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Gout shoes and the material culture of disability in Georgian Britain

Tuesday 15 March 2022, 4.30PM to 6.00pm

Speaker(s): Matthew McCormack, Professor of History, University of Northampton

Gout is a painful inflammation of the extremities, which typically affects the feet and lower legs. Whereas nowadays it is associated with social deprivation – due to contributory factors of poor diet, lack of exercise and alcoholism – in the eighteenth century it was famously associated with elite men.

As today, gout could not be cured, but was best managed through medicine, lifestyle changes and assistive technologies. This paper will focus on what Georgians wore on their feet in order to palliate and manage the gout, including outsize ‘gouty shoes’, adaptations to existing footwear and flannel ‘bootikins’. Drawing on medical literature, life writings, satirical prints and surviving examples of gout shoes themselves, it will think about footwear in terms of material culture and masculinity.

It is part of a wider project on men’s shoes, but will also make a contribution to the history of disability, by thinking about the lived experience of gout sufferers, and the way that material objects served to construct their disability in social and cultural terms.

Location: K/GO7 Seminar Room, King’s Manor