Sleeping well in the early modern world: an environmental approach to the history of sleep care


  • Prof Sasha Handley

    University of Manchester, United Kingdom

Project summary

This activity will establish Salford's Ordsall Hall (OH), a free-to-access heritage property, as a dynamic site for developing public healthcare knowledge and engagement for its 35,000 annual users. It will also offer a case study of how other UK heritage organisations can encourage positive health outcomes for their users by making public healthcare a focal point of public and learning programmes. OH's 2.5 acres of organically-managed gardens will become a site for cultivating and analysing plant species that were widely used in early modern sleep-care routines, from soporific tonics to foodstuffs. A series of workshops with OH's users will involve them in planting and cultivation, and in remaking experiments based on historical sleep recipes. The PI's team will use their digital microscopy expertise to reveal the material qualities of individual plants, which will enrich the research project. The workshops will generate material for learning resources, vlogs, and recipe cards for OH's users, in which Salford schools feature strongly (c.40 schools). This activity supports the Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE) learning objectives now mandatory in UK primary and secondary schools, which emphasise the importance of, and connections between 'sufficient sleep' and 'time spent outdoors' for physical and mental health. The project will encourage positive health outcomes for OH's users by juxtaposing historic sleep-care practices with current healthcare concerns about sleep quality. Project outcomes will be scaled through the project website, and through strategic webinars with the Museums Association, GEM (Group for Education and Museums), and the Historic Houses Association.