A Hidden History: African Women and the British Health Service, 1930-2000

The Young Historians Project present “A Hidden History: African Women and the British Health Service, 1930-2000

The Society for the Social History of Medicine(SSHM) is delighted to introduce a new series of public events, free of charge, that will follow on the work started at our Anti-racism Workshop, organised in July 2022 with funding from the Wellcome Trust.

For our first event The Young Historians Project (YHP) will present their research “A Hidden History: African Women and the British Health Service, 1930-2000”, followed by Prof Jonathan Reinarz, who will provide a short commentary. The session will leave plenty of time for questions from the audience.

Abstracts and bios:

Young Historians Project, “A Hidden History: African Women and the British Health Service, 1930-2000”

Recruitment for the British health service from the colonies of the British Empire began in the period after the Second World War. However, nurses, doctors and other medical professionals trained in Britain before this, as higher education was generally not available in the colonies. Despite their long history of work within the health service in Britain, the role of African women is rarely highlighted in discussions of the history of the NHS or of health work more generally. As current narratives on black women in the British health service tend to focus on ‘Windrush generation’ Caribbean contributions, this project will cover new ground and expand the understanding of this history. This project is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, and will be undertaken in partnership with Ghana Nurses Association, Nigerian Nurses Charitable Association and the Black Cultural Archives.

Young Historians Project are a non-profit organisation formed by young people encouraging the development of young historians of African and Caribbean heritage in Britain. We’re a team of young people aged 16-25 working on dynamic projects, documenting pivotal and often overlooked historical moments. We hope that through this and future projects more young people of African and Caribbean heritage will rediscover history and develop the skills to become the historians of the future. Each one, Teach one.

Jonathan Reinarz is the Director of The History of Medicine Unit and Professor of the History of Medicine at the University of Birmingham. Jonathan has published extensively on the history of hospitals and medical education, including a history of the Birmingham teaching hospitals (2009), the history of the senses, especially smell, and the history of accidents, including burns and scalds.

This event is online via Zoom – meeting details will be sent to all registered before the event and you can sign up here

Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Research and Teaching in Historical Demography Workshop

Hosted by the Department of Economic History, LSE

Organising Committee: Eilidh Garrett (Edinburgh), Nicola Shelton (UCL) and Wendy Sigle (LSE), Neil Cummins (LSE), and Eric Schneider (LSE) 

Date: 17 and 18 April 2023, LSE and online

Self-Portrait with Susanna Krimmel and her Children by John Lewis Krimmel, oil on canvas, 14 x 12 inches, Winterthur Museum

Researchers and students studying historical demography come from a wide range of disciplines including anthropology, demography, economic history, economics, epidemiology, family history, geography, medical history, population data science, and social history. This variety of disciplines makes the field vibrant, but it also means that students learn about key historical demographic phenomena mostly from a particular disciplinary background. 

To promote greater understanding and collaboration across disciplines, we are organising a two-day workshop on Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Research and Teaching in Historical Demography, supported by the Economic History Society, British Society for Population Studies, LSE Economic History Department and LSE Eden Centre, to be held at LSE on 17 and 18 April 2023. While the speakers at the workshop will be present in London, we will also welcome online engagement via Zoom, and the room has good hybrid capabilities. The sessions will be recorded and shared afterwards. 

The workshop will consist of a blend of research and teaching-focussed sessions throughout both days. In the research sessions, leading historical demographers from different disciplinary backgrounds will present their ongoing work to highlight the diversity of approaches to historical demography research. The teaching sessions will take a panel format with the purpose of 1) identifying the differences in the way each discipline approaches the teaching of and research in historical demography and 2) beginning to build a consensus on key concepts, methods and approaches that students of historical demography should be taught regardless of their discipline. 

Please register to attend the workshop using the following link: https://forms.gle/6wnK6ia6YM6ywi3a8. In-person attendance is limited because of space constraints. Please register for in-person attendance by 27 March 2023.

CfP: Unruly Microbes – Epidemics, Infections, and Ecologies of Change in Historical Perspective

From spillover diseases to re-emerging infections to rising rates of antimicrobial resistance, stories of unruly microbes have proliferated daily conversation in recent years.

These serious and continuing threats to human and nonhuman health fly in the face of triumphalist narratives of epidemiological transition and global disease eradication (Bellamy Foster et al., 2021). The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the extent to which these human-microbial interactions are mediated by ecological change widely construed, from urban and rural land use change driven by global commerce patterns to shifts in internal microbial populations within bodies. While scholars have developed many frames through which to think about the embeddedness of disease in ecological change historically and in the present, these stories remain on the margins of more traditional biomedical studies, and are often siloed into different disciplinary homes. This conference seeks to bring together scholars across disciplines to think through the relationship of epidemics to human-driven environmental change across time and space. Paper and panel proposals are welcome from researchers working on topics widely related to this theme. Examples of possible intersecting themes include:

·      Capitalism, land use change, and infectious disease

·      Colonialism, ecological change, and infectious disease

·      Urban ecology and sanitation

·      Zoonoses and multispecies studies of disease

·      Agricultural systems and human-animal diseases

·      Hospitals-as-ecologies and histories of infection control

·      Histories of epidemic and infection control programs

·      Changing conceptions of human-microbial relationships (the Holobiont, Pathobiont, mutualisms)

Abstracts of between 300-500 words on the themes above and related topics are welcome. We are happy to consider co-authored submissions and panel proposals, especially those that include scholars working from multiple disciplines. 

Please direct abstracts and any questions to Dr Emily Webster  by the 24th of March, 2023.

Food Poverty across Ireland: Past, Current and Future Perspectives. 

Ulster University has an upcoming symposium entitled Food Poverty across Ireland: Past, Current and Future Perspectives

The symposium will be hosted by the School of Medicine, School of History and School of Sport on 5 May 2023 at MU201, Magee Campus, Ulster University. 

Food Poverty across Ireland will address the current post-COVID context of food poverty, soaring grocery bills and rising reliance on charitable and state assistance, while also investigating the historically-rooted nature of food problems in Ireland, a country which has historically suffered worse nutrition and dietary health levels than other western countries.

This symposium will engage with the theme through the lens of humanities, history, culture, social justice and sociology. By interweaving these into clinical- and science-based approaches, broader perspectives will be developed to help better understand and form responses to policies and problems, consider rights-based approaches to food, while also promoting empathetic attitudes towards how families budget, make food choices and prioritise overlapping issues such as health, cost and survival. The location will increase potential to engage medics so that they gain a historical/cultural awareness of food poverty.

To take part please submit a 200 word abstract and brief CV by 30 March 2023 to either i.miller@ulster.ac.uk or foodpovertysymposium2023@gmail.com    

‘Er indoors’: Domesticity and nature in home and garden– A one-day interdisciplinary conference

University of Warwick, Saturday 23 November 2019

Confirmed Keynote Speakers

  • Professor Ben Highmore, Cultural Studies, University of Sussex
  • Dr Lisa Taylor, Principal Lecturer in Media, Leeds Beckett University

The domestic garden represents, for many, their closest and most significant contact with the natural environment. The relationship of humans with this domestic outdoor space, in which nature can be ‘controlled’ by the householder, is often very different to that with ‘wild nature’, to be found in the countryside and national parks. Domesticity and Nature in Home and Garden seeks to provide a fresh, interdisciplinary perspective on the interaction of humans with the environment by focusing on the relationship between the house and the garden across time and place, on the ways in which family life occurs in the domestic space and how it moves between the indoors and the outdoors. This conference will promote a rethink of our place in the nature that is on our doorstep.

Domesticity and Nature in Home and Garden will appeal to scholars from diverse fields who are concerned with all aspects of the relationship between the inside and the outside of the home. Every time and place has a domestic culture of the inside and the outside that can be critically examined and compared. Areas of interest will include, but will not be limited to, the lived experience of the domestic home and garden (pets, house plants, vermin, barbeques, sheds) and the role of health, gender and class in defining the boundaries of the home and garden space. The study of domesticity inside and outside can reshape understandings of health, wellbeing and the human relationship to the environment and provide new approaches to productively discuss our future domesticities in the context of combatting climate change. This work is of clear significance to the world beyond the academy. The conference will provide a platform for discussion of ways in which the public might be fruitfully engaged, and of any barriers that exist to prevent this.

Participants will be drawn from a range of disciplines with interests spanning, though not restricted to, the humanities, with a balance between contributions adopting historical perspectives and those which critically examine areas of contemporary practice.

We invite proposals for papers of 20 minutes, submitted with a short biography to erindoors2019@outlook.com by 5pm on Friday 9th August.

We hope to support costs of attendance for postgraduate and early career researchers. Please let us know if you wish to be considered.

EAHMH Conference 2019: Sense and Nonsense

Sense and Nonsense
S3N$e & nonβÕNze

27th-30th August 2019, University of Birmingham, UK

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This biennial conference of the European Association for the History of Medicine and Health marks the 30th anniversary of the Association since its founding conference in Strasbourg in 1989. The title of the conference has been chosen to recognise key themes at the heart of medical history debates and discussions, and will take place in the heart of England, at the University of Birmingham.

Confirmed keynote speakers include Professor Ludmilla Jordanova (University of Durham), Professor Robert Jütte (University of Stuttgart) and Dr Vanessa Heggie (University of Birmingham). Expert sessions on public engagement and social media, among others, will also be run by Dr Vanessa Heggie and Alice Roberts, television presenter and Professor of Science Engagement (University of Birmingham) specifically for early career scholars on the first day of the conference.


Call for Papers

In the most literal of senses, the Scientific Board welcomes abstracts that will explore the history of sense perception, singularly or collectively and within medicine and health globally over the broadest of chronologies. Centring on touch, taste, smell, sight, sound or the heightened, honed, dulling, disability or loss of senses, or touching on their employment through food, pain, analgesia, polluted streets or pestiferous zones – and the emotional responses elicited – this conference encourages engagement with the emerging field of sensory history and its potential to revisit many familiar topics in fresh ways and provoke new insights.

We particularly welcome proposals for panels touching on these and other topics, including, but not limited to:

  • Epistemologies of the senses through time
  • Animal, human, inter-species and transhuman senses
  • Reading non-verbal signals in medical and health communication
  • Extra/sensory perception and its metaphors across cultures and clinics
  • Looking, listening, touching, smelling and tasting in medical education, examination and diagnosis
  • Energy, chakras, meditation, mindfulness and the senses and their management
  • Pain, torture, itching, scratching, numbing and sedating as experience, punishment or therapy
  • Hyper-sensitivity, diversity, ability or disability through the senses, including burns, light sensitivity, synaesthesia, acute hearing or sight loss
  • Insensibility, numbing, drugs and psychoactive substances
  • Enabling technologies and technologies of touch, tactile imagery and haptic healing
  • Material culture and experiences of space through the senses, health, illness or as patients
  • Feeling and feelings, both injured and healed
  • Mental capacity, signs of reason, neurological signs and auras
  • Fever, chills, hallucination, delusion and trauma
  • Nonsense, speaking in tongues, gibberish and jargon
  • Paradigm shifts and schisms in medicine and medical history
  • Ethics, experimentation and the return to common sense
  • Experiments, therapies or designs using the senses or sensory deprivation
  • Making sense of medicine and translating ideas into practice
  • Geographies of the senses; virtual worlds, simulation and technology


Individual submissions will be received until 30 Jan. 2019 and should comprise of a 250-word abstract, including five key words, and a one-page CV with contact information. Panel submissions should ideally include three papers (each with 250-word abstract, keywords and short CV), a chair and an initial introductory 100-word justification. If you wish to organise a roundtable, please include the names of participants and short 500-word abstract. We also invite poster presentations and ideas of novel sessions. As this is an anniversary year, the organisers will also be collecting images and items commemorating the work and activities of the EAHMH since its founding – sense or nonsense, please bring anything you are happy to share.

All submissions should be sent to: eahmh2019@contacts.bham.ac.uk  

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Conference: ‘Leprosy and the “Leper” Reconsidered’

The organising committee reflect on the aims of this SSHM-supported conference, held in September 2018.  

Leprosy and the ‘Leper’ Reconsidered was an interdisciplinary conference that aimed to bring together scholars working in many periods and many countries, social scientists, physicians and biomedical scientists to begin a conversation that will unify and broaden the discourse on leprosy sufferers and leprosy. Leprosy is still categorised as a ‘neglected tropical disease’ by the World Health Organisation (WHO). In 2016, it was reported that there were 216,108 new cases in 145 countries.[1] Yet despite its widespread prevalence, it is thought of as a disease of the past. Indeed, historical perceptions and representations of leprosy as a uniquely repulsive and dangerous disease that demands the exclusion of the sufferer from mainstream society, persist even in the twenty-first century world.[2] One of the goals of this conference was to educate, not only other scholars of leprosy studies — regardless of their discipline — but also the wider community at McGill University and beyond.

The organisers of this conference — Dr. Elma Brenner, Courtney Krolikoski, Dr. Anna Peterson, and Prof. Faith Wallis — are medievalists specialising in the history of medicine and/or social welfare, with particular attention to leprosy. As such, we are acutely sensitive to the ways in which leprosy has been stereotyped as a paradigmatic ‘medieval’ disease, in the most sensationally negative sense of that term. This is unfortunate in two ways. First, the new histories of medieval leprosy pioneered by François-Oliver Touati, Carole Rawcliffe, and Luke Demaitre, have overturned previous ideas about how medieval societies viewed leprosy and treated leprosy sufferers.[3] Secondly, the inordinate focus on medieval leprosy has occluded other histories of leprosy in other parts of the world, and in other eras.

Our choice of Luke Demaitre and the eminent historian of Japan Susan Burns as keynote speakers for this conference signifies our intention to establish some balance and perspective in the global story of leprosy. Demaitre’s work, Leprosy in Premodern Medicine, is the canonical text for understanding, not only the development of the medical conceptualisation of leprosy, but also the interplay between medicine, society, culture, and law in the Middle Ages. Burns’ own work compliments and expands on Demaitre’s by exploring the disease in a modern context. Her forthcoming monograph, Kingdom of the Sick: Leprosy, Citizenship, and Japan,  focuses on leprosy throughout Japanese history from its characterisation as a ‘karmic retribution disease’ in the medieval period to the modern period wherein authorities attempted to control the illness through sanitation measures. She argues that in modern Japan leprosy has become part of the debate regarding the place of the chronically ill and disabled in society.[4] This pairing also speaks to our concern to reframed in the context of the history of colonialism and post-colonial societies. The experience of colonialism added a second layer of prejudice to the leper’s condition. Leprosy was a disease of tropical colonies where the colonisers implemented, either through the introduction of medical schools or through missionaries, the idea of segregation and isolation for those afflicted by leprosy. This approach has led to its own historical distortions; as well as reinforced the neglect of areas outside the colonial spheres, or in post-colonial leprosy.

Leprosy and the ‘Leper’ Reconsidered was conceived as a means to explore how communities have approached leprosy and leprosy sufferers globally by engaging historians, scholars of art, film, archaeology, religion and literature. At the same time, it will bring into the conversation new theoretical tools like disability studies, and new historical techniques like digital humanities. Nor will it neglect the crucial medical and scientific histories, as well as anthropological, archeological, and material culture contexts. This conference aims to do this, while also providing a space to the impact of this disease as it intersects with gender, class and race. It presents an opportunity to bring together such a chronologically, geographically and disciplinarily diverse group of speakers and presenters, from early to advanced career stages. We will also be addressing the complex and violent history of the term ‘leper’ as a means of anchoring the overall themes of this conference.

Our aim is to bridge the gap between scientists and social scientists to bring new clarity to questions about the human experience of leprosy, and to open new research opportunities.

[1] “Leprosy Fact Sheet,” World Health Organisation, last modified February 9, 2018, http://www.who.int/en/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/leprosy.

[2] The ILEP is a federation of thirteen international NGOs based in Geneva, Switzerland. Their Triple Zero Campaign – Zero Transmission, Zero Disability, Zero Discrimination – has worked tirelessly not only to increase access to medical care for leprosy sufferers around the world, but also to educate and petition governments to end discriminatory practices against those afflicted from Hansen’s Disease. Currently, they are funding and supporting 700 projects in 66 countries in order to bring about the end of leprosy. See: https://www.ilepfederation.org/.

[3] Francois-Olivier Touati, “Les léproseries aux XIIème et XIIIème siècle, lieux de conversions?” in Voluntate Dei Leprosus: les lépreux entre conversion et exclusion aux XIIème et XIIIème siècles, eds. Nicole Bériou and François-Olivier Touati (Spoleto: Centro Italiano di Studi sull’Alto Medioevo, 1991), 1-32; Carole Rawcliffe, Leprosy in Medieval England (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2006); Luke Demaitre, Leprosy in Premodern Medicine: A Malady of the Whole Body (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007).

[4] Susan L. Burns, Kingdom of the Sick: Leprosy, Citizenship, and Japan (Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, Forthcoming).

Conference. Pretty Ugly: Early Modern Beauty, 1400-1800

This conference will take place at Wellcome Collection, Euston Road, London 10-11 January 2019. The conference is hosted and generously supported by Wellcome Collection, and further supported by the SSHM and the Universities of Birmingham and Exeter.

We invite proposals from PG students and ECRs for 3-minute lightning talks AND/OR posters for the poster exhibition during the conference. Please send a 100-word abstract, indicating if you are proposing a lightning talk, a poster or both, to prettyugly@contacts.bham.ac.uk by 31 October 2018.

Information about the conference, speakers and programme can be found at: https://prettyuglyconference.wordpress.com/.

For further enquiries and to register to attend the conference, please contact: prettyugly@contacts.bham.ac.uk.

Conference. Vegetative Powers: Endowing Bodily Life from Late Antqiuity to the Early-Modern Period

Attendance is free of charge. To register please email Fabrizio Baldassarri.

Wednesday 12 September:
Location – Aula Archivio Antico, Palazzo del Bo
09.15 – Registration
09.30 – Welcome Address from Authorities of the University of Padua
“The Heart in the History of the University of Padua”, Gaetano Thiene


Session1 – The Vegetative Soul in Antiquity: Aristotle and Galen
10.00 – “Soul, Parts of Soul, and Vegetation in Aristotle” – Klaus Corcilius(Berkeley University)
10.30 – “
ὁμοίωσις φυτῷ in Galen: how our most fundamental capacities are plant-like” – Robert Vinkesteijn (Utrecht University)


11.00 – Coffee Break

Session2 – Scholastic Tradition, Renaissance Culture, and Chymical Knowledge

11.30 – “How to Explain Vegetative Powers of an Immaterial Soul?” – Martin Klein (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin)
12.00 – “Expanding the Parva Naturalia-Project: Albertus Magnus on Nutrition” – Roberto Lo Presti (Humboldt University Berlin)

12.30 – “Jesuit Vegetative Souls: Lessious and the Conimbricenses on men’s ‘lowest’ functions” – Cristiano Casalini (Boston University)


13.00 – Lunch Break


14.00 – “Towards the Elimination of the Anima Vegetativa: Some Intellectualistic Tendencies in the Jesuits Suárez and Arriaga” – Anna Tropia (Humboldt University Berlin)
14.30 – “Nicolas Taurellus on Forms, Vegetative Souls and the Question of Emergence” – Andreas Blank (Alpen-Adria University, Klagenfurt)
15.00 – “Generation and the Vegetative Soul: A ‘Hermetic’ Perspective from Marburg (1612)” – Elisabeth Moreau (Université Libre de Bruxelles/Radboud University Nijmegen)


15.30 – Coffee Break

Session3 – Early Modern Philosophical Investigations of the Vegetative Soul
16.00 – “Concoction, Transmutation, and Living Spirits: Francis Bacon’s Experiments with Artifical Life” – Dana Jalobeanu (Bucharest University)
16.30 – “The Vegetative Functions of the Soul in Descartes’ Meditationesand the ordo rationis” – Igor Agostini (Università del Salento)
17.00 – “Marin Cureau de la Chambre’s Conception of the Vegetative Soul” – Balint Kekedi (Aberdeen University)

20.00 – Dinner

Thursday 13 September
Location: Aula Cagnetto (or Anfiteatro Morgagni), ex-Istituto di Anatomia Patologica

Session4 – Cartesianisms
09.00 – “The First Editions of L’Homme: Cartesian Scholars and the Vegetative Soul” – Fabrizio Baldassarri (HAB Wolfenbüttel/ Università di Padova)
09.30 – “Juan Caramuel y Lobkowitz and the Question of the Negation of the Vegetative Soul in his Cartesian Manuscripts” – Emanuela Orlando(Università del Salento)


Session5 – English Philosophy
10.00 – “Re-Inventing the Vegetable Soul?
More’s Spirit of Nature and Cudworth’s Plastic Nature Reconsidered” – Sarah Hutton (University of York)

10.30 – Coffee Break

11.00 – “Plants and Brains: The Vegetative Soul and Its Links with the Imagination in Early Modern Medicine and Philosophy” – Guido Giglioni(Università di Macerata)

11.30 – “Margaret Cavendish on Vegetable Life” – Justin Begley (Helsinki University)

Session6 – 17th-Century Medical and Philosophical Interconnections

12.00 – “Vegetative Epistemology: the Cognitive Principles of Life in William Harvey and Francis Glisson” – Daniel Schmal (Pázmány Péter Catholic University)
12.30 – “An Alternative to the Vegetative Soul: Galen’s Natural Spirit in the Late 17th-Century Medical Conception of Digestive Functions” – Fabio Zampieri (Università di Padova)

13.00 – Lunch Break

14.00 – “A Way to Atheism? Pierre Bayle on Plastic Life” – Martine Pécharman (CNRS – Paris)


Session7 – 18th-Century: The Resurgence of the Vegetative Soul

15.00 – “The Notion of Vegetative Soul in the Leibniz-Stahl Controversy” – François Duchesneau (Université de Montreal)
15.30 – Coffee Break

16.00 – “Newton’s ‘Vegetative Spirit’” – Kirsten Walsh (Exeter University)
16.30 – “Beyond Structure: Vegetative Powers from Wolff to Hanov” – Matteo Favaretti Camposampiero (Università Ca’ Foscari Venezia)

20.00 – Dinner


46th Congress of the International Society for the History of Medicine

Lisbon, Portugal

3-7 September, 2018


The 46th Congress of the International Society for the History of Medicine will be held in Lisbon, Portugal, on September 3-7, 2018. The scientific sessions will take place at the Medical School of the Universidade Nova de Lisboa, centrally located in Campo Mártires da Pátria.

Among the topics selected are:

Palaeopathology: modern research and scientific approaches
Ethnomedicine, ancient medicine
Women in medicine
Hospitals and medical assistance
Endemic and epidemic diseases: impact in history and society
Poisons, antidotes, and forensic medicine
Teaching of medicine, medical universities, and schools
History of anatomical thought and procedures
Jewish, Arabic, and Medieval medicine
History of surgery, obstetrics, and evolution of surgical techniques and instruments
Medicine at the Age of the Discoveries: Eastern and Western medicine
Medicine in Art and Literature
Medical collections and Museums
Great figures of medicine
Diseases and causes of death in great figures of history, medicine, politics, art, and literature
Medicine in war context: emergency medicine and discovery of new techniques


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There will also be a special panel devoted to the “History of Nephrology in the Iberic World”, organized in collaboration with the International Association for the History of Nephrology (IAHN). The social program will offer free visits to the Pharmacy Museum and the National Museum of Archaeology throughout the Congress, to all participants, while two half-day tours will be organized on specific days. Early bird registration will be until July 31st, 2018. Please, check the Congress website for more details and the registration form.