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A Curious History of the Gut

Cover of 'Rumbles: A Curious History of the Gut' by Elsa Richardson

A Financial Times most anticipated read for 2024.

The stomach is notoriously outspoken. It growls, gurgles and grumbles while other organs remain silent, inconspicuous and content.  

For centuries humans have puzzled over this rowdy, often overzealous organ, deliberating on the extent of its influence over cognition, mental wellbeing and emotions, and wondering how the gut became so central to our sense of self.

Travelling from Ancient Greece to Victorian England, 18th-century France to modern America, cultural historian Elsa Richardson leads us on a lively tour of the gut, exploring all the ways that we have imagined, theorised and probed the mysteries of the gastroenterological system.  

We’ll meet a wildly diverse cast of characters, including Edwardian body builders, hunger-striking suffragettes, demons, medieval alchemists, and one poor teenage girl plagued by a remarkably vocal gut, all united by this singular organ. 

Engaging, eye-opening and thought-provoking, ‘Rumbles’ leaves no stone unturned, scrutinising religious tracts and etiquette guides, satirical cartoons and political pamphlets in its quest to answer the millennia-old question: Are we really ruled by our stomachs?

Read an extract from the book

Date published
336 pages

About the author

Elsa Richardson

Elsa Richardson is an academic at the University of Strathclyde. She holds a Chancellor’s Fellowship in the History of Health and Wellbeing at the Centre for the Social History of Health and Healthcare. In addition to lecturing in the history of medicine and her own research, she also curates arts and science events for public institutions, including Wellcome Collection. In 2018 she was named one of ten New Generation Thinkers by BBC Radio 3, BBC Arts, and the Arts and Humanities Research Council.