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Christmas viva success for the Department of History, Philosophy and Religion

Experiencing smallpox in eighteenth-century England.

A sick man in bed, attended by a physician, and surrounded by members of his family weeping and praying. © The Wellcome Library, London

The week before Christmas witnessed another viva success for the Department of History, Philosophy and Religion, making for four completions so far this academic year.

This time it was the turn of Rosemary Leadbetter, who defended her thesis entitled “Experiencing smallpox in eighteenth-century England.” The disease has now been banished owing to twentieth-century advances in vaccination techniques and immunology; but it was still wreaking deadly havoc in the eighteenth century.

Rosemary focused on the disease in Oxfordshire, where, she argues, even before inoculation was practised, smallpox mortality in the county was being managed through tactics of containment and isolation. Rosemary also examined the role of the smallpox carer, revealing high levels of stress but also resilience thanks to integrated and reciprocal support. Spousal, parental and kinship networks were all vital components of care.

The internal examiner was Dr Viviane Quirke, and the two externals were Professor Steven King (University of Leicester) and Dr Michael Brown (Roehampton University).

Rosemary’s project was directed by Professor Joanne Begiato and Dr Alysa Levene, with further supervisory input from Dr Katherine Watson.

Thrilled with her student’s achievement, Alysa Levene said:

“Professor Begiato and I are very proud of Rosemary’s success, which represents the end of six years’ hard work as a part-time PhD student (and the birth of four grandchildren!). She’s also made a contribution to the department as an Associated Lecturer throughout her PhD and we’re delighted that she can now ask her students to call her Dr Leadbeater!”

 

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