Rhythmic history: Towards a new research agenda for the history of health and medicine

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Rhythm characterizes life on Earth. Daily physiological rhythms of eating and fasting, sleeping and waking, moving and resting, are common to almost all life forms which evolved under the solar light–dark cycle. Despite their ubiquity, historians of health and medicine have yet to grapple with the lived experiences of these daily rhythms in the past. This paper presents a potential new research agenda in ‘rhythmic history’ that understands rhythmicity as something which lies between biology and culture. Thinking with rhythms offers exciting opportunities to unite previously disparate historical studies of daily rhythms like eating and sleeping and opens up a new way to view the enmeshed connections between body and environment. In this paper, I take inspiration from the scientific concept of the ‘zeitgeber’ (‘time giver’), coined by the German chronobiologist Jürgen Aschoff, to frame a review of current literature relating to rhythms and explore Henry Lefebvre's notion of ‘rhythmanalysis’ as a methodological tool for historians undertaking ‘rhythmic histories’.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100846
Issue number4
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 2022

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© 2022 The Author

    Research areas

  • Circadian rhythms, Historiography, Medicine, Methodology, Physiology, Rhythmic history

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