Author Archives: bjenkins

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography: February 2020 update: C20 nursing history

[Reblogged from The History Faculty Library Blog ]

The latest Oxford Dictionary of National Biography update, released yesterday, includes the lives of 20 leading figures in the nursing profession in the twentieth century, and coincides with 2020 being designated by the World Health Organization as the Year of the Nurse and Midwife.

The newly-added entries have been contributed by nurses as well as historians, led by the RCN History of Nursing Forum in collaboration with the UK Association for the History of Nursing, and curated by Teresa Doherty of the Royal College of Nursing Library and Archive.

The lives range from Anne Campbell Gibson (1849-1926), matron of the Birmingham workhouse infirmary, which came to be regarded as the best-managed poor law infirmary in the country, to Annie Therese Altschul (1919-2001), who fled Austria in 1939 and settled in Britain, where she became an authority in psychiatric nursing.

The update includes the lives of the founding generation of the Royal College of Nursing (1916) and the introduction of state registration of nursing (1919), as well as  those who went on to work under the NHS, developing teaching and research programmes for nurses.

Mark Curthoys, Senior Research Editor, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography


We are excited to announce that as of today, 1st October 2019, the Wellcome Unit Library will officially be known as the History of Medicine Library!

We ask that you bear with us in the process of changing our name in our various online spaces – this blog and our webpages – however, our Twitter handle and our LibraryThing pages have already been updated! Do follow us at @HistMedLibOx in both places Twitter LibraryThing

Our new email address is  which is already live!

We would also like to welcome our new Library Assistant, George Kiddy, to the History of Medicine Library! Once George has settled in, and the usual flurry of the beginning of Michaelmas Term in Oxford is over, George will be staffing the library 2.15-5pm Monday-Friday (4.30pm on Wednesdays). Do keep an eye on the blog here for weekly updates on our opening hours for the rest of term.

A Medical Student at his desk

So long, farewell…

Today our Library Assistant for the past two years, Mary, leaves the unit library for a new job as Senior Library Assistant with our colleagues at the Radcliffe Camera! We are incredibly sad to lose her cheery and helpful presence around the library, but wish her all the best in her new post – we’re sure she will be fantastic!A wife sending her husband away on holiday in order to pursue an affair with a "nerve specialist" who has got the husband out of the way by recommending a change of scene for him. Colour process print, c. 1920.

Extended Christmas Closure for essential maintenance work

From Friday 7th December to Monday 14th January, the library will be closed to allow essential maintenance work to take place. We apologise for any inconvenience caused to our readers, but look forward to re-opening in the New Year in better health than ever!

Meanwhile, other History of Medicine resources can be found at :
Radcliffe Science Library
Bodleian Library Upper Reading Room
If you are an external visitor, you will need to apply for a Readers’ Card to access these libraries:

Skating lady advertising Beechams Glycerine and Cucumber

Holiday time!

We are now closed for a summer break! We will be back in the library on Tuesday afternoon, 21st August, opening Tuesday and Thursday afternoons only until September.

If you need to do any research over the summer, the Bodleian Library and Radcliffe Science Library are open most of the summer – check their websites for details.

We wish all our readers a lovely summer, whatever you’re up to!

Tresaith Beach

Swansea University PhD opportunity – Writing Disabled Lives in Nineteenth-Century Britain

History & English Literature: Swansea University Research Excellence Scholarships: Writing Disabled Lives in Nineteenth-Century Britain

Closing date: 22 January 2018

Key Information

Start date: 1 October 2018

See the website for full details

Project details:

During the nineteenth century there were a series of developments that helped to shape ‘disability’ in its modern form. The administrative categorisation of the ‘defective’ poor in workhouses served to identify physical incapacity as a distinctive cause of poverty requiring particular responses, whereas the valorisation of ‘normal’ ranges of human size, strength and intelligence in eugenic thought marked out as deviant and inferior those who failed to meet these standards. Industrialisation, and subsequent struggles over reform (such as campaigns to limit child labour or restrict the length of the working day), promoted an abstract idea of the worker, whose capacities and needs were assumed to be the same as others.

Such developments have begun to attract attention, but considerably less is known about how people with impairments made sense of their experiences within evolving concepts of ‘disability’ and ‘able-bodiedness’. The aim of this PhD studentship is to explore ways in which contemporaries narrated physical difference using a variety of biographical and autobiographical writings. The nineteenth century is significant for a proliferation of texts that explored the lives of people with disabilities. Some, such as the autobiographical writings of Harriet Martineau or John Kitto, are relatively well-known, but many others such as James Wilson’s Biography of the Blind (1820) – arguably the first work of ‘disability history’ – have received very little attention from historians or literary scholars. Accounts of illness and disability abound in working class autobiographies, while pauper letters weave these themes into compelling narratives of need. Life histories of freak show performers, ‘eccentric’ biographies, newspaper obituaries, and new forms of investigative reporting characteristic of the ‘new journalism’ all shed light on experiences of physical and intellectual difference.  Such texts employed a variety of rhetorical strategies for capturing the experiences of ‘disabled’ women and men, yet have not yet been researched systematically from a disability perspective.

The recipient of this PhD studentship will have the opportunity to determine the scope and direction of their research within the broad parameters of the project. Their work will examine how disability is constructed within particular cultural contexts and how these relate to social, religious and medical frameworks for understanding physical difference. Their work will examine critically how narratives of disability are shaped by – and in turn shape – gender, class and racial identities. As part of their project, the PhD student will work with the interdisciplinary supervisory team to develop a programme of public engagement exploring life writing as a tool for promoting health and wellbeing, while also raising awareness of experiences of disability in modern Wales. This may include producing a public engagement blog that uses historical evidence to engage in dialogue with disabled people’s experiences in the present, and other public-facing activities. The supervisors, who won a Research and Innovation Award in 2016 for their work on the exhibition ‘From Pithead to Sickbed and Beyond: the Buried History of Disability in the Coal Industry before the NHS’, will bring their experience in leading disability projects to provide mentoring for the recipient of the studentship to build a public profile for their work and develop its impact potential. The project falls under the auspices of CREW, Centre for Research into the English Literature and Language of Wales, and the cross-campus Research Group for Health, History and Culture (RGHHC), which will provide supportive research clusters.  Since its founding in 2010, members of RGHHC have secured grants totalling £1.5 million for individual or collaborative projects. Swansea University is an internationally renowned centre of excellence in disability history. Recent funded projects include ‘Disability and Industrial Society 1780-1880’ (Wellcome Trust) and an AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Scholarship on ‘Correcting Vision in Nineteenth-Century Britain’ (with the Science Museum).

Supervisors / Academic Contacts: Professor David Turner and Professor Kirsti Bohata