Stolberg, and Fabrizio Bigotti to mention but a few, have given me a much deeper understanding of the early modern body and how it was measured and understood, and the presentations and lectures of the Summer School have provided me with new perspectives and fresh inspiration for my own research project. There was a vast array of specialisations and fields, which rather than disjoint and confuse, in fact offered a rich exploration of the early modern body that cannot be found elsewhere.


Despite not being able to meet in person, yet the summer school still provided that opportunity to learn from and connect with senior scholars and fellow researchers that is usually only to be had from (face-to-face) conferences. Thus, it provided an excellent opportunity to learn of other relevant research projects, papers and books, and to potentially establish future connections and potential collaborations. The Summer School fostered a relaxed environment where all those present were able to ask questions and provide feedback after every paper. As a result, these questions often were just as informing and stimulating as the papers themselves.


In addition to this, the Summer School gave me the opportunity to present my current research to senior scholars in my field as well as fellow researchers with similar interests to my own. This led to valuable feedback which has already helped me improve the paper which I presented and has given me the confidence to submit this paper for publication.


The content of the wide variety of papers at the Summer School has also given me new avenues of thought to explore within my own research project. For example, Holly Fletcher’s paper on the materiality of body weight has made me consider the role of clothing in understanding the encumbered fat body, thus potentially adding a new perspective to my way of thinking about the fat body in the early modern period. Michael Stolberg’s paper has made me reassess how physicians in the renaissance defined sickness and health and has convinced me to look again more critically at previous scholarship on this matter. As such, papers such as these have had a very direct impact on my own research and the direction it will take in the future.


In conclusion, the Summer School 2021 has been a fantastic and unique experience that has enriched both my research, as well as myself, as an early career researcher. The fascinating discussions that took place, and the plethora of new ideas and perspectives will undoubtedly have a lasting impact on my research project specifically, but also on my academic career generally.