Tag Archives: Talks & Events

Week 4 Seminar: Health, military service, and economic mobility of US Civil War soldiers

The next HSMT seminar of Trinity Term will take place at 16.00 on Monday 15th May (4th Week) in the Lecture Theatre of the History Faculty on George Street. It will be delivered by Chulhee Lee.

Lee is currently a Visiting Scholar at Wolfson College, Oxford, as well as being a professor of Seoul National University. His research interests are in economic history, labour and demographic economics, and the economics of ageing. His research has included work on the relationship between socioeconomic background, disease and mortality.

Lee’s book in progress, upon which this seminar is based, explores firstly how the experiences of US Civil War soldiers while in service were shaped by their socioeconomic backgrounds prior to enlistment, and secondly how wartime medical and military experiences influenced the post-service economic mobility of veterans. Prior exposure to unfavourable epidemiological environments reduced the chances of contracting and dying from disease among Union soldiers while in service. The different degree of immunity against pathogens is the most plausible explanation for the mortality differentials. Combat exposure, wounds and diseases suffered by Union veterans while in service diminished their wealth accumulation and geographic mobility, perhaps by lowering their physical productivity. The wartime experience of being deployed to distant regions increased veterans’ post-service geographic mobility, probably by offering them more information about other places and reducing psychological resistance to moving to a new territory. Unskilled recruits appointed as commissioned and non-commissioned officers and those assigned to white-collar military duties were more likely to move up to a white-collar occupation after service. The findings of the book suggest that the effects of military service during the Civil War on servicemen varied depending on their socioeconomic status prior to war, initial health condition, and luck. To some veterans, military service provided a valuable opportunity to master new skills, widen one’s perspective on the outside world, and build a new social network. To other soldiers, military service was a traumatic event that persistently damaged health and economic performance over the life course.

Relevant titles in the Wellcome Unit Library:


Marrow of tragedy : the health crisis of the American Civil War by Margaret Humphreys (E621 HUM 2013 and online)
A work examining the Civil War as the greatest health disaster the US has ever experienced, with governments poorly prepared for the sick and wounded, and the advancements in medicine and public health that were made during the war.


Medicines for the Union Army : the United States Army laboratories during the Civil War by George Smith (E621 SMI 2001)
Smith explores the evolution of the army’s medical department from competence to efficiency during the war, as the organisation and supply system grew to counter diseases such as malaria, typhoid fever and venereal diseases.


Learning from the wounded : the Civil War and the rise of American medical science by Shauna Devine (R151 DEV 2014)
A study of how Union army physicists rose to the medical challenges of a war in which nearly two-thirds of fatalities were caused by disease, leaving a lasting impact on medical practice owing to the methods of study and experimentation developed.


Years of change and suffering : modern perspectives on Civil War medicine by James Schmidt and Guy Hasegawa (E621 YEA 2009)
This title aims to correct the Hollywood myths of Civil War medicine, exploring how the sick and wounded were treated on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line, including amputations, diseases and wounds of the nervous system and new surgical techniques for injuries.


The irritable heart of soldiers and the origins of Anglo-American cardiology : the US Civil War (1861) to World War I (1918) by Charles Wooley (RC666.5 WOO 2002)
A work focusing on both the Civil War and World War 1, and the curious condition that incapacitated thousands of otherwise healthy troops. Characterised by chest pains, palpitations, breathlessness and fatigue, the ‘irritable heart of soldiers’ provoked much interest in soldiers’ hearts.

Journal articles

There are several of Lee’s published journal articles that are available to read through online library institutional access (login via SOLO first):

Please come and ask library staff if you would like any help with locating resources, or conducting further research. We also welcome further suggestions for reading not included in this post.

Header image:
V0015313 Credit: Wellcome Library, London
Return of wounded Confederate prisoners, under a flag of truce, during the American Civil War. Wood engraving.
Collection: Iconographic Collections
Library reference no.: ICV No 15623
Full Bibliographic Record Link to Wellcome Library Catalogue
Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/ 

Seminar: Distilling Household Medicine in Eighteenth-Century England

2017 Oxford Seminars in the History of Alchemy and Chemistry
(Seminars will be on 3 May, 10 May, 17 May and 14 June)











Wednesday 17 May – 15:00-17:00, Maison Francaise d’Oxford (2-10 Norham Rd, OX2 6SE)

18th Century Chemistry in Britain

Chair: John Perkins (Oxford Brookes)

Speaker: Katherine Allen (Oxford)

“Furnish Herself of Very Good Stills”: Distilling Household Medicine in Eighteenth-Century England

Speaker: John Christie (Oxford)

Make your Own Volcano: Early Modern Alum Production in Britain

The seminar is free of charge, and anyone with an interest in the history of alchemy, chemistry, medicine or the sciences is invited to attend. The format is two or three papers followed by a Questions & Answers session. Participants are also invited to join us for a drink afterwards, and/or dinner with the speakers. 

For more information, questions or directions to the venue, please feel free to contact Georgiana Hedesan at georgiana.hedesan@history.ox.ac.uk

And if you’d like to read up on the subject, here are a couple of suggestions for titles available in the Unit Library:

Come and talk to us if you’d like any help finding resources.

Workshop: War, Health, and the Environment in the Modern Age

The Centre for the History of Science, Medicine, and Technology, Oxford
Oxford Centre for Global History

War, Health, and the Environment in the Modern Age

Tuesday 6 June, 2pm-5.30pm
History Faculty, George St, Oxford

Historians have come to recognize the crucial role that health and environment play in modern warfare. At the same time, the history of the interaction between disease and war has been a particularly fruitful sub-discipline in the history of medicine. This part-day workshop brings together leading scholars on the history of war and its interaction with health and the environment in the modern period, with a particular emphasis on global contexts.

Speakers include: Margaret Humphreys (Duke University); Chulhee Lee (Seoul National University); Mary Brazelton (Cambridge); Guillaume Picketty (Sciences Po); Mark Harrison (Oxford); Jeong-Ran Kim (Oxford); Atsuko Naono (Oxford); Rod Bailey (Oxford); Micah Muscolino (Oxford)

Organized by: Rod Bailey, Erica Charters, Mark Harrison


All welcome.

Week 1 Seminar: Django’s phrenologist

Django’s phrenologist: science, slavery and material culture, 1791-1861

The first HSMT seminar of Trinity Term will take place at 16.00 on Monday 24th April (1st Week) in the Lecture Theatre of the History Faculty on George Street. It will be delivered by James Poskett.

Poskett is the Adrian Research Fellow at Darwin College, Univesity of Cambridge. His research engages broadly with the global and imperial history of science from 1750, with particular research interests in the history of slavery and the history of the book. Currently, he is working on two projects: firstly, a book on the global history of phrenology, based on his doctoral research, and secondly, a new project on the global history of science and print, with a particular focus on the useful knowledge movement in the nineteenth century. He is also an advocate of public engagement, writing for national newspapers, websites and magazines. In 2013, Poskett was shortlisted for the BBC New Generation Thinker Award.

Eustache Belin saw the violence of slavery and revolution first hand. Born a slave on the French colony of Saint-Domingue in 1773, Eustache spent his youth toiling in the sugar mills. But amidst the Haitian Revolution of 1791, he escaped to Paris. Incredibly, in the 1830s, a French phrenologist took a cast of Eustache’s head. Over the next thirty years, Eustache became a focal point for discussion of African character. Phrenologists wanted to understand the relationship between the African mind, slavery and revolution. In this talk, Poskett follows the bust of Eustache as it travelled back and forth across the Atlantic Ocean. In doing so, he shows how a single phrenological bust was deployed by both supporters and opponents of abolition. More broadly, this talk suggests that the history of science and race needs to be understood as part of a history of material exchange.

Relevant titles in the Wellcome Unit Library:


A system of phrenology by George Combe (BF885.E7 C7 COM 1836)
One of the most detailed and authoritative popular phrenology texts, Combe’s seminal work covers the majority of subjects touched by phrenology, from mesmerism to racism



Franz Joseph Gall, inventor of phrenology and his collection by Erwin Ackerknecht and Henri Vallois (BF869.G3 ACK 1956)
A short pamphlet on Gall’s work and his collection of phrenology-related items – 221 skulls, 102 casts of heads and 31 casts of brains.



Conquest of mind : phrenology and Victorian social thought by David de Giustino (BF868.D36 DEG 1975)
A work examining the reception and diffusion of phrenology in Britain, its uses to various professions and its challenges to traditional religion. Phrenology’s kinship with Rationalist ideas is explored for its appeal.



The cultural meaning of popular science : phrenology and the organization of consent in nineteenth-century Britain by Roger Cooter (Q127.G4 COO 1984)
Cooter studies the popularity of phrenology and the impact of science on Victorian society, in particular its social and ideological functions.



Phrenology and the origins of Victorian scientific naturalism by John Van Wyhe (BF879.V36 VAN 2004)
A detailed history of phrenology as one of the most influential ideological and cultural developments in Victorian Britain, in which Van Wyhe argues that naturalism can be attributed to phrenology’s diffusion.



Phrenology in the British Isles : an annotated historical biobibliography and index by Roger Cooter (Z7204.P47 COO 1989)
An annotated bibliography of phrenological sources.



Please come and ask library staff if you would like any help with locating resources, or conducting further research. We also welcome further suggestions for reading not included in this post.

Call for Papers – Patient Voices

Patient Voices: Historical and Ethical Engagement with Patient Experiences of Healthcare, 1850–1948

An interdisciplinary, policy-focused symposium at New College, University of Oxford

18–19 September 2017

In 1948, diverse health provisions in Britain were consolidated into a single, state-directed service. After almost seventy years of the NHS—the bedrock of modern welfare—there is great concern about any return to a mixed economy of healthcare. The proposed privatisation of health services is controversial because it threatens to destabilise the complex relationships of patients with medical professionals and the state. It calls into question the structure and accessibility of healthcare, as well as the rights of patients, both as medical consumers and sources of medical data. Yet these are questions that equally shaped the development of the NHS prior to its foundation. Historical perspectives on pre-NHS healthcare—perspectives that are increasingly informed by the experiences of patients—are fundamental to understanding not just the past but also the choices before us.

Social historians of medicine have responded in various ways to Roy Porter’s 1985 call for histories incorporating the patient view. But despite work across diverse fields, patient voices before 1948 are yet to be fully integrated into historical scholarship. This symposium brings together historians, medical ethicists and archivists with interdisciplinary expertise to explore questions relating to the accessibility and ethics of the study of patient voices and data in the specific context of pre-NHS provisions. Through research presentations, roundtable discussions and interactive sessions, participants will explore the collection and qualitative use of historical medical records. The symposium will focus on methodological issues by investigating a range of available archives and piloting new strategies for retrieving as-yet-unheard historical patient voices. It will also address ethical issues arising from these pilot strategies, including questions of data protection, informed consent and the implications of new technologies in storing and analysing information.

Following the symposium, participants will be invited to submit articles for a special issue.

We welcome proposals for 20-minute papers that address one or more of the following questions:

–  How should historians access and interpret the experiences of patients, particularly those with stigmatising conditions?

–  How can historians negotiate archival ‘silences’ when locating patient voices?

–  What can patient experiences tell historians about past, present and future interactions between healthcare consumers and providers?

–  How can the study of historical patient experiences inform the social, political and clinical dimensions of healthcare in the future?

–  What ethical considerations should inform the collection, maintenance and use of sensitive medical archives, including digitisation, data analytics and discourse analysis?

–  How can attention to these ethical considerations shape the study of healthcare and facilitate high-quality medical-humanities research?

Proposals should not exceed 300 words and should be accompanied by a short biography. Please submit them to Anne Hanley (University of Oxford) and Jessica Meyer (University of Leeds) at patientvoicesproject@gmail.com by 1 April 2017.

Talk: From Bandage Wallahs to Knights of the Red Cross

From Bandage Wallahs to Knights of the Red Cross: The Men of the Royal Army Medical Corps in the First World War

Date: 9 March 2017, 16:00 (Thursday, 8th week, Hilary 2017)
Venue: Worcester College, Walton Street OX1 2HB
(See location on maps.ox)

Details: Memorial Room
Speaker: Dr Jessica Meyer (Leeds)
Part of: Globalising and Localising the Great War
Booking not required
Audience: Members of the University only
Editor: Jeannie Scott
See more at: https://talks.ox.ac.uk/talks/id/6c4c9dd2-e0cc-4214-9e11-bdd1ce271132/#sthash.tw3suFla.dpuf

Dr. Jessica Meyer

Seminar 8: Peer support, mental health activism and changing doctor-patient relationships in Uganda

‘Peer support, mental health activism and changing doctor-patient relationships in Uganda’

The eighth and final HSMT seminar of Hilary Term will take place at 16.00 on Monday 6th March (Week 8) in the Lecture Theatre of the History Faculty on George Street, and will be delivered by Yolana Pringle.

Yolana Pringle is a Mellon/Newton Postdoctoral Fellow at CRASSH (Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities) 2014-present, and co-opted member of the Centre of African Studies. She has research interests in global health (particularly mental health) and the history of humanitarian intervention in Africa. She has conducted fieldwork in Uganda, Kenya, and Zanzibar. She holds a DPhil from the University of Oxford, which was awarded in 2013. While at CRASSH Yolana is conducting research on the work of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Africa since the 1950s. She is focusing on the ICRC’s education programmes and the diffusion of the Geneva Conventions in Eastern and Central Africa. Pringle’s doctoral research, funded by the Wellcome Trust, investigated the emergence of an internationally renowned psychiatric community in early postcolonial Uganda. During this time, Uganda established itself as a leader of mental health care in Africa, setting up a range of innovative research and education programmes. This aspect of Uganda’s history is all the more marked for its contrast with the almost complete collapse of mental health care in the 1970s and 1980s.

In the last ten years, the mental health landscape in Uganda has started to shift. New peer support groups, run by people living with mental illness, are engaged in outreach activities in the community. One of these groups is now based at Uganda’s psychiatric hospital, Butabika, supporting patients through recovery and working with British psychiatrists to provide recovery-oriented training to patients, staff, and carers. With support from human rights lawyers, former patients of Butabika have also successfully mounted legal challenges against outdated legislation and instances of degrading treatment. This seminar explores these recent developments, paying particular attention to the ways that ‘history’—both the history of psychiatry and in individual personal testimonies—is evoked and deployed as a tool in arguments for change. Drawing on oral histories, peer support media, court documents, and newspaper articles, Pringle discusses understandings of Uganda’s psychiatric past, explanations for stigma and discrimination, and reflect on how traditional spaces of psychiatry are being negotiated in new ways. She touches on hopes for the future, and consider the implications of recent developments for doctor-patient relationships in Uganda.

The abstract to Pringle’s thesis, ‘Psychiatry’s ‘golden age’: making sense of mental health care in Uganda, 1894-1972′, is available on SOLO, and the thesis itself can be consulted in the RSL.

Our seminar post last term about midwifery in Uganda has some more general reading about Ugandan healthcare, which readers may also be relevant to this seminar. Another title specific to Uganda and the topic of psychiatric care is John Orley’s Culture and mental illness : a study from Uganda (RC451.U4 ORL 1970), which pulls together anthropological and psychiatric studies of Uganda, analysing the difficult problems involved.









More widely, two other titles held in the Unit library focus on mental health in African countries. Colonial psychiatry and ‘the African mind’ by Jock McCulloch (RC451.A4 MCC 1995) describes clinical approaches of well-known European psychiatrists who worked with indigenous Africans, and explores problematic colonial notions of African inferiority. John Colin Carothers’ short pamphlet The African mind in health and disease : a study in ethnopsychiatry is a World Health Organisation monograph which further unpicks this concept of an ‘African mind’ and whether it has psychological relevance.









The library holds much material on mental illness and its surrounding attitudes, largely to be found in the section RC435-571, but we have picked out just two of them as an example. Madness and morals : ideas on insanity in the nineteenth century by Vieda Skultans (RC450.G7 MAD 1975) traces developments and changes in ideas about the insane and their treatment during the nineteenth century, looking at how psychiatric thinking reflects the contemporary moral outlook. Greg Eghigian’s From madness to mental health : psychiatric disorder and its treatment in Western civilization (RC438 FRO 2010)  considers how mental disorders have historically challenged the ways in which human beings have understood and valued their bodies, minds and souls.









Please come and ask library staff if you would like any help with locating resources, or conducting further research. We also welcome further suggestions for reading not included in this post!

Seminar 7: Biology as technology

‘Biology as technology: an unexpected history of innovation in living things’

We haven’t forgotten about the Unit’s Seminar Series! As the series encompasses the History of Science and Technology as well as medicine, the last few seminars have focused on non-medical areas of HSMT. But this week we’re back – albeit with a very brief list of suggested reading, as plant breeding isn’t really our forté (falling more in the territory of the Radcliffe Science Library). Nevertheless, the genetic modification of plants is an interesting topic from a public health point of view .

The seminar, which is the seventh of Hilary Term, will take place at 16.00 on Monday 27th February (Week 7) in the Lecture Theatre of the History Faculty on George Street, and will be delivered by Helen Anne Curry.

Curry is a Senior Lecturer in the History of Science, at the University of Cambridge’s Department of History and Philosophy of Science.  Her book Evolution Made to Order: Plant Breeding and Technological Innovation in Twentieth Century America traces the history of several early technologies used to modify genes and chromosomes. Currently, her research is in the history of global conservation, in particular efforts made to preserve the genetic diversity of agricultural crop species through the practice of seed banking, which has been the focus of a Wellcome Trust Seed Award in 2016–17. More widely, she has research interests in biology and biotechnology, the history of agriculture, horticulture and gardening, and the history of conservation and environmentalism.

In the mid-twentieth century, a series of strange tools were celebrated as revolutionary for the work of plant breeding: x-rays, chemical solutions, man-made radioisotopes. Many breeders envisioned that that these could be used to reshape plants to specification. According to scientific and popular reports, scientists would use radiation and chemicals to generate heritable variation “at will,” which would in turn allow breeders to develop agricultural organisms “to order.” There would be no more exhaustive searches for natural variations, and no more complex integration of desired variation into established breeds through hybridization and selection. Breeders would instead alter genes and chromosomes directly, transforming fruits, grains, vegetables, and flowers with unprecedented efficiency. In this talk, Curry charts the history Americans’ encounters with these early technologies for transforming plant genes and chromosomes. Drawing on this account, she will argue that it is impossible to understand early genetic technologies apart from the broader history of American technology and innovation. These were completely entangled with other areas of innovation and industrial production – electro-mechanical, chemical, nuclear – both in their material production and in the outcomes anticipated from them. In capturing this entanglement, Curry will show that many Americans envisioned and enacted the process of innovating living creatures, in this case new breeds of agricultural crops and garden flowers, little differently from that of innovating any other modern industrial product.

If you’re interested in reading more about issues surrounding human use of plants, the Unit Library holds two titles that are of particular relevance. The first is Anna Lewington’s Plants for People (SB107 LEW 1990), exploring the fundamental roles plants have in our lived in feeding, clothing, cleaning, protecting, curing, transporting and entertaining us. History of Medicine students may find the chapter on medicinal uses of plants useful: ‘Plants that cure us’. The impact of genetically modified crops is also discussed in a wider context of the heavy costs of plant use to people and the environment.

Philip Conford’s The Origins of the Organic Movement (S605.5 CON 2001) looks at organic agriculture against a backdrop of public concern about BSE and GM crops. It examines the attitudes of disparate groups which were the foundation of the organic movement, and chronicles its origins.










Please come and ask library staff if you would like any help with locating resources, or conducting further research.


Header image: https://www.flickr.com/photos/basf/4837267013
Available under CC licence: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/

Seminar 2: Richard Titmuss and the origins of social medicine

Richard Titmuss and the origins of social medicine

The second HSMT seminar of Hilary Term will take place at 16.00 on Monday 23rd January (Week 2) in the Lecture Theatre of the History Faculty on George Street, and will be delivered by John Stewart.

John Stewart is a Research Associate here in the Wellcome Unit, whose research interests range broadly across modern British history. In particular, his work has focused on the history of health care provision and social policy, with an associated emphasis on the history of child welfare. Specific research topics have included: municipal medicine in inter-war England and Wales; child evacuation policies in wartime Scotland; and welfare provision in ‘peripheral’ areas of the United Kingdom and Europe. He is currently writing a biography of Richard Titmuss for the London School of Economics, as the LSE Library holds an extensive collection of Titmuss’s papers and of a number of his close colleagues and associates.

Richard Titmuss is perhaps best known as the first Professor of Social Administration at the London School of Economics (LSE). He was appointed to this post in 1950 and held it until his death in 1973 during which time he developed, initially single-handedly, the academic field of social administration/policy. He also held many official positions and advised the Labour Party on welfare issues. However prior to his LSE appointment Titmuss was seen, and regarded himself, as an expert on population and population health. This seminar examines his (erroneous) belief that the British population was about to decline and, more importantly, his analysis of the health of that population through which he showed that rates of morbidity and mortality were crucially shaped by environment and socio-economic circumstance. So, for instance, in the 1930s the infant mortality rate was significantly higher in the industrial North of England than in the affluent South East and, relatively speaking, this situation was worsening rather than improving. It is thus argued that Titmuss was instrumental, in the period from around 1935 to around 1945, in shaping the emerging field of social medicine, a field concerned with social rather than individual pathology. Titmuss published extensively in this area and the seminar draws on works such as his book Birth, Poverty and Wealth (1943) and on the numerous articles he wrote for journals such as The Lancet and The Spectator.

We have two of Stewart’s own published works here in the Unit library, which are of relevance to his seminar. Child guidance in Britain, 1918-1955 : the dangerous age of childhood (HV751.A6 STE 2013) is a history of the child guidance literature from its origins post-World War I until the consolidation of the welfare state. The concepts widely used in this guidance played a part in broader social and cultural perceptions of the healthy emotional development of a child. His earlier work, ‘The battle for health’ : a political history of the Socialist Medical Association, 1930-51 (RA413.5.G7 STE 1999) is a scholarly study of the Labour Party-affiliated Socialist Medical Society, founded in 1930, whose aim was a free, comprehensive and universal state medical service.

Child guidance

Battle for guidance









Richard Titmuss himself published a number of titles, many of which we hold. One that the seminar will focus on is Birth, poverty and wealth : a study of infant mortality (HB1323.I4 TIT 1943), a study of the inequalities between the economic classes of England and Wales. Titmuss concludes that such inequalities increased steadily in the first half of the twentieth century, and that maternal and infant welfare services had proved inadequate to the problems they were designed to solve. A broader work of Titmuss’ is Social policy : an introduction (HV31 TIT 1974), based on the introductory letters Titmuss delivered to students at the London School of Economics. The work explores the wide range of social, medical and economic changes in society which generate social problems, and analyses the implications of different solutions.

Birth, poverty

Social policy









As an influential and sometimes controversial figure in public heath, we also hold titles written about Titmuss, after he died. David Reisman’s Richard Titmuss : welfare and society (HN16 REI 1977) seeks to explain and evaluate Titmuss’ work, concluding that his model of social welfare was the best of its time. Richard Morris Titmuss, 1907-1973  (HN16 GOW 1975) is a short pamphlet by Margaret Gowing published soon after his death that serves as a very brief memoir of his life. It gives an idea not only of his work, but also his personality:

“He had an inexhaustible fund of kindness and friendship and treated everyone alike, with real interest and consideration; he was available to all and was the most patient of listeners.”











Works on Social Sciences are generally classified under the shelfmark H. Social history and conditions, social problems and social reform come under HN, while Social and Public Welfare are HV. More relevant works will be found in these areas of the library.

Please come and ask library staff if you would like any help with locating resources, or conducting further research. We also welcome further suggestions for reading not included in this post!

Header image: Richard Titmuss (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Richard_Titmuss.jpg)