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Rachael Gillibrand

Lecturer in Premodern History, University of Leeds

For as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated by the history of the body. As a child, I was captivated by Mary Dobson’s descriptions of ancient Egyptian perfumes and hair care techniques in her ‘Scratch and Sniff’ book series. I was similarly delighted (and terrified) when, at eight years old, I got to meet a ‘real’ medieval surgeon at the York Dungeons! 

Increasingly preoccupied with the body as a construct reconceptualised over time, I decided to pursue history as a career. As such, I completed my BA in History (2014), my MA in Medieval Studies (2015) and my PhD in Medieval Disability Studies (2020) at the University of Leeds. Throughout my doctoral research I investigated the practical ways in which fifteenth- and sixteenth-century disability aids were designed, constructed, and sold; whilst also considering how contemporaries conceptualised bodily augmentation and the day-to-day use of assistive devices.

After finishing my PhD at the University of Leeds, I spent two years teaching History and Heritage Studies at Aberystwyth University, Wales, during which time I was simultaneously employed as the Jaipreet Virdi Fellow for Disability Studies at the Medical Heritage Library. Throughout my fellowship, I developed three curated collections on Ocular Aids, Hearing Aids, and Dental Technologies.

In 2022, I was appointed as Lecturer in Inclusive Learning for the Schools of History and English at the University of Leeds. As a woman from a working-class background and the first in my family to attend university, I am deeply committed to extending and improving inclusivity practices and thinking critically about how the student experience can be improved for students from traditionally marginalised backgrounds within academia.


  • –present
    Lecturer in Premodern History, University of Leeds
  • 2020–2022
    Lecturer of History and Heritage, Aberystwyth University


  • 2020 
    University of Leeds, PhD - Medieval Disability Studies
  • 2015 
    University of Leeds, MA - Medieval Studies
  • 2014 
    University of Leeds, BA - History


  • 2020
    The Smithfield Decretals (c. 1340), Medieval Disability Sourcebook: Western Europe
  • 2019
    Viewing Disability in Medieval Spanish Texts: Disgraced or Graced?, by Connie L. Scarborough, The English Historical Review