My current research interests focus on a case study of two diseases in order to trace the political, religious and social changes in England from the Medieval to Early Modern Period.
The two diseases I am most interested in are Leprosy and Scrofula, or, as it was popularly known, "The King's Evil."
As a disease that was frequently referred to in the Bible, Leprosy was a disease that concerned both the lay and clerical population during the Medieval age. The traditional historiography suggests that medieval lepers were excluded from their communities and forcibly placed in isolation in institutions set up for them. More recently, however, historians have tried to look at this issue with a more nuanced view. My research will focus on the changing popular reactions to those suffering from leprosy and see if this indicates wider social and religious changes in order to expand upon recent work and study the disease across a longer period in history. For example, many of the institutions set up to "care" for lepers were monastic in origin. My research will include a comparative examination of these institutional records alongside medical manuals that detailed how to treat the disease. Following the dissolution of the monasteries from 1536 I am interested in studying how the population dealt with leprosy's victims as a result of the apparent removal of these institutions through these same, and other, resources. I am also interested in taking an interdisciplinary approach to the subject and, from a medical point of view, looking at the disease's biology and how this relates to its history, particularly its decline.
The second strand to my research is focused more within the early modern period. The disease of Scrofula was popularly known as the King's Evil due to the belief in the efficacy of the royal touch in healing it. This topic therefore lends itself to a study of politics and kingship and how this changed over time. The origins of this practice are believed to have started with Edward the Confessor and continued in a sporadic fashion until the reign of Queen Anne, the last monarch to touch for Scrofula in England. The healing of the disease by the monarch was accompanied by a touching ceremony and how this was adapted during the religious changes of the late medieval to early modern period by individual monarchs is of great interest. The subject can also tell us about the individual popularity of monarchs and how the touching ceremony was used as a means of gaining popular support, particularly in times of political strife. The topic is one that remains little studied in its own right, especially in comparison with leprosy, and this research will seek to demonstrate that it is a successful comparative tool for the political historian across the early modern age.