The latest strand of this wider research project is bringing digital methods to bear on the history of eating, vitality and longevity before nutrition science. Supported by an award of £10,000 from the British Academy and JISC, “Eating Yourself Young” is exploring the UK Medical Heritage Library to identify connections between medical and popular texts on how diet contributed to longevity and bodily vitality. The project is investigating how ideas about what constituted a “healthy diet” changed in an era before vitamins and a scientific approach to nutrition management. What was “healthy eating” before these ideas came to dominate? How was it practised? What did medical texts say about the importance of food and diet? And how were these ideas reflected in historical recipes? The project is funded through the new Digital Research in the Humanities programme.
Alongside the work of Principal Investigator Dr James Stark, the project’s Research Assistant, Richard Bellis, is transcribing unique manuscript recipes of the Cookery Collection held in Special Collections at the University of Leeds. As well as these critical transcriptions, the project team will be drawing on diet and nutrition as a case study in interdisciplinarity in Victorian science for a chapter in a proposed edited collection to be published with the University of Chicago Press.