Dr Elizabeth T. Hurren

Reader in HistoryDr Elizabeth Hurren

  • Tel: +44 (0)116 252 5968
  • Email: eh140@le.ac.uk
  • Office: Room 3, 3-5 Salisbury Road, Leicester
  • Feedback and Support Times (Semester 2, 2019-20): Tuesday 12-1.30pm
  • Dissertation Hours (Semester 2, 2019-20): Wednesdays 11-1pm (to be booked as individual appointments)


I have been a full-time academic for over 20 years, obtaining my BA (Hons) in History and English (1st class) in 1996 and a PhD in History in 2000 from Leicester University.

I am an international expert on the history of anatomy, the body and dissection, with wide ranging interests. I work collaboratively with subject areas across the university in the humanities, medical education, and science.

In April 2012, I was invited to take up the editorship of Wellcome History, and am a member of the editorial board of Family and Community History. In the same year, I worked with Lyddington History Society, on a Lottery Heritage funded community project in conjunction with English Heritage and the Burghley House Trust.

I am currently Director of the East Midlands Research Initiative in partnership with the Buccleuch Living History Landscape Trust based at Boughton House owned by the Duke of Buccleuch and the Lamport House Trust in Northamptonshire. This is a heritage partnership that reinterprets the country house and its fascinating archives.

I sit on the University Association for Research Ethics (AREC), and undertake peer-review work for the ESRC, Leverhulme Trust and Wellcome Trust. I continue to be a regular historical consultant on the history of the body for Historic Royal Palaces in London. In 2016-18, I am also a history of anatomy and the body collaborator with the Science Museum in London in the re-presentation of its refurbished £24m body and medicine galleries, sponsored by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Wellcome Trust and Wolfson Foundation.

I welcome enquiries from all those who need a medical humanities and poverty specialist and want to work with an academic partner to produce innovative public engagement work based on genuine historical research of interest to the wider general public.

I have three areas in which I currently do historical consultancy with external partners to develop public engagement and as pathways to impact:

2016-18: I have been acting as Historical Consultant for the Science Museum’s new Medicine Gallery in collaboration with the Wellcome Trust. The Wellcome Trust has given the Science Museum in London £10 million. The overall £24m project with HLF support, which is due to be completed in 2019, will create a magnificent new home for the world-renowned medical collections. Based on the collections of Sir Henry Wellcome and the Science Museum, the new Medicine Galleries will house over 2,000 objects.

They will highlight the best of the most significant medicine collection in the world. The galleries will reveal personal stories about the transformational power of medicine. They will also provide historical context for our experience of medicine and health today.

The new galleries will cover more than 3000m2 on the museum’s first floor. This almost doubles the area of the existing medicine galleries and will position medicine at the centre of the museum. I am providing curatorial and public engagement expertise on a history of the body, anatomy, dissection, and life/death.

Speaking about the galleries, Ian Blatchford, Director of the Science Museum, said: "Bringing together the fascinating medical collections of Sir Henry Wellcome, on permanent loan to the Science Museum since 1976, and our own rich medical collections, these galleries will become a global centre for the public understanding of health and medicine.”

Simon Chaplin, Wellcome’s Director of Culture and Society, announced how: "The new Medicine Galleries will create one of the world’s largest permanent spaces devoted to the place of health in human culture. We are delighted to be the lead funder for this exciting project."

2015 to date: I am the main Historical Consultant for a new initiative at the National Archives on ‘Dignity’.

This is one of only four strategic areas that TNA has decided to focus on in the next three years. I have been working closely with a team that includes:

• Dr Paul Carter, Principal Records Specialist (Modern Domestic), Advice and Records Knowledge [ARK]

• Paul's project assistant Katie Fox

• Emma Markiewicz (Head of Department, ARK, TNA)

• Val Johnson, (Director of Research, TNA)

• Caroline Ottaway Searle (Director of Public Service)

• Jeff James (Keeper and CEO, TNA)

For the past 24 months, we have been identifying source material that can form part of a major new grant bid to explore issues of dignity in healthcare. Archives that have been identified so far include:

• Treasury

• Home Office

• collections of the Privy Council

• Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance

• Ministry of Housing and Local Government

• The Department for Education (and their predecessors).

There will be seven cross-cutting themes of a large grant application in 2018/19.

2009 to date: I act as Historical Consultant, Historic Royal Palaces London, providing expertise on a history of the body, as well as the boundaries of life and death in this high-profile public offering. I have also published collaboratively as a result of this research and development connection, see, recently:

E. T. Hurren, ‘Cultures of the body, medical regimen and physic at the Tudor Court’ in T. Betteridge and S. Lipscombe (eds) Henry VIII and the Court: Art, Politics and Performance (Ashgate, 2013), pp. 65-92.

This major international collaboration has been reviewed positively in the press and academic literature:

Lucy Worsley, Daily Telegraph: ‘Best Books of 2013’: "My book of the year was Henry VIII and the Court (Ashgate), an essay collection edited by Tom Betteridge and Suzannah Lipscomb. The 17 historians involved in the project are all working at the coalface of history, collaboratively changing our perception of the king and his world. This will be the stuff of popular history in the future: read it here first."

David Loades, Archiv für Reformationsgeschichte, 41 (2013) called it "A wonderfully eclectic group of essays by experts in Tudor court culture… By challenging canonical views of Henry, tapping new sources, and approaching familiar texts from new perspectives, these insightful and readable essays ask us to re-evaluate a king we thought we already knew."

2005 to date: I am a historical presenter and consultant on history of the body and medicine for the BBC Radio 4 Making History series, produced by Nick Patrick for Pier Productions. This has a weekly platform audience of 1.5 million and can be downloaded as podcasts from BBC iPlayer. I have covered numerous medical features in the last 11 years, and these are often picked up in the media, notably by the Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph online news feeds.


I supervise a wide range of historical themes in the medical humanities and history of poverty broadly defined from 1750 to the modern period. I welcome PhD topics that reflect my current research focus:

  • The history of poverty and welfare in Europe
  • The history of anatomy, childbirth and the body from Tudor times to Modern incubator
  • The display, dissection, and medical power of the criminal corpse from the Murder Act (1752) to Anatomy Act (1832)
  • The research subject’s body narrative, and modern medical ethics leading up to the Human Tissue Bill (2005) and beyond to 2020
  • Organ donation and ethical issues of presumed consent
  • Pathography – living and writing about end-of-life illness
  • Life-stories and compassion
  • The lives of children connected to modern British politics

PhD Completions:

  • 'Customs in Common versus Contested Rights and Stewardship from the estate office of the English Versailles in the long 18th Century', AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award funded (2018).
  • ‘Crime and Policing in Somerset, 1800-1870’ (2016).
  • ‘Naming the Dead: Establishing the Identity of the Unknown Body in England and Wales  1800-1914’, Wellcome Trust funded (2013)
  • ‘Patient Case Records of the Royal Free Hospital 1902-1912’, Wellcome Trust funded (2011)
  • ‘The effect of family life during the late Georgian period of indisposition, medication, treatments and the resultant outcomes’ (2010)
  • ‘The Sick Poor and the Quest for Medical Relief in Oxford shire, c. 1750-1834’, AHRC funded (2009)
  • ‘Dissecting the Medical Marketplace: The Development of Healthcare Provision in 19th Century Portsmouth’, Wellcome Trust funded (2009)
  • ‘Medicine and Mutilation: Oxford, Manchester and the Impact of the 1832 Anatomy Act’ (2007)

PhD topics due for completion in 2018 include:

  • ‘The Medical Care and Philanthropy of the Duchesses of Buccleuch, 1750-1850’, AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award funded.
  • ‘A History of the Poor Law and Outdoor Relief in Four Case-Study English &Welsh Counties, 1895-1930’, AHRC M3C funded
  • ‘A History of Soup Kitchens, 1750-1914’, AHRC M3C funded
  • ‘A Cultural History of Redundant Church of England Buildings in the Modern Era’.

Share this page: