Soaking up the rays

Light therapy and visual culture in Britain, c. 1890–1940

By Tania Anne Woloshyn

Soaking up the rays

Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-1-7849-9512-6
  • Pages: 288
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £45.00
  • Published Date: August 2017
  • BIC Category: MEDICAL / History, Humanities / 20th century history: c 1900 to c 2000, Complementary Medicine, Humanities / British & Irish history, Medicine / History of medicine, The arts / History of art / art & design styles, History of art, European history, MEDICAL / Alternative & Complementary Medicine, HISTORY / Modern / 20th Century, HISTORY / Europe / Great Britain, ART / History / General, History, History of medicine


There is an Open Access edition of this book with a CC-BY-NC-ND license. Soaking up the rays forges a new path for exploring Britain's fickle love of the light by investigating the beginnings of light therapy in the country from c. 1890-1940. Despite rapidly becoming a leading treatment for tuberculosis, rickets and other infections and skin diseases, light therapy was a contentious medical practice. Bodily exposure to light, whether for therapeutic or aesthetic ends, persists as a contested subject to this day: recommended to counter skin conditions as well as Seasonal Affective Disorder and depression; closely linked to notions of beauty, happiness and well-being, fuelling tourism abroad and the tanning industry at home; and yet with repeated health warnings that it is a dangerous carcinogen.

By analysing archival photographs, illustrated medical texts, advertisements, lamps, and goggles and their visual representation of how light acted upon the body, Woloshyn assesses their complicated contribution to the founding of light therapy.


'Soaking up the Rays displays a reflective methodology and meticulously detailed approach to analysing visual cultures. Woloshyn's transferable toolkit can be both studied and applied by researchers to evaluate their own contentious histories and complex layers of visual representation.'
Fabiola Creed, University of Warwick, Social History of Medicine, Volume 32, Issue 2, May 2019


1 Consuming light
2 Dosing sunburn
3 Light registers
4 Vanguard rays
5 Photogenic suntans
6 Dead points

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