Tag Archives: Wellcome Unit Seminars

Week 7 Seminar: Challenges to teaching the history of global health

Challenges to teaching the history of global health

The next HSMT seminar of Trinity Term will take place at 16.00 on Monday 5th June (7th Week) in the Lecture Theatre of the History Faculty on George Street. It will be delivered by Margaret Humphreys.

Humphreys is a a specialist in the history of science and medicine, and has focused her research and publications primarily on infectious disease in the U.S. and the American south, in particular yellow fever and malaria, as well as the history of medicine during the American Civil War. She has also published on the history of diabetes, public health ethics, and colonial medicine. She is currently a professor of Duke University.

‘Global health’ is an entity, or at least a moniker, born just about two decades ago. Humphreys asks: when should a course dubbed ‘The History of Global Health’ begin? This seminar will explore the odyssey of two historians of medicine who created such a course, and the perplexities of deciding what’s in and what’s out. How does ‘global health’ relate to ‘tropical medicine’, ‘colonial medicine’, ‘International health’ and even ‘military medicine’? If grounded in ‘the social determinants of health’, then where does one begin – with food, fire, agriculture? Humphreys seeks to mine communal ideas about the history of global health and its relationship to our established historiography.

Relevant titles in the Wellcome Unit Library:


A history of global health : interventions into the lives of other peoples by Randall Packard (RA441 PAC 2016)
This work argues that while global-health initiatives have saved millions of lives, they have had limited impact in underdeveloped areas, where health-care workers are poorly paid, infrastructure and basic supplies are lacking, and underlying social and economic factors cause ill health.


Governing global health : challenge, response, innovation by Andrew Cooper, John Kirton and Ted Schrecker (RA441 GOV 2007)
A volume studying the global challenges and responses to the issues surrounding global health, conceptualising global health as a war that is being lost on many fronts. In particular, it examines the devastation of re-emerging and newly emerging diseases, and the shock of bioterrorism.


Global health in Africa : historical perspectives on disease control by Tamara Giles-Vernick and James Webb (RA545 GLO 2013 and online)
This title explores the histories of global health initiatives to control disease in Africa, including the unintended consequences of failed initiatives. The essays provide historical and anthropological research that integrates the social and biomedical sciences.


Prevention and cure : the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, a 20th century quest for global public health by Lise Wilkinson and Anne Hardy (R773 WIL 2001)
This history of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine details its development into its current position as a center of education and research in the biomedical sciences in the context of world health. It contains personal reminisces from early pioneers of tropical disciplines.

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
Pilot in Burkina Faso for MenAfriVac immunization campaign
Credit: WHO

Week 5 Seminar: Medical Reform in Jamaica

Medical Reform in Jamaica, 1826-43: imperial and colonial contexts

The next HSMT seminar of Trinity Term will take place at 16.00 on Monday 22nd May (5th Week) in the Lecture Theatre of the History Faculty on George Street. It will be delivered by Aaron Graham.

Aaron Graham is a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at UCL, having received his DPhil from the University of Oxford in 2012, and been a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow at Jesus College, Oxford between 2012 and 2015. His current research analyses monetary policy, financial regulation and central banks in Britain, Ireland and colonies such as Australia, Canada, South Africa and the West Indies between 1783 and 1844, and how a transnational regulatory framework was built up between these years to help maintain this complex political, economic and monetary union. He is also carrying out a parallel study of state, slavery and society in Jamaica between 1660 and 1840, in order to establish the political and social roots and fiscal and military capacities of colonial state structures in this period. His first book looked at corruption, government and political partisanship in the early eighteenth century, a theme developed in other articles, and more recent publications will examine corruption, patriotism and loyalism in Britain and North America between 1754 and 1783.

This paper covers the battle in Jamaica between 1826 and 1843 for a College of Physicians and Surgeons that would license medical practitioners and regulate medical practice.  It will highlight how the radical ideas of metropolitan reformers such as Thomas Wakley for overhauling the medical practice in Britain spread overseas, and the difficulties that liberal supporters in Jamaica found putting them into practice.  In particular, the plan by the College to examine local candidates by viva and grant them licenses to practice was a liberal step that generated opposition from conservative doctors and planters in Jamaica, who worried that it would break down social and racial boundaries, and from the medical establishment in London, who saw it as a plot by Wakley and other reformers to break their own contested monopoly on licensing in England.   Imperial and colonial medical politics therefore intersected and interacted, to shape the flow of new practices between Britain and the wider world.

Relevant titles in the Wellcome Unit Library:


Poverty and life expectancy : the Jamaica paradox by James Riley (HB1322.35 J25 RIL 2005)
A multidisciplinary study reconstructing Jamaica’s rise from low to high life expectancy, and explaining how this was achieved. Riley looks at the inexpensive means used, such as the emphasis on schoolchildren and their parents learning to manage disease hazards.


Health and medicine in the circum-Caribbean, 1800-1968 by Juanita de Barros, Steven Palmer & David Wright (RA455 HEA 2009)
A collection of essays exploring the cultural and social domains of medical experience in the Caribbean, and considers the dynamics and tensions of power. It considers the perseverance of indigenous and popular medicine, as well as the rise of western medicine.


Mary Seacole : the charismatic black nurse who became a heroine of the Crimea by Jane Robinson (RT37.S43 ROB 2005)
A work exploring the life of Mary Seacole, the independent Jamaican doctress who combined the herbal remedies of her African ancestry with sound surgical techniques. She opened the ‘British Hotel’ in the Crimea, a hut supplying soldiers with food, clothing and medical care.


Launching global health : the Caribbean odyssey of the Rockefeller Foundation by Steven Palmer (RA441 PAL 2010)
This title examines the Rockefeller Foundation’s campaigns as a laboratory for discovering and testing the elements of a global health system for the twentieth century. Its programmes in treating diseases in Caribbean sites laid the foundation for international health initiatives.


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:
L0022113 Credit: Wellcome Library, London
Jamaica; 1821 after: Paolo Fumagalli
Published: [Dalla tipografia del dott. Giulio Ferrario],[Milan] : [1821]
Size: platemark 17.4 x 24 cm.; Collection: Iconographic Collections
Library reference no.: Iconographic Collection 2498733i
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/

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/ 

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.

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 3: Fears, phobias and obsessions in the late-nineteenth century

Fears, phobias and obsessions in the late-nineteenth century

The third HSMT seminar of Hilary Term will take place at 16.00 on Monday 30th January (Week 3) in the Lecture Theatre of the History Faculty on George Street, and will be delivered by Sally Shuttleworth.

Sally Shuttleworthn moved to Oxford in 2006 to take up the post of the Head of the Humanities Division, with responsibility for the 11 faculties and units which make up the Division of Humanities within the University. She stepped down from this role in 2011 to return to research and is currently running two large research projects to extend her work on the interface of literature, science and culture: ‘Diseases of Modern Life: Nineteenth-Century Perspectives’ and ‘Constructing Scientific Communities: Citizen Science in the 19th and 21st Centuries’. She also teaches Victorian literature and culture.

Carl Friedrich Otto Westphal’s now-classic paper on ‘Agoraphobia’ of 1871 laid the foundations for the rapid development of work on phobias, fears and obsessions which sprang up in the last decades of the nineteenth century. This preoccupation with excessive states of fear, out of all proportion to any evident causes, climaxed in G. Stanley Hall’s ‘Synthetic Genetic Study of Fear’ in the American Journal of Psychology (1914), which registered no less than 138 different types of pathological fear, all with their own Greek or Latinate names, from more generalised categories such as agoraphobia, to the very specific pteronophobia (fear of feathers). In this talk, Shuttleworth will explore the intersection of medical and literary discourses of fear as they emerged in the latter half of the century, looking particularly at the ways in which psychiatry turned to literature for case studies of phobia and obsession.

G. Stanley Hall’s ‘Synthetic Genetic Study of Fear’, mentioned above, is available though SOLO in the American Journal of Psychology, Volume 25, No.3 (July 1914). The article can be accessed via this link if you’re already logged in to SOLO.








Several of Shuttleworth’s published works are also available online through SOLO. The mind of the child: child development in literature, science, and medicine 1840-1900 explores issues such as childhood fears, imaginary lands, sexuality, and the relation of the child to animal life, moving between literature and science. Chapter 2 of part 1 is entitled ‘Fears, Phantasms, and Night Terrors’, which is of particular relevance to the seminar. Shuttleworth is also a co-author of Crossing boundaries: thinking through literature, along with Julie Scanlon, Amy Waste, and Terry Eagleton. Shuttleworth’s chapter is ”So Childish and So Dreadfully Un-Childlike’: Cultural Constructions of Idiocy in the Mid-Nineteenth Century’, but its following chapter may also be relevant to the topic of fears: ”Aberrant Passions and Unaccountable Antipathies’: Nervous Women, Nineteenth-Century Neurology and Literary Text’, by Jane Wood.







The book from which Shuttleworth’s research project takes its name, Diseases of modern life by Benjamin Ward Richardson (QZ 40/Rich), is an interesting primary source text that we hold in the Unit Library, with some illuminating discussion of ‘Disease from Worry and Mental Strain’ (Part the Second, Chapter II). It covers such afflictions from mental strain as Hysteria and Broken Heart. This work approaches the effects of worry on health with the focus of the interview; a completely different angle on the topic of fear can be found in Philip Alcabes’s book Dread : how fear and fantasy have fueled epidemics from the Black Death to avian flu by (RA649 ALC 2009). This work looks at how anxieties about outbreaks of disease often stray from the facts to incorporate inflated fears about what is unknown, undesirable or misunderstood.








Allan Horwitz’s Anxiety : a short history (RC531 HOR 2013 and online) is a more general work on the topic, covering melancholia, nerves, neuroses and phobias, but has a pertinent chapter entitled ‘The Nineteenth Century’s New Uncertainties’. This explores how the newly industrialized world created a wide range of uncertainties, including a discussion of phobias. Finally, The age of anxiety : a history of America’s turbulent affair with tranquilizers by Andrea Tone (RM333 TON 2009) looks at medication and anxieties, and takes a brief look at the roots of modern anxiety in Victorian neurasthenia (‘tired nerves’) in its first chapter.








You can read more about Shuttleworth’s research into The Stresses and Strains of Modern Life here: http://www.britac.ac.uk/blog/stresses-and-strains-modern-life.

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: ‘A woman diagnosed as suffering from melancholia with fear, or fear of everything, and with a propensity to attempt suicide’
L0026691 Credit: Wellcome Library, London
A woman diagnosed as suffering from melancholia with fear, or fear of everything, and with a propensity to attempt suicide. Lithograph, 1892, after a drawing made for Sir Alexander Morison.
1892 after: Alexander Morison and Byrom Bramwell
Published: [s.n.],[Edinburgh] : [1892]; Printed: McLagan & Cumming Lith.)(Edin[bu]r[gh] :
Size: image 20.5 x 20 cm. ; Collection: Iconographic Collections
Library reference no.: ICV No 51428 and Iconographic Collection 38637i
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 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)


Seminar 1: Prophets of Progress?

‘Prophets of progress? Predicting the future of science and technology from H G Wells to Isaac Asimov’

The first HSMT seminar of Hilary Term will take place at 16.00 on Monday 16th January (Week 1) in the Lecture Theatre of the History Faculty on George Street, and will be delivered by Peter Bowler.

Peter Bowler is based at Queen’s University, Belfast, and is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a corresponding member of the Académie Internationale d’Histoire des Sciences. He was President of the British Society for the History of Science 2004-6. He has published extensively on the development and impact of the theory of evolution, focusing especially on the role played by theories other than Darwinian natural selection. More recently he has worked on the relationship between science and religion and on twentieth-century British popular science. His latest work is on twentieth-century speculations about the future development of science and technology, combining a long-standing interest in science fiction with his knowledge of the popular science literature.

The first half of the twentieth century saw the emergence of science fiction as a recognized genre, but popular science writers also sought to imagine what the next developments would be, especially in areas with immediate practical applications. This talk will explore a number of issues relating to how we can understand the role played by science in popular culture through these predictions. What were the interactions between popular science writing and works of fiction ranging from science fiction to the many pessimistic novels of the period? How were public expectations aroused and used to create hopes of major improvements in everyday life, or fears of war and other calamities? How were rival technologies promoted by those who hoped to benefit from their introduction? The talk concludes by taking debates about the future of aviation during the inter-war years as a case study.

We have three of Bowler’s published works in the Wellcome Unit Library, the earliest of which is The eclipse of Darwinism : anti-Darwinian evolution theories in the decades around 1900 (QH361 BOW 1983). In this work, Bowler reevaluates the influence of social forces on the scientific community and explores the broad philosophical, ideological, and social implications of scientific theories. The Mendelian revolution : the emergence of hereditarian concepts in modern science and society (QH428 BOW 1989) examines the interpretations and theories of Mendelian genetics and their role in the emergence of modern ideas and values. His 1990 work Charles Darwin : the man and his influence (QH31.D2 BOW 1990) further evaluates the biograhy and cultural history around Darwin’s work, and the motivations of its various evaluations.



Mendelian Rev

Charles Darwin












As described in the seminar title, one of the writers Bowler will focus on in his talk is H.G. Wells. We hold two copies of his scientific writings in the library, both of which contain a number of interesting illustrations. The science of life (QH309 WEL 1931), written jointly with Julian Huxley and G.P. Wells, has been called the ‘first modern textbook of biology’, and Book 1: The Living Body is an interesting read for HSMT. This section of the book is reproduced on its own in a smaller (and less unwieldy) version, The living body, H. G. Wells (QH 325/Well). Wells and his contemporaries look at the concept that ‘The Body is a Machine’, which ties with some of the themes of several of Wells’ novels, such as ‘The War of the Worlds’, ‘The Island of Doctor Moreau’ and ‘The Invisible Man’.

Body machine 2

Body machine







Isaac Asimov is another writer mentioned and we also have a copy of Inside the atom (QC778 ASI 1961). The book describes the internal structure of the atom, and the sequence of concepts described follows the sequence that these facts were discovered in. It is intended to be accessible for the less scholarly reader, and ends on the somewhat foreboding note, ‘If only we can learn to use wisely the knowledge we already have…’, echoing fears of technology that can be seen in twentieth-century literature, in particular science fiction.











The intersection of medicine and literature is an interesting subsection of the history of medicine, and works on this topic can be found most commonly in the Wellcome Unit Library at shelfmark ‘P’. Our collections in the area have particular strengths in the influence of psychology and its theories on literature. The mind of modernism : medicine, psychology, and the cultural arts in Europe and America, 1880-1940 by Mark Micale (PN56.P93 MIN 2004) explores the interplay of the aesthetic and psychological domains during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, in relation to Modernism, which took shape when modern psychological disciplines were establishing their scientific foundations. William Greenslade’s Degeneration, culture and the novel, 1880-1940 (PR888.D373 G74 GRE 1994) looks at how developments in medical, biological and psychiatric sciences led many to believe that ignorance, insanity, criminality and even homosexuality were evidence of degeneration of the human race, causing disturbing social changes. Greenslade examines the impact of these degeneration theories on culture and fiction.












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!

1. David C. Smith, H.G. Wells: Desperately Mortal (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1986), p. 262.





Hilary Term 2017 Seminar Series

The following seminars will be held on Mondays at 4pm in the History Faculty Lecture Theatre, George Street.

Coffee will be available from 15:30

All are welcome

*Please note: there will be no weekly blog post with suggested reading for seminars 4-6, as these are not on the History of Medicine*

‘Research Seminars in the History of Science, Medicine, and Technology’

Week 1: 16 January
Peter Bowler, Queen’s University, Belfast
‘Prophets of progress? Predicting the future of science and technology from H G Wells to Isaac Asimov’

Week 2: 23 January
John Stewart, LSE/Oxford
‘Richard Titmuss and the origins of social medicine’

Week 3: 30 January
Sally Shuttleworth, University of Oxford
‘Fears, phobias and obsessions in the late-nineteenth century’

Week 4: 6 February
Gordon Barrett, University of Oxford
‘Stuck in the middle with you: scientist, state, and network in Chinese engagement with the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, 1957-1985’

Week 5: 13 February
Philipp Nothaft, University of Oxford
‘Precession or trepidation? The motion of the sphere of fixed stars as a problem in medieval Latin astronomy’

Week 6: 20 February
James Sumner, University of Manchester
‘Garbage in, garbage out? A history of representations of computers in popular media’

Week 7: 27 February
Helen Anne Curry, University of Cambridge
‘Biology as technology: an unexpected history of innovation in living things’

Week 8: 6 March
Yolana Pringle, University of Cambridge
‘Peer support, mental health activism, and changing doctor-patient relationships in Uganda’

Conveners: Professor Mark Harrison, Professor Rob Iliffe, Dr Sloan Mahone, Dr Erica Charters

Wellcome Unit for the History of Medicine, University of Oxford
45-47 Banbury Road, Oxford OX2 6PE
Tel: (01865) 274600

Details of all Wellcome Unit events can be found at: www.wuhmo.ox.ac.uk