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The trance phenomena of Mrs Thompson: mediumship, evidence and intimacy in early twentieth-century Britain

Accepted version
Peer-reviewed

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Article

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Abstract

Between 1899 and 1907, the medium Rosalie Thompson—giving voice to her dead daughter, Nelly—participated in a number of experimental seances with the Society for Psychical Research (SPR), which were formative in the development of the society’s theories of telepathy, personality and survival. Using the extensive séance notes taken by the researchers, and the range of published materials related to the case, this article situates psychical research as an intimate practice; its scientific method relied on the production of intimate evidence by the medium, including the intimacy of touch; its leading proponents were neighbours, friends and relatives, who began communicating via Thompson once key members began to die from 1900. By keeping the focus on the life of Thompson herself, however, the article uncovers—for the first time—the medium’s secret other life. In this way, it seeks to use the ‘small history’ of Mrs Thompson to tell a bigger and more complex story about intimacy in early twentieth-century Britain.

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Keywords

4303 Historical Studies, 43 History, Heritage and Archaeology

Journal Title

Twentieth Century British History

Conference Name

Journal ISSN

0955-2359
1477-4674

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Publisher

Oxford University Press (OUP)

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All rights reserved
Sponsorship
AHRC (AH/T000724/1)
AHRC (1964217)