The UK is now in the throes of an obesity epidemic. Life expectancy has been improving for centuries, advances in hygiene, science, public health and medicine have enabled us to live longer and to lead more productive lives but now obesity, on its own, is threatening to herald a reduction in life expectancy in coming generations. The number of overweight people in the world has overtaken the number of malnourished for the first time. Much has been written about the dietary medical and social causes of obesity yet little work has been done on the cultural history of the subject. In Fat, Gluttony and Sloth: Representing Obesity in Art Literature and Medicine, David W. Haslam, Clinical Director of the National Obesity Forum, and MD turned art history PhD Fiona Haslam set out to put the current obesity crisis in historical perspective. Through innovative and enlightening work on art, literature and the history of medicine the authors examine the changing meaning of `fat' in the public consciousness: from circus freaks to pharmacology, from `John Bull' to Billy Bunter. The authors' convincing argument is that present day food, fashion, fads and fat cannot be dissociated from history and that can be lessons learnt from the mistakes of the past.
David Haslam is Chairman and Clinical Director of the National Obesity Forum, and medical doctor. He is Visiting Lecturer at Chester University and Visiting Fellow at the Postgraduate Medical School of Herts & Beds. Fiona Haslam worked for many years in medical practice and in 1986, while still working she began her research into medicine and art, which resulted in the award of a doctorate from the University of St Andrews. She has written a number of articles on medicine and art and is the author of From Hogarth to Rowlandson: Medicine in Art in Eighteenth Century Britain (Liverpool University Press, 1996)