Different Bodies in History


The history of different bodies in history was designed to introduce students to the concept of how bodies have been viewed throughout history.  This lesson was balanced between encouraging the students to build on their own knowledge while also teaching them to consider how notions such as normality and oddity have been impactful in history.  For the most recent version of this lesson, historical expertise in the classroom was provided by Dr Laura Kelly.

The different bodies lesson was written and originally presented by Dr Laura Kelly from the University of Strathclyde.  The lesson was written to introduce an understanding of the impact of words such as ‘freaks’ and expand on well-known but not always well-understood concepts such as ‘body presentation’, ‘disability and exploitation’, and ‘Darwinian notions of evolution’.

Food Fads: Lesson Presentation
Engagement and Practice:

The lesson was divided between presentation style teaching, group work and an exercise where the students were encouraged to imagine what a ‘freak’ in the latter 19th century would look like.   This was designed to include pupils as much as possible, through direct group work, question and answer / fill in the blanks sessions and summary sections.


  • Introduction of subject and staff
  • Open class questions ‘what does the word freak mean and create a mental picture of?’ (Broken up into impromptu open question and answer sessions) followed by an explanation of  some of the key ‘freaks’ from history.
  • Primary Source Activity – Group work and answer session from the worksheets based on matching names to historical ‘freaks’
  • Class exercise – work through the list on the sheet and discuss physical reaction, changes and relationship to wider society
  • Primary Source Activity – pupils draw their own freaks inline with 19th-century expectations of oddity.
  • Informal sum up and questions
  • Conclusion


Both Source Analysis exercises used the same sheet:

1. A source analysis sheet for reference to the media section of the lesson encourages pupils to consider the importance of content, context, bias and usefulness of source materials.

Source Analysis Worksheet
Please feel free to access the attached resources for this lesson.  All of the images and information is strictly provided for a non-commercial / education purposes.