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234 × 156 × 22 mm
240 pages
19 illustrations
14 Jan 2019

A History of Feelings Rob Boddice

What does it mean to feel something? What stimulates our desires, aspirations and dreams? Did our ancestors feel in the same way to us? Historians have tried to make sense of our feelings, passions, moods, emotions and sentiments over the last decade in a wave of new research. For the first time, however, Rob Boddice brings together the latest findings to trace the complex history of feelings from antiquity to the present.

A History of Feelings is a compelling account of the unsaid – the gestural, affective and experiential. Rob Boddice argues that how we feel is the dynamic product of the existence of our minds and bodies in moments of time and space. Using a progressive approach that integrates biological, anthropological and social and cultural factors, he describes the evolution of emotional encounters and individual experiences across the globe. Written by one of the world’s leading scholars of the history of emotions, this epic exploration of our affective life is essential reading for all those fascinated by our own well-being.

‘To what extent are the things we feel – happiness, sadness, anger – the result of the world around us? How much would the emotions of someone from, say, the 17th century, be recognisable to us today 400 years on? These are the kind of fascinating, if complex, questions posed by this original and ambitious book, which combines the latest research to explore centuries of feelings and how they related to wider society across centuries and continents.’ — History Revealed

The History of Feelings is an incisive, innovative, provocative book of unequaled scope. In it, Rob Boddice shows his fluency and facility not just with multiple languages, archaic and modern, but also with a vast body of scholarship distributed across several disciplines, including psychology; neuroscience; the history of medicine; rhetoric; and, of course, the history of emotions. This impressive volume should interest intellectual and emotional historians and historians of science. One would hope it would also attract the attention of psychologists, who would gain much from it.’ — Susan J. Matt, History Journal

‘Boddice has undertaken a task that he readily acknowledges may raise more than a few questions: to further understanding of how place and time affect the expression of human feelings. His "episodic" approach leads readers through classical literature, rhetoric, and even the works of Mary Wollstonecraft and Jane Austen to illustrate that the expression of feelings depends on words and audience, and that the history of how these have changed over time is evident and important. Perhaps the best illustration of this is Boddice's examination of the Age of Reason, a time when "Passions of the soul [were] framed outside the realm of reason," leading to a bifurcation of thought and feeling that remains an important part of human expression today. With his witty examination of how words and language change over time and his lament that the twenty-first-century reliance on emoji and phrases such as "all the feels" are wholly inadequate to fully express emotion, Boddice has written a book that will make readers ponder why the road from the past is littered with useful expressions for communicating how they feel. Recommended.’ — Choice

‘we can only understand emotions in the context of their culture and their time . . . According to [Boddice], emotionally charged concepts cannot simply be translated from one language, time or culture to another . . . critical and political . . . Boddice rages against the emphasis on happiness in the policies of many countries.’ — Dutch Review of Books

‘This novel and ambitious survey of emotions history will be a real boon for teachers in the field and a springboard for further research. The take on the current state of emotion in relation to the past is particularly challenging.’ — Dr. Peter N. Stearns, University Professor of History at George Mason University, USA

‘[a] fascinating book.’ — Professor Thomas Dixon, Director of the Centre for the History of the Emotions

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Rob Boddice is a Marie Skłodowska Curie Global Fellow based at Freie Universität Berlin and McGill University, Montreal. He is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and the author of The History of Emotions (2018), Pain: A Very Short Introduction (2017) and The Science of Sympathy: Morality, Evolution and Victorian Civilization (2016).

Introduction: Feeling for History

1 Archaic and Classical Passions
2 Rhetorical and Bodily Feelings
3 Motions and Machinations
4 The Age of Unreason
5 Senselessness and Insensibility
6 The Ministry of Happiness
Conclusion: The Value of Experience

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Photo Acknowledgements