Episode 6: Hair

Friday, October 28th, 2016

Let us join our host with the Cranium full of Chronicles, Professor James Daybell, and the Authority of the Archives, Dr Sam Willis as they bob and weave their way through the unexpected history of hair. From the Duke of Wellington and theories of Great Men in history, tonsures and ritual practices, to the political implications of French provocation at sea.

“Like quills upon the fretful porpentine” they make the hair-raising links via the Bodleian Library, Romsey Abbey, and French ballrooms. It’s enough to turn one’s hair grey; for which P. G. Wodehouse suggests there is only one cure, the guillotine. Too drastic, how about this: Roman ladies were supposed to use pigeon poo to lighten their hair, or there’s always the sixteenth century cure for baldness to consider … boiled slugs and honey anyone?


“There’s many a man hath more hair than wit (William Shakespeare, A Comedy of Errors, Act II, Scene 2).

But worry not for this is no Comedy of Errors and there’s certainly more to this unexpected history.

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