Tag Archives: History of Medicine

The Centre for Medical Humanities welcome their first research fellow

Dr Emmanuel Betta

Dr Emmanuel Betta

The Department of History, Philosophy and Religion are pleased to welcome Dr Emmanuel Betta to the research community at Brookes. He will be a Visiting Research Fellow for both the Centre for Medical Humanities and the Oxford Centre for Methodism and Church History.

Dr Emmanuel Betta is a researcher of contemporary history and an associate professor at the University of Rome, Sapienza. His current area of research, Catholic biopolitics, spans the research interests of both centres.

Expanding upon his research interests Dr Emmanuel said:

“From the mid nineteenth century to 1930, the Congregation of the Roman Inquisition, which had a decisive role in the definition of orthodoxy of Catholic discourse, started to create rules on topics concerning the control of life and body. From the forties onwards it focused on magnetism and hypnosis, birth control methods, surgical-obstetrical therapies for high-risk pregnancies, cremation of the bodies of dead people, human artificial procreation, whereas from the first years of the twentieth century it started to deal with sterilization and eugenics. These topics all had in common the body, and above all the fact that they were the product of a secularized view of the body itself, of life and death. These elements were no longer conceived and governed starting from a religious and Catholic semantics, but they were increasingly interpreted as starting from biomedical knowledge and perspectives.”

“The aim of my research is to develop the history of Catholic biopolitics, meaning the creation of a doctrine of the Catholic Church concerning the ways in which the different aspects of life are governed.”

Dr Emmanuel Betta

“I’m particularly interested in this change and in the way in which the Catholic Church reacted to the loss of control over the production of the semantics for the government of the body and the health. This interest has pushed me in the last ten years to examine specific aspects of this articulated disciplinary process, from the therapeutic interruption of pregnancy and the artificial insemination, to which I dedicated my first two books, to my last article focused on the discourse concerning birth control, in which emerged a relevant role of the English case for the inquisitorial disciplinary decisions. During my Visiting Fellowship I will work on the interplay between national case, in particular the English one, and this disciplinary process, with particular attention to the reception of the Inquisitorial documents in the medical and religious journals and to the analysis of the role of English Catholics in the eugenics discussions.”

For more information about the Centre for Medical Humanities please see here .

For more information about the Oxford Centre for Methodism and Church History please see here.

More doctoral success for the Department of History, Philosophy and Religion in a record-breaking semester

PG graduation

Last week, Melanie Bashor successfully defended her doctoral thesis entitled “Engineering Tolerance: Origins of Multicultural Education Policies in the Atlantic World from 1941‒1988.

Melanie’s success rounds off a record-breaking semester for the Department of History, Philosophy and Religion, bringing the total of doctoral completions this year to ten.

Recent completions also include:

  • Dr Stephen Massie, “The Imperialism of Cecil John Rhodes: Metropolitan Perceptions of a Colonial Reputation.”
  • Dr Jenny Wright, “Public Health Women Doctors in England, 1965-1991.”
  • Dr Christine Bianco, “Modern Art for Middle America: American Abstraction in Mass Magazines, 1946–1960.” Director: Dr Elizabeth Darling
  • Dr Catriona Gilmour-Hamilton: “A Cohort of One: Oral Narratives of Cancer Research in Britain, 1970–2010.” Directors: Dr Viviane Quirke and Dr Marius Turda

“I’m absolutely delighted. Doctorates don’t happen overnight, of course, and the success we’re currently enjoying reflects years of hard work on the part of students and their supervisors right across the department”Dr Tom Crook, Postgraduate Research Tutor

“I’m absolutely delighted. Doctorates don’t happen overnight, of course, and the success we’re currently enjoying reflects years of hard work on the part of students and their supervisors right across the department,” said Dr Tom Crook, Postgraduate Research Tutor for the department.

“The good thing,” he added, “is that this hard work continues, and there are plenty more in the pipeline. So watch this space!”

The department of History, Philosophy and Religion has nine interconnected research communities, supporting our doctoral students and encouraging wide participation through partnerships, research centres, conferences and public events.

Further information about our current cohort of doctoral students, including student profiles, can be found here.


Viva success from the Centre for Medical Humanities

CMH Viva success_800x430px

The Department of History, Philosophy and Religion are delighted to announce two new Doctors of Philosophy: Dr Alexandra Barmpouti and Dr Hanna Choudhury,  who both successfully defended their theses in March this year.

Alexandra’s thesis was entitled “Eugenics, Demography and Family Planning in Greece, 1950-1980: The Activities of the Hellenic Eugenics Society,” and was examined by Dr Tom Crook, from Oxford Brookes University and Dr Lisa Pine, from London South Bank University

Hanna’s thesis: “The Forgotten Children: The Association of Parents of Backward Children and the Legacy of Eugenics in Britain, 1946-1960,” was examined by Dr Viviane Quirke, from Oxford Brookes University and Professor Mark Jackson, from the University of Exeter.

Both projects were directed by Dr Marius Turda, Director of the University’s Centre for Medical Humanities, which seeks to bring together interrelated research across medical humanities and includes research specialisms in eugenics, forensic medicine and crime and race, immigrations and multiculturalism.

Speaking about the work of his students, Dr Marius Turda said

“These doctoral completions are the culmination of years of hard work and dedicated study on the part of Alexandra and Hanna, their success is richly deserved.”

He added:

“Their achievements also reflect the vibrant academic culture fostered by the new Centre for Medical Humanities in which both of them matured as scholars.”

These successes are a result of the first of five viva examinations taking place in the Department of History, Philosophy and Religion this semester.

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!”


Explaining and Experiencing Ebola


Dr Jane Stevens Crawshaw recently contributed to an episode of the BBC Radio 4 series Beyond Belief on ‘Plague Narratives and Ebola’ which sought to explore the impact of religion and ideas of sin, guilt and punishment on explanations for the current, devastating epidemic of Ebola.

The programme’s three contributors contextualised responses to Ebola in relation to plague.  In particular, Dr Stevens Crawshaw used her research expertise on the development of quarantine.  This policy, first developed as a fully-fledged public health measure in fifteenth-century Venice, applied a liturgically- and religiously-symbolic period of forty days (quaranta in Italian) to the treatment of disease which has endured to the current day.   The period of quarantine in its original form, like many public health measures in the past, was designed to offer practical treatment (in the form of medicine, healthy food and clean accommodation) with spiritual comfort and is emblematic of the high profile of religious ideas and people in the healthcare systems of the past.

The programme bridged past and present and included an interview with Catherine Mahony, an aid worker with CAFOD, whose work attempts to dissolve the tensions between medical and religious ideas within the current epidemic.  Dr Stevens Crawshaw said, ‘What emerged from the programme for me was the enduring tension at the heart of public health between concepts of the public good and individual rights and beliefs.  These tensions have to be negotiated, because without the support of the community which it is attempting to cure, public health cannot be effective’.

History and History of Medicine MA Alumni Evening

Drs Tom Crook and Viviane Quirke chat with MA students past and present at the MA alumni evening

On Tuesday 25 October, five former students on the History and History of Medicine MAs returned to Brookes to present to the current cohort of students and staff within the department about their careers and life after the MA.  Their enthusiasm and experience provided invaluable insights into the variety of careers available to history graduates and the widely applicable skills which are developed through MA study.

Huw Bradbury, who progressed from the MA to a PGCE for secondary school history teaching at the University of Oxford, outlined the nature of that qualification, its rewards and challenges, and the ways in which the MA had developed his profile as an applicant for teacher training, his skills as an original thinker and practitioner of history and his own confidence.  Sarah Cox, an archivist for the Red Cross in London, described her key responsibilities in her current role, the career path to becoming an archivist (including a specialist MA) and the skills developed on the History MA, particularly self-discipline, determination, time management and self confidence.  Both Huw and Sarah described the work experience they had undertaken alongside the MA and emphasised how useful that had been for enhancing their profiles.  Finally, Hannah Dolton described her recently won job in publishing and highlighted the important personal and organisational skills that allowed her to excel in that role, whilst illustrating that her job allowed her to maintain an interest in history, by coming into contact with cutting-edge historical research in the form of new titles.

Two current PhD students (Anna Gordon and Catriona Gilmour Hamilton) reflected on continuing with postgraduate study, the challenges of finding funding, the ways in which to use the MA as an opportunity to learn skills and ideas about professionalization and why it was that they felt strongly motivated about their areas of research.

Current MA students enjoyed the opportunity for informal discussion, and overall the group was left with a very positive impression of the tangible benefits of MA study in History and History of Medicine.

New Podcasts: Conference on “The Disease Within: Confinement in Europe, 1400-1800”

We are pleased to announce the release of 7 podcasts (in collaboration with the, papers presented to the following conference convened by Jane Stevens Crawshaw:

“The Disease Within: Confinement in Europe, 1400-1800”

Oxford Brookes University, 4-5th March 2011

Go to Podcasts

Conference Summary

This two-day conference brought together leading scholars from medical history, early modern social history and architectural history to exchange and debate ideas regarding the relationship between health and architecture in institutions of confinement. Two central themes were explored: the effect of confinement on the health of those within the institutions and debates about the potential effects of unhealthy bodies of the poor, sick, criminal and dangerous inmates on wider towns and cities. Despite the best attempts by authorities, inhabitants and their diseases continued to pose a risk to communities’ health and morality from behind closed doors and beyond high walls.

The podcasts presented below were kindly funded by the Wellcome Trust Strategic Award held by Oxford Brookes University’s ‘Centre for Health, Medicine and Society: Past and Present’.


Vanessa Harding (Birkbeck)
“Health and the Urban Environment”

Tim McHugh (Oxford Brookes)
Playing the Confinement Card: Financing of small hospitals in Britany, 16662-1772”

Laura McGough (Ghana)

“Female Asylums and the French Disease in Early Modern Venice”
As read by Tricia Allerston

Jane Stevens Crawshaw (Oxford Brookes)
“‘From a Distance it Looks like a Castle’: Contagion, communities and confinement in early modern Venice”

Kevin Siena (Trent and Oxford Brookes International Research Fellow)
“Jail Fever: a story of class, contagion and panic in eighteenth-century London”

Alysa Levene (Oxford Brookes)
“Confined for their own Good”

Peter Jones (Oxford Brookes)
“Putting the ‘Work’ in ‘Workhouse’: The causes and effects of periodic confinement on children under the English Old Poor Law”

Conference Programme (PDF)

New Podcasts: History of Medicine Seminar Series

We are delighted to release the podcasts of the five papers presented to the 2011 Spring Semester History of Medicine Seminar Series convened by Tim McHugh. As always, and hoping you will enjoy listening to the seminars as much as we did on the day, please do not hesitate to get in touch with any questions you may have.

Go to all Podcasts

John Hall (Oxford Brookes)
St Andrew’s Hospital, Northampton: A Case Study in Mid Twentieth-Century “Charitable” Psychiatry

Despina Karatkatsani (University of Peloponnese/ Visiting Scholar at Oxford Brookes)
Child Welfare and Mental Hygiene in Greece (1910-1940)

Jane Stevens Crawshaw (Oxford Brookes)
‘Cleanliness is next to Godliness’: The Problem of Plague in Early Modern Venice

Mike Esbester (Visiting Scholar at Oxford Brookes)
Safety first! Individuals, Voluntary Organisations, and the British State in Twentieth-Century Accident Prevention

Kevin Siena (Trent University, Ontario/ Visiting Scholar at Oxford Brookes)
‘The Itch’: The Strange Story of Skin Disease and Prejudice in the Eighteenth Century

Seminar Series Programme

Anna von Villiez receives an award for her book on the NS persecution of Jewish Doctors in Hamburg

We are very pleased to congratulate Anna von Villiez, Research Officer for the AHRC funded research project into Victims of Medical and Coercive Experimentation under National Socialism led by Paul Weindling, on the receipt of a prestigious award for her book on the persecution of Jewish Doctors in Hamburg between 1933 and 1945 (Mit aller Kraft verdrängt : Entrechtung und Verfolgung ‘nicht arischer’ Ärzte in Hamburg 1933 bis 1945. Galitz Verlag, Hamburg 2009).

Further details on the award conferred by the German Medical Council and German Ministry of Health can be read here: