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Milk Matters

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

What you’ll do

Watch an online discussion that will uncover how and why milk matters, historically, from two different perspectives.      

Professor Deborah Valenze will trace how cows’ milk has been used over time, and how commonplace milk became as it changed from a rural to an urban commodity. She will explore early modern medical theories about its effectiveness for treating ailments, ranging from melancholy to dyspepsia, and how these theories have contributed to myths about milk that persist today. 

Professor Hillary Nunn will discuss the properties of different milks used in early modern domestic recipes, including almond, ass and human milk. She will focus on the peculiar medicinal properties associated with red cows’ milk, drawing on manuscripts and books in Wellcome Collection’s archive.     

The event is facilitated by Julia Nurse, Research Development Specialist at Wellcome Collection. It took place on our YouTube channel and a recording of the event is now available. 

Milk’, a major new exhibition that explores our relationship with milk and its place in politics, society and culture, is now on in Gallery 1.



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

Our event terms and conditions

About your contributors

Photograph of Deborah Valenze

Deborah Valenze


Deborah Valenze is the Ann Whitney Olin Professor of History at Barnard College, Columbia University and the author of ‘Milk: A Local and Global History’ (Yale University Press, 2012). Her research has focused broadly on the relationship between British culture and economic life in the 18th and 19th centuries. Her most recent book, ‘The Invention of Scarcity: Malthus and the Margins of History’, will be published in June 2023.

Photograph of Hillary Nunn

Hillary Nunn


Hillary M Nunn is a professor of English at the University of Akron, Ohio. Her current research focuses on intersections between Renaissance literary culture and the era’s domestic medical texts and cookery books. With Madeline Bassnett she edited the collection ‘In the Kitchen, 1550–1800: Reading English Cooking at Home and Abroad’ (Amsterdam UP, 2022). She is a co-founding member of the Early Modern Recipes Online Collective (EMROC) and author of ‘Staging Anatomies: Dissection and Tragedy in the Early Stuart Era’ (Ashgate, 2005).

Black and white photograph of Julia Nurse, a white woman with brown hair, smiling. She wears an animal-print dress and the corners of paintings are visible in the background.

Julia Nurse


Julia Nurse is a collections research specialist at Wellcome Collection with a background in Art History and Museum Studies. She currently runs the Exploring Research programme, and has a particular interest in the medieval and early modern periods, especially the interaction of medicine, science and art within print culture.