Two four-year postdocs on the environmental history of sleep

Two postdoc positions are available at the University of Manchester to work on the environmental history of sleep.

Two Postdoctoral Research Associates will support the Wellcome Trust Investigator Award project Sleeping well in the early modern world: an environmental approach to the history of sleep care, coordinated by Professor Sasha Handley.   

This project will be the first to define and analyse sleep habits as historically-situated environmental practices. It investigates how and why communities in Britain, Ireland and England’s emerging American colonies c.1500-1750 self-consciously engaged with their physical surroundings in an effort to sleep well and safeguard their health. The project will uncover an environmentally informed culture of ‘sleep care’, its conceptual underpinnings, and its manifestation in a range of everyday ‘sleep care’ practices from the preparation of soporific tonics to the composition of bedding materials. As such, it will demonstrate that sleeping well’ involved much more than simply avoiding sleep disorders or coping with sleep loss.

The project is organised into the following four work packages:

1. Latitudes of sleep: 

Which climatological, meteorological and topographical factors were judged to affect sleep quality? What material strategies did people deploy to control the photic and thermal conditions of their sleep environments at different times of year? 

2. Sleep dietetics: 

What foodstuffs were consumed and prepared to support healthy sleep in different localities? How did shifts in dietetic advice and physiological knowledge affect sleep care practices? Who were the chief agents of soporific food sourcing and preparation?)

3. Plant cultivation and botanical soporifics: 

Which botanical materials were used to support healthy sleep in a period of rapid environmental change? How far did new botanical knowledge and changing views of sleep physiology influence the use/composition of botanical soporifics? Who were the chief agents of soporific plant cultivation, preparation and application? 

4. Multispecies sleep: 

How did the labour demands of agricultural work direct human sleep timings and spaces? How far did interactions with domestic animals, livestock, and wild animals in different localities direct the sensory dimensions of human sleep? In what ways did animal produce regulate sleep’s material environments? 

Both posts are for 48 months (fixed term).

Applications close on 19 April 2021.

Enquiries to Professor Sasha Handley

Full details and further particulars:

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