Sex, Disease and Fertility in History

28 September 2015 - 30 September 2015

CRASSH, Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road, CB3 9DT - SG1&2

This is a closed event. If you are interested in attending, please contact one of the conveners.

Conveners

Simon Szreter (Faculty of History)
Rebecca Flemming (Faculty of Classics)
Lauren Kassell (Department of History and Philosophy of Science)

Summary

This conference, conducted under the aegis of  the current 5-year Wellcome Strategic Award to the History and Philosophy of Science Department, ‘Generation to Reproduction’, has been designed to capitalise on an interdisciplinary approach. It aims to further our understanding of the role of the venereal diseases in influencing the fertility of populations in the past. It will do so by bringing together medical, social and cultural historians with scholars from other disciplines with a knowledge of the biology, epidemiology and demography of the venereal diseases and their likely impact on fertility in the pre-HIV-AIDs era.

Demographic history has been a major knowledge growth area, internationally, during the last five decades or so and Cambridge’s History Faculty and Geography Department have both played and continue to play a leading role in this inter-disciplinary field.  Understandings of the inter-related processes of fertility and mortality lie at the centre of the study of demographic change. While much has been explored and learned, there remains a paucity of specifically demographic study of the relationship between diseases and fertility, in relation to accounts of the many large-scale demographic changes that have been documented. The principal diseases that are known to affect fertility – both directly and through their culturally-mediated impact on sexual behaviour-  are the sexually-transmitted diseases of gonorrhoea and syphilis, although a range of other such diseases, notably Chlamydia, may also have been significant in the past. The conference is convened to focus primarily on this relationship between sex, disease and fertility, although it will also be interested in other diseases affecting fertility either directly or through their consequences for sexual behaviour.

Scientific, medical practitioner and lay understandings of the ‘venereal’ diseases have each been subject to great variation and change in different societies throughout the past. These changing understandings have influenced, in different ways, both cultural values and social and sexual behaviour, with consequences also for fertility and reproduction. Therefore this conference will also be hearing from scholars with research that can throw light on this aspect of the relationship between disease, sex and fertility.

It is the first conference in a long time- quite probably ever- to address this issue and is likely to produce important new insights and to identify future research proposals, drawing from an interdisciplinary dialogue between biology and history.

 

Sponsors

            

Supported by the Centre for Research in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences (CRASSH), Pembroke College and St John’s College at the University of Cambridge and the Wellcome Trust.

Accommodation for speakers selected through the call for papers and non-paper giving delegates

We are unable to arrange or book accommodation, however, the following websites may be of help.

Visit Cambridge
Cambridge Rooms
University of Cambridge accommodation webpage

Administrative assistance: conferences@crassh.cam.ac.uk

DAY 1 - Monday 28 September

10.00-10.30

Registration & Coffee

10.30-11.00

Welcome and Introduction

11.00-12.45

THEME 1: PRESENCE AND PREVALENCE: UNDERSTANDINGS OF SEX AND DISEASE

1A. Syphilis, Treponemas and Gonorrhoea

  • Charlotte Roberts (Durham): 'The history of treponematosis continues to be one of the most contentious issues in science' — some perspectives from bioarchaeology
  • Rebecca Flemming (Cambridge): (The wrong sort of) Gonorrhoea in antiquity

Chair: Gabriella Zuccolin (Cambridge)

12.45-13.45

Lunch

13.45-15.45

1B. Chlamydia

  • Hugh Taylor (Melbourne, Australia): Chlamydia Trachomatis in Humans and other species- the long-term perspective
  • Mick Worboys (Manchester): NGU, NSU and Chlamydia in British medicine c.1900–2000

Chair: Anne Hardy (London School of Hygiene)

15.45-16.15

Tea break

16.15-18.00

1C ‘Venereal disease’

  • Claudia Stein (Warwick): What Is the French Pox and And Does it Actually Matter? Methodological Approaches and Historical Challenges in the History of Disease
  • Anne Hanley (Oxford): Changing medical knowledge and practice: syphilis and gonorrhoea c.1870-1920

Chair: Michell Wallis (Cambridge)

18.15-19.30

Drinks Reception at the Faculty of Classics

19.30

Dinner in a local restaurant

DAY 2 - Tuesday 29 September

9.00-10.45

THEME 2: FOCUSING ON FERTILITY AND INFERTILITY

2A. Models and Behaviour

  • Katy Turner (NIHR Research Fellow, Social & Community Medicine, Bristol): Modelling sexually-transmitted infections: rates of partner change, transmission probability and duration of infectiousness.
  • Shane Doyle (Leeds): STDs and sexual behaviour in early- and mid-twentieth-century E. Africa

Chair: Richard Smith (Cambridge)

10.45-11.15

Coffee break

11.15-12.30

2B. Venereal Diseases and Infertility in 18th Century Britain

  • Simon Szreter  and Kevin Siena (Cambridge; Trent University, Canada): An estimate of the infertility due to venereal diseases in modern English history, c.1775

Chair: Nick Hopwood (Cambridge)

12.30-13.30

Lunch

13.30-15.15

2C. Anthropology, Infertility and Disease

  • Tim Bayliss Smith (Cambridge): Population decline in 19th-century Island Melanesia: Aphrodisian cultural practices, sexually transmitted infections and low fertility
  • Janet McCalman (Melbourne, Australia): 'A wise provision of Nature for the prevention of too many children': From the casebooks of the Melbourne Women's Hospital, 1883–1909

Chair: Rich McKay (Cambridge)

15.15-15.45

Tea break

15.45-17.30

3A.* Perceptions of danger and sexual behaviour

  • Olivia Weisser (U of Mass, Boston): Treating the Secret Disease in Eighteenth-Century London
  • Jeremy Boulton (Newcastle, UK): Measuring sexual behaviour in Georgian London: bastardy ratios and bridal pregnancy

Chair: Victoria Harvey (Cambridge)

19.00

An Address to the conference by the Guest of Honour: Dr Roy Scragg OBE (Director of Public Health, Papua New Guinea 1957–70)

Lightfoot Room, Old Divinity School, Corfield Court, St John’s College.

19.30

Conference dinner: St John’s College, Wilberforce room

DAY 3 - Wednesday 30 September

9.00-10.45

THEME 3: SIN AND SEX, MORALITY AND INFERTILITY

2D.* Archaeology, astrology, fertility and disease

  • Rebecca Redfern (Museum of London): The Archaeology of Fertility and Disease
  • Lauren Kassell (Cambridge): Questions about sex and generation: poxes, fluxes and pregnancies in early modern casebooks

​Chair: Rebecca Flemming (Cambridge)

10.45-11.15

Coffee break

11.15-13.00

3B. Public discourse of venereal diseases and other causes of infertility

  • Fabrice Cahen (with Adrien Minard in absentia)  (INED, Paris): Venereal diseases, criminal abortion and secondary infertility in France c.1880–1940
  • Christina Benninghaus (Giessen, Germany): Venereal disease and very low fertility in Germany c.1870–1930

Chair: Lutz Sauerteig (Durham)

13.00-14.00

Lunch

14.00-15.30

FINAL PLENARY DISCUSSION: What have we learnt and where do we go from here?

* Sessions 3A and 2D transposed for timetabling convenience