I am a social and cultural historian of health and medicine post 1850, researching both the operation of western medicine in the British Empire and also the way the Empire (and other global) networks were integral to the development and promotion of medical, beauty and pharmaceutical products in the UK. I am also interested in the history of health and medicine in Britain more broadly conceived, particularly taking into account social and cultural perspectives, such as the 'use' of medicine to gain cultural influence. Before I took up my position in September 2014 at the University of Nottingham, I had previously worked for four years as an Associate Professor at the University of Nottingham, Ningbo, China (2010-14). I am happy therefore to advise students who are thinking about spending some of their time on the Nottingham Ningbo campus. I had many wonderful experiences in China, where I served as Acting Head of Department, Deputy Head of Department and Director of Teaching in the School of International Studies. Prior to moving to Ningbo, I held Assistant Professorial positions at the University of Exeter (2009-10) and the University of Strathclyde (2005-9). I also have held part time teaching and research positions at University College London, where I took my PhD, funded by the Wellcome Trust.
My research passion is medical history. During the earlier part of my career I published books on the history of colonial medicine in East Africa. My first book, Practising Colonial Medicine (I.B. Tauris, 2007) looked at European Doctors working in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, while my next book, Indian Doctors in Kenya: The Forgotten Story, 1895-1940 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015, paperback 2017) with Harshad Topiwala moved my focus to the careers of private and governmental Indian doctors in Kenya. More recently, however, whilst still retaining my interests in colonialism, I have increasingly moved my medical historical interests to archives closer to home. Between 2016-2017 I worked on a Wellcome Trust funded project on the colonial history of the famous chain store chemists Boots and from 1 June 2021 I shall lead be Principal Investigator on a large AHRC Standard Grant: 'Chemists to the Nation, Pharmacy to the World': Exploring the Global Dimensions of British Healthcare and Beauty with Boots the Chemists, 1919-1980' (2021-2025).
I am also just finishing another AHRC funded project (as Co-Investigator): 'Nightingale Comes Home for 2020' (2018-2021), which focuses on the East Midlands influences on the international career of Florence Nightingale. This has led me to become particularly interested in Nightingale's work relating to health and social reform on the Indian subcontinent. With my collaborators on this project (Paul Crawford, Jonathan Memel and Richard Bates) we have recently published a book Florence Nightingale at Home, (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020).
Looking at Boots and Nightingale allows me to examine the way local history feeds into international projects and ideas, as well as showing the way broader concerns framed local developments and mindsets. I am also co-investigator on a GCRF/AHRC project 'Towards Transdisciplinary Understanding of Inherited Soil Surveys: an Exploratory Case Study in Zambia' (2019-2021) working with Prof Murray Lark (Soil Science) and Dr Alison Mohr (STS) to examine how historical understandings of soil, agriculture and land use can positively impact modern development challenges. In all of my recent work, I have been interested in working with colleagues beyond history (for example, in business studies, health sciences, medicine, bio-science and advertising), as a means of enhancing new interpretations of historical themes and events.
I am School Research Director for the School of Humanities and serve as Treasurer to the Society for the Social History of Medicine. I am a fellow of the Royal Historical Society and A Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.
I am interested in a variety of aspects of the history of modern medicine and the history of the British Empire- particularly, but not exclusively: history of Western medicine in East Africa, histories of Indian Diaspora to Kenya, histories of doctors throughout the British Empire and European responses to tropical climates and landscapes. I am also keenly interested in the history of drugs and pharmaceuticals, the history of health and medical sourcing, marketing and retail, particularly the history of Boots the chemists. I also have a small, burgeoning interest in the history of colonial environmentalism and ecology as well as the history of the 'unhealthy' sponsorship of sports by alcohol, tobacco, fast food and betting companies.
In sum, I have a broad range of interests broadly under the umbrella of the history of modern western medicine, with additional niche specialisms in colonial medicine and the movement of knowledge and people transnationally.
I am very happy to accept research students in any of these fields and, indeed, in any aspect of the history of modern medicine post 1850, or the social and cultural history of Empire, or within the Medical Humanities or Health Humanities more broadly defined.
I have won awards for my teaching and enjoy interacting with students very much. I currently teach a third year Special Subject, Disease and Domination: The History of Medicine and the Colonial… read more
My current research has four major strands, all linking local histories with global developments.
(1 October 2021-30 September 2025)
AHRC Standard Research Grant (AH/T008741/1) Principal Investigator [Dr Richard Hornsey, CI] 'Chemists to the Nation, Pharmacy to the World': Exploring the Global Dimensions of British Healthcare and Beauty with Boots the Chemists, 1919-1980'.
(1 August 2020-31 July 2021)
Wellcome Prime ISSF Principal Investigator, 'Tobacco, Public Health and Sponsorship: An Exploratory Case Study of John Player and Son and Nottinghamshire County Cricket Club'.
(10 November 2019-10 August 2021)
AHRC GCRF Cultures, Behaviours and Histories of Agriculture, Food, and Nutrition call (AH/T00410X/1) Co-investigator [Professor Murray Lark, PI and Dr Alison Mohr, CI) 'Towards Transdisciplinary Understanding of Inherited Soil Surveys: an Exploratory Case Study in Zambia'.
(January 2018-August 2021)
AHRC Standard Research Grant (AH/R00014X/1), Co-investigator [Professor Paul Crawford, PI], 'Florence Nightingale Comes Home for 2020: an Historico-Literary Analysis of her Family Life'.
I have won awards for my teaching and enjoy interacting with students very much. I currently teach a third year Special Subject, Disease and Domination: The History of Medicine and the Colonial Encounter and a third year option, The Agony and the Ecstasy: Drugs for Pleasure and Pain in the History of Medicine. Additionally, I regularly teach at MA level. I also give guest lectures and seminars on the year one module, Learning History. I additionally contribute to Roads to Modernity and the Contemporary World.
In the past I have taught many diverse modules, from the history of medicine in the media, to medicine and literature, the history of capitalism and the history of narcotics. I also have convened several broad survey modules in the history of the British Empire and the history of medicine.
Previously I have written about the history of British doctors in colonial East Africa, psychiatric interpretations of European behaviour in the tropics, recruitment to the Colonial Medical Service, medical theories of tropical life and the theoretical uses of history in other social science disciplines (particularly within Organisational Studies).
In my spare time I am developing two large new projects in the realms of modern medical history. The first draws on impetus inspired by the earlier Florence Nightingale Project and centres on the way Victorian and Edwardian women working in healthcare have been commemorated (1837-2020). It is planned that this project will feed directly into partnerships with a number of heritage providers as well as schools with large numbers of students from widening participation backgrounds. The second will be on the history of unhealthy sport sponsorship by alcohol, tobacco, fast food and betting companies.