I am co-Principal Investigator (with Associate Professor Catherine Cox at University College Dublin), on a Wellcome Trust Investigator Award, ‘Prisoners, Medical Care and Entitlement to Health in England and Ireland, 1850-2000’ (https://histprisonhealth.com). My interests lie particularly with the mental health of prisoners, the impact of prisons on mental wellbeing, and the health of women prisoners.
Over the years, my research has focused on the social history of medicine and health and practices of medicine, particularly in modern Britain. I have published on nineteenth-century medical practice, childbirth and midwifery, alternative medicine and hydropathy, women and medicine, infant and maternal welfare, neurasthenia, child health, and medicine and the household. I have am especially interested in women and mental illness, including the history of postnatal mental illness, and published Dangerous Motherhood: Insanity and Childbirth in Victorian Britain in 2004. In 2013 I published Health and Girlhood in Britain, 1874-1920, which explores the intersection of ideas of health, medicine and adolescence with the practice of health in schools, the workplace, and sport and recreation, particularly through the medium of advice literature. Alongside my project on prisons, I am currently working on domestic healing practices in nineteenth-century Britain, drawing on household medical guides, recipe books and chemists' prescription books. In 2010, with Dr Catherine Cox at UCD, I started work on a Wellcome Trust funded project on Irish migration and mental illness between the Great Famine and Irish Independence, which has resulted in a series of articles and a co-edited volume. In terms of public outreach, I am working with Talking Birds theatre group on the development of 'The Asylum Trilogy'. The first of these pieces, 'The Trade in Lunacy', was performed in June 2013 and the second piece 'A Malady of Migration' was produced in Coventry and Dublin in summer 2014. Between 1996 and 2000 I edited the journal Social History of Medicine and serve on the editorial board of History of Psychiatry. I am a member of the Wellcome Trust's Digital Library Committee and the Trust's Investigator Award panel. From 1999 to 2008 I was Director of the Centre for the History of Medicine at Warwick; during this period the CHM won two prestigious Strategic Awards from the Wellcome Trust. I took over as Director of the CHM once again in 2015.
My current and recent PhD students have researched a variety of topics, including old age and mental illness in Victorian Britain; medicine and health in the Mediterranean islands; madness in Bourbon Mexico, 1713-1821; women and depression in interwar Britain; medical mission work in London, c.1900-1960; dirt, health and the home gardener in Britain, 1900-1970, and the history of Midland dispensaries 1820-1920.