The June 22, 2012, edition of the The Chronicle of Higher Education‘s Chronicle Review magazine includes a Nota Bene feature on the Press’ Studies in Sensory History series and Constance Classen’s new book The Deepest Sense: A Cultural History of Touch.
“Given how much of human experience involves touch and feel, it’s odd that those senses have been overlooked by most historians. . . . A major appeal of Classen’s new book is her account of the Industrial Revolution. Workers became cogs, less masters of the machinery than its servants. But before that could happen, Classen suggests, expectations of the human body had to change. In the late 16th century, for example, the military ‘drill’ emerged to mold fighting bodies by breaking down and reshaping the way the soldiers responded to their commanders. This practice seeped into prisons, schools, and much later even the Salvation Army, whose adherents drilled, too. . . . Mark M. Smith, a professor of history at the University of South Carolina who is the series’ general editor, is one of the most prominent figures in the study of sensory history. ‘I don’t think of sensory history as a field,’ he says, ‘but as a habit of historical inquiry, one that transcends discrete fields of inquiry and discipline.’”