Episode 27: Tears

Tuesday, March 14th, 2017

‘I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat’ (Winston Churchill). For this episode let us join the colossus of cultural history, Professor James Daybell, and the pastor of past times, Dr Sam Willis, as they give voice to words that weep to bring you the unexpected history of tears. Our threnodic duo will stir up a requiem of lamentations as they take us on a journey from the Reformation and the rise of stoic Protestantism to the stiff upper lip of English colonial rule, from Darwin’s 1872 publication ‘The Expressions of the Emotions in Man and Animals’ to the French neurologist Duchenne de Boulogne and his terrifying experiments published in ‘Le Mecanisme de la Physionomie Humaine’ (1862), from sixteenth-century childrearing practices to the memoirs of a Parisian exile living in Nice in 1942, and from Turner’s paintings to Albert Camus’ L’Etranger and his epicureanistic character Meursault.

James and Sam shake the water from their eyes to discover that this unexpected history is actually all about: symbolism, emotion, empire, science, life cycles, communication, gender, remembrance, experience, space, response, empathy, control, culture and quite a bit of mucus too!

Want to know if camels cry? Or dogs? Or how about Oliver Cromwell? Quite a blubber apparently! This episode does come with a warning – please do not attempt Darwin’s experiment to elicit a tearful response from his own very young child on any children you may encounter, it is now frowned upon.

‘There is pleasure in tears – an awful pleasure!’ (author unknown)


More Podcasts


27, 7, 2021 - In this latest episode, the Unexpected duo, Professor James Daybell and Dr Sam Willis uncover .... Read More


8, 2, 2021 - In this BONUS episode, the Histories of the Unexpected duo, James and Sam, tackle the expected .... Read More

86. End of summer catch up

8, 10, 2018 - Dr Sam Willis and Professor James Daybell talk about just what on earth they’ve been up .... Read More

Subscribe to our newsletter

Keep up to date with Histories of the Unexpected