About

I’m Helen King, also writing as fluff35 in a number of other contexts (e.g. Twitter). I retired as a Professor of Classical History early in 2017. I’d worked in the full range of higher education institutions in the UK, including a former teacher training college, Oxbridge, the Russell Group and the 1992 group, ending my career by moving as far as you can go in UK HE without falling off the edge: at The Open University. I was trained initially in Ancient History and Social Anthropology, and at various times worked as the only ancient historian in a History department, as a member of a Classics or Classical Studies department, and as a member of a History department. I’ve also held various visiting posts outside the UK. I reflected on my career path here and I’m still thinking about the process of retiring, and what I’ve learned over the years, here. From my PhD on ancient menstruation (yes, that’s what I said) onwards, I’ve been interested in the history of the body: what links us most firmly to the people of the past (we’ve all got bodies…) yet also something which shows how very differently we’ve understood those bodies.

In the last few years, I’ve become increasingly concerned about how claims about the past are repeated and defended, particularly online. So I’ve written a series of blog posts addressing this in the context of the history of the body, most of these originally produced for a collective blog called Wonders & Marvels. With the site’s permission, I’ve reposted these here, but in a different order to that in which I wrote them. It’s been fun for me looking at the themes and working out how to reorder the material, and I hope you find the blog interesting and helpful! I continue to add to it, usually when stimulated by a particularly crass example of Bad History.

I believe very strongly in opening up access to the past, so I’ve also put together a MOOC, ‘Health and Wellbeing in the Ancient World’, which could be what you need if you want to find out more about ancient medicine. It lasts 6 weeks, it’s free, and it will be running twice a year.

Things I’ve published:

There’s a full-ish list here, which includes some free online things like ‘Sex and gender: the Hippocratic case of Phaethousa and her beard‘ and ‘Galen and the widow: towards a history of therapeutic masturbation in ancient gynaecology‘. I’ve also written a series of articles for the U.K. edition of The Conversation, including The obscure history of the ‘virgins’ disease’ that could be cured with sex, which with over 600,000 hits is still the most read of all the Open University articles up there!

My books include a small cheerful book, Greek and Roman Medicine, Bristol Classical Press, 2001, as well as these:

The One-Sex Body on Trial: The Classical and Early Modern Evidence, Aldershot: Ashgate, 2013

Midwifery, Obstetrics and the Rise of Gynaecology: Users of a Sixteenth-Century Compendium, Ashgate, 2007

The Disease of Virgins: Green Sickness, Chlorosis and the Problems of Puberty, Routledge, 2004

Hippocrates’ Woman: Reading the Female Body in Ancient Greece, Routledge, 1998

Hysteria Beyond Freud (written with S. Gilman, R. Porter, G.S. Rousseau and E. Showalter), University of California Press, 1993