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Dreaming, old age, and melancholia in the Early Modern era

  • Free
  • Discussion
  • British Sign Language
  • Captioned (online)

What you'll see

Watch this recording of an event where three researchers discuss current research on dreaming, old age, and melancholia in the Early Modern era.

Niall Boyce will discuss how people understood the gap between sleeping and waking. His research uses private notebooks, pamphlets, and stage plays to explore how people understood what happens to a person when waking consciousness ends and dreaming begins.

Amie Bolissian will discuss how medicine approached ageing health in early modern England, beliefs about older bodies, and how searches for evidence of this in the Wellcome collection revealed that 'old' did not always means 'old' in the sources!

Emily Betz will reflect on how cultural context shapes the way we view illness by looking at the multiplicity of identities associated with melancholy in eighteenth-century England.

The panel will be facilitated by Dr Elaine Leong who works on early modern histories of science, medicine, technology, gender and books.

This event was online only and was livestreamed on Wellcome Collection’s YouTube channel. It had BSL and live captions.



Need to know


Booking a ticket guarantees you entry to the online event. You will be given joining instructions in your confirmation email.

British Sign Language

This event is British Sign Language interpreted. An interpreter will be embedded in the event stream/visible to all attendees and will interpret what is discussed into BSL for d/Deaf, hard of hearing and deafened attendees.

Captioned (online)

The online event will have live captions, which may be useful for people who are D/deaf, hard of hearing, deafened or neurodiverse. The captions will be embedded in the event video window online. Ticketholders for the livestream will also receive a link to view the captions in a separate window.

For more information, please visit our Accessibility page. If you have any queries about accessibility, please email us at access@wellcomecollection.org or call 0 2 0. 7 6 1 1. 2 2 2 2

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About your contributors

A black and white photograph of a South Asian woman looking directly at the camera and smiling.

Elaine Leong


Dr Elaine Leong is a researcher at the History Department of University College, London. She supervises PhD students working on early modern history of science, medicine and technology, gender history and book history. She has interests in the history of the everyday and of the domestic sphere, print and manuscript cultures, histories of archives and of notetaking, and translation and processes of vernacularizing.

Black and white photograph of the head and shoulders of a young white woman looking straight at the camera. Behind her are bookshelves full of books.

Amie Bolissian


Dr Amie Bolissian is a Lecturer at the University of Reading specialising in early modern British history of medicine, emotions, old age, disability, and the body from the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries. Her Wellcome-funded PhD thesis was titled, ‘The Aged Patient in Early Modern England: Perceptions and Experiences of Health and Medicine in Old Age, c.1570-1730’.

Black and white photograph of a white man looking directly at the camera and smiling. A framed black square is behind him.

Niall Boyce


Niall Boyce is Head of Field Building in the Mental Health team at Wellcome Collection. Before joining Wellcome, he was the Editor-in-Chief of The Lancet Psychiatry, and prior to that, he worked as a psychiatrist in north London. He is currently also a PhD candidate at Birkbeck University, London researching ‘Am I not my selfe at that time?’: Sleep, dreams, and selfhood in early modern England’. 

Black and white photograph of a young, white woman with long fair hair looking directly at the camera and smiling.

Emily Betz


Emily Betz is a PhD candidate at the University of St Andrews. Her thesis 'The “English Disease”: Identities of Melancholy in Early Modern England' explores the multiplicity of identities associated with the disease of melancholia between 1580 and 1789. She is also interested in the history of religion and serves as the social media officer for the Ecclesiastical History Society.