Before the nineteenth century, the term normal was rarely ever associated with human behaviour. Normal was a term used in maths: people weren’t normal – triangles were.
But from the 1830s, this branch of science really took off across Europe and North America, with a proliferation of IQ tests, sex studies, a census of hallucinations – even a UK beauty map (which concluded the women in Aberdeen were “the most repellent”). This book tells the surprising history of how the very notion of the normal came about, how it shaped us all, often while entrenching oppressive values. Sarah Chaney looks at why we’re still asking the internet: Do I have a normal body? Is my sex life normal? Are my kids normal? And along the way, she challenges why we ever thought it might be a desirable thing to be.
*A Telegraph Best Book for Summer 2022*
*As heard on BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour*
*A Blackwell’s Book of the Year*
‘Excellent … one of those rare pop-science books that make you look at the whole world differently’ The Daily Telegraph
‘Riveting’ Mail on Sunday
‘Captivating’ Guardian, Book of the Day