The body has a history, and that history serves political functions, as well as giving meaning to our lives. Today the meanings of the body, of physicality, sexed identity, and lived experience, is more controversial than ever before. But those meanings have always been contested. And the emergence of scientific medicine in the 19th century did much to create hierarchies of race and gender, many of which continue to serve functions in the present.

Being aware of the history of the body helps us disentangle the ways in which we are – and are not – defined by the limits of the flesh. My book This Mortal Coil: The Human Body in History and Culture explores the meanings of the body from the classical period to the present day. From the bones to the  guts, from the heart to the clitoris, it shows that every part of our bodies have a history, and that history informs the present.