Thackray Museum of Medicine Insights Lecture Series: Dr Iona McCleery

Join Dr Iona McCleery from the School of History as she presents 'Feast and Famine' at the Thackray Museum of Medicine together with Dr Jonny Geber from the University of Edinburgh.

During the 14th–16th centuries, West Africa was a land of plenty with lots of nutritious foods able to sustain a large population. These foods were studied and recorded by travellers of the period, including many plants and animals deemed curative (though their pharmaceutical potential was seemingly forgotten in records from later colonial settlers). In short, this was not a land of famine at all. Today many West African countries are amongst the poorest in the world, life expectancy is low, and food security is a major concern. Dr Iona McCleery onsiders the combined impact of colonialism, the slave trade, and climate change on health and nutrition in West Africa from the 17th century onwards.

The Great Irish Famine had a devastating impact on the population of Ireland, particularly the poor and destitute, who despite their suffering were treated with disdain and contempt. One million people died, and hundreds of thousands were forced to seek relief in the workhouse. The skeletal remains of those who died give testimony to their excruciating hardship and toil, but also of resistance and communal identity. Dr Jonny Geber from the University of Edinburgh tells the stories of these misunderstood communities, and charts how bioarchaeology has helped to shed light on their lives from their perspective, to uncover the truth about their history.

This lecture is part of the Thackray Museum of Medicine Insights Lecture Series 2023/24.


This lecture will take place at the Thackray Museum of Medicine, Beckett Street, Leeds, LS9 7LN.

Booking details

This is a ticketed event. Book your ticket and find out more about the series on the museum’s website. All tickets include mid-morning refreshments and access to the museum.