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
  • Office Hours (2017-18 Semester 2):
  • 2nd Years only - Thursday 11am - 12pm

  3rd Years only - Tuesday 5pm - 6pm

Dissertation students and 1st Years only - Wednesday 11am - 12 noon

In addition any student wishing to book a more bespoke "Time to Talk" appointment should email me to book their appointment- these will be scheduled as extra pastoral support sessions on a Wednesday early afternoon - times to be arranged individually.

Personal details

I have been a full-time academic for over 10 years, obtaining my BA (Hons) in History and English (1st class) in 1996 and a PhD in History in 2001 from Leicester University.

I specialise in the history of anatomy, the body and dissection, with wide ranging interests in the medical humanities. 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 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 the main medical history presenter for BBC Radio 4’s Making History series produced by Nick Patrick for Pier Productions and act as a regular historical consultant on the history of the body for Historic Royal Palaces in London.

I welcome enquiries from 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 four areas in which I have developed historical consultancy with external partners to develop public engagement and as pathways to impact:

2016: I acted 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 was asked to provide 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, said: "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 12 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 2016/17.

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-rofile 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 am an expert on the history of anatomy and the body from Antiquity to the Modern period. I am also an historian of poverty and welfare who specialises in the English local history of the New Poor Law. My recent research explores the use of the dead poor for medical research from the 18th to 21st century. I am particularly interested in historical themes of:

  • 19th century experience of being poor and poverty
  • New Poor Law and public health measures in Victorian Britain
  • History of death and dying in Britain
  • History of anatomy, the body, and dissection since Antiquity
  • Medical ethics and ‘body’ debates in biomedicine
  • History of the brain and migraine
  • Childbirth and birthing rites from Tudor times to Modern incubator
  • History of pathology and forensic medicine on the body
  • Social history of coroners and their professional standing


Four core projects reflect my current research activities since 2012. These are predominately funded by external funded research grants (detailed below) and are in partnership with leading scholars at UK Universities.

  1. (2012-2017) Wellcome Trust Programme Grant, £945,389, ‘Harnessing the Power of the Criminal Corpse from the Murder Act (1752) to the Anatomy Act (1832)’
    I am a co-applicant with Dr. Sarah Tarlow (archaeology dept, University of Leicester), Professor Peter King (criminal historian, centre for English Local History, University of Leicester), Professor Owen Davies (historian of the body, history department, University of Hertfordshire). This medical humanities project explores the way that medicine, the law, and society, dissected, displayed, dismembered and interred the criminal corpse hung in chains or on the gallows in Georgian Britain and Europe. Please click here for further details on this hidden anatomical world, or email the project team at: criminalbodies@le.ac.uk to share the latest research findings.
  2. (2011-12) Wellcome Trust People’s Award, £30,000, ‘All the King’s Fools: re-thinking mental health through learning-disabled performance at Hampton Court Palace’
    Co-applicant and with Dr. Suzannah Lipscombe (dept of history, University of East Anglia) and drama consultant Professor Tom Betteridge (english dept, Oxford Brookes University). The event was performed by the Misfits Theatre Company of learning-disabled actors and directed by Peet Cooper of Foolscap Productions at Hampton Court Palace in Autumn/Winter 2011. See the All the King's Fools website and this article on History Today for the latest research findings on the history of disability and the Tudor Court published in History Today, 61 (Issue 8), 2011: 1-6.
  3. (2012-to date), ‘Courtship in the Coroner’s Court’
    This is a project that explores with Professor Steven King at the University of Leicester the way that court records often mediated courtship patterns of male-female relationships from the 18th and 19th century. It explores the regional patterns of courtship rites, influenced by economic power, parental authority, religious sensibilities, as well as class distinctions in a gendered society. An article on this theme was submitted to the Journal of Family History in February 2012. The aim is to expand our analysis of Midlands’ court records to other parts of regional Britain in 2012-13.
  4. (2012-to date), ‘Jack-the-Ripper and the Body Trade of London’
    This builds on the research in my latest book funded by a Leverhulme Trust Study Abroad Fellowship (2009) and a Wellcome Trust Research Leave Award (2009-10) - Dying for Victorian Medicine: English Anatomy and its Trade in the Dead Poor (Palgrave, 2012) ISBN, 978-0-230-21966-3. In a new article, that extends chapter 4 of my book, I explore the compelling evidence for Jack-the-Ripper being connected to the body trade in London. This will also be the theme of media work in 2012.


I supervise a wide range of historical themes in the medical humanities and history of poverty broadly defined from 1750 to the modern period. Previous PhD completions have included:

  • Naval history and the medical marketplace in Portsmouth
  • Medical history of the Georgian family
  • New Poor Law in 19th century Oxfordshire
  • Royal Free Hospital and patient case records, 1890-1912
  • The impact of the Anatomy Act (1832) on the development of medical education in Manchester and Oxford, 1832-1870

I welcome PhD topics that reflect my current research focus:

(i) The history of poverty and welfare in Europe

(ii) The history of anatomy, childbirth and the body from Tudor times to Modern incubator

(iii) The display, dissection, and medical power of the criminal corpse from the Murder Act (1752) to Anatomy Act (1832)

(iv) The research subject’s body narrative, and modern medical ethics leading up to the Human Tissue Bill (2005)


2015: Historical Consultant and Presenter on Channel 4, 1 x hour, Elizabeth Hurren with Tony Robinson, Television Presentation, ‘Time Team and Dissection’, 1 episode (2015).

2015: ‘Britain’s Tudor Treasure: A Night at Hampton Court’, Historical Consultant on Medical History to Dr Lucy Worsley, Chief Curator, Historic Royal Palaces, BBC 2, 10th Jan 2015 and short presentation at minute 51-54 minutes on the boundaries of life and death historically.

2013 ‘Fit to Rule: How Royal Illness Changed History’, Historical Consultant on Medical History to Dr Lucy Worsley, Chief Curator, BBC 2, 3 programmes, Easter 2013, and short presentation, series 1, Tudors to Stuarts, From Gods to Men.

2013: ‘Secrets from the Workhouse’, ITV1, Historical Consultant on Medical and Poverty History for Wall to Wall Media Ltd, and short presentation episode 1 with Fern Britton.

2013: ‘Doctors, Death and Resurrection Men’, Historical Consultant and Media Spokesperson on behalf of the Museum of London exhibition, featured on Daily Mail, The Guardian, Daily Telegraph, BBC TV, BBC Radio 4.

Academic publications

Single-authored monographs

  1. E. T. Hurren, Dissecting the Criminal Corpse: Staging Post-Execution Punishment in Early Modern England (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016), ISBN-10 1137582480 (hardcover), ISBN-13 978-1137582485 (paperback), DOI 10.1057/978-1-137-58249-2 (Online), Available Free to Download on Open Access
  2. E. T. Hurren, Dying for Victorian Medicine: English Anatomy and its Trade in the Dead Poor, 1832 to 1929, (Palgrave, Macmillan: 2011, 2013 paperback) ISBN 9780230219663, Short-listed for British Medical Association’s Book of the Year Prize 2015 & Highly Commended at the Award Ceremony in London
  3. E. T. Hurren, Protesting about Pauperism: Poverty, Politics and Poor Relief in Late-Victorian England, c. 1870-1914 (Royal Historical Society series,: hardback 2007, 2015 paperback), ISBN 9780861932924.

Edited Volume

  1. E. T. Hurren, A. Gestrich and S. A King, (eds), Poverty and Sickness in Modern Europe: Narratives of the Sick Poor, 1780-1938, (Continuum Publishers, 2012), ISBN 9781441184818

Recent Keynote Chapters:

  1. E. T. Hurren & I. Scherder, ‘Dignity and the Dead: The Body Trade in England and Ireland Compared, 1870-1929’ in A. Gestrich and S. A. King (eds) The Dignity of the Poor (Oxford University Press, in press, 2017) – OUP series of the German Historical Institute in London

  2. E. T. Hurren, ‘World Without Welfare? Pauper Perspectives on Medical Care under the late-Victorian Poor Law 1870-1900’, in P. Jones and S. A. King (eds), Obligation, Entitlement and Dispute under the English Poor Laws, 1600-1900 (Cambridge Scholar Press, 2015), chapter 11, pp. 292-320.

  3. E. Hurren and S. A. King, ‘Public and private health care for the poor, 1650s to 1960s‘, in P. Weindling (ed.), Healthcare in Private and Public from the Early Modern Period to 2000 (London, 2015), pp. 15-35.

  4. E. T. Hurren and S. A. King, ‘Co-habiting couples in the 19th century: Coronial Records of the Midlands Circuit’ in R. Probert (ed), Co-Habitation and Non-Marital Births in England and Wales, 1600-2012 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014), pp. 100-124.

  5. E. T. Hurren, ‘Belonging, Settlement and the New Poor Law in England and Wales 1870s-1900’, in S. King and A. Winter (eds) Migration, Settlement and Belonging in Europe, 1500-1930s Comparative Perspectives (Berghahn, Oxford, 2013), pp. 127-152

  6. 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.

  7. E. T. Hurren, ‘The Business of Anatomy and Being Poor: Why have we failed to learn the medical and poverty lessons of the past?’ in A. Gestrich, S. A. King, and L. Raphael (eds), Being Poor in Modern Europe, (Peter Lang, 2006), pp. 1-52.

Journal Articles: looking ahead to REF 2020

  1. E. T. Hurren, ‘Time, Spectatorship and the Criminal Corpse in Early Modern England’ (History, submitted April 2016), pp. 1-25
  2. E. T. Hurren, ‘Dissecting Jack-the-Ripper: An Anatomy of Murder in the Metropolis’, (Crime, Histories and Society, December 2016), pp. 1-23.
  3. E. T. Hurren, ‘Deliver me from this Indignity! Localism and NHS Healthcare in Central England, 1948-1978’, (Journal of Family and Community History, October 2016), pp. 1-31.
  4. E. T. Hurren and S. King, ‘Courtship at the Coroners Court in 18th and 19th century England’, Social History, Volume 40, (May, 2015), pp. 185-207.
    Journal Articles: REF 2014 and RAE 2007
  5. E. T. Hurren, ‘Abnormalities and Deformities: The use of the insane poor to teach dissection, 1832 to 1929’, Journal of the History of Psychiatry, March 2012, Vol. 23, p. 65-77
  6. E. T. Hurren, ‘Remaking the Medico-Legal Scene: A Social History of the Victorian Coroner in Oxford, c. 1877 to 1894’, Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences, (April, 2010), 65: 207-252.
  7. E.T. Hurren, 'A Radical Historian's Pursuit of Rural History: The Political Career and Contribution of the Rev. Dr. John Charles Cox, c. 1848 to 1919', Rural History 19, (2008), 1: 81-103.
  8. E. T. Hurren, ‘Whose body is it anyway? Trading the dead poor, coroner's disputes and the business of anatomy at Oxford University, 1885-1929', Bulletin of the History of Medicine, 82 (Winter 2008), 4: 775-819.
  9. E. T. Hurren, 'Selling and Buying the Dead Poor to Train English Doctors, 1870-1900', Journal of Social Studies, (2006) 1: 1-16.
    E. T. Hurren and S. A. King, 'Begging for a Burial: Form, function and meaning of nineteenth century pauper funeral provision', Social History, 30, (2005), 3: 321-341.
  10. E. T. Hurren, 'Poor Law Versus Public Health: Diphtheria and the late-Victorian Poor Law's Challenge to Public Health Improvements, 1870-1900, Social History of Medicine,18, (2005), 3: 399-418.
  11. E. T. Hurren, 'The Pauper Dead-House: The expansion of Cambridge anatomical teaching school under the late-Victorian poor law, 1870-1914, Medical History, 48, (2004), 1: 69-94.
  12. E. T. Hurren, 'Welfare-to-Work Schemes and a Crusade Against Outdoor Relief in the Brixworth Union, Northamptonshire, 1880s', Family & Community History, 4, (2004): 19-30.
  13. E. T. Hurren, 'Labourers are Revolting: Penalising the Poor and a Political Reaction in the Brixworth Union, Northamptonshire, 1875-1885', Rural History, 11, (2000) 2: 37-55.
  14. E. T. Hurren, ‘The Bury-all Board: A History of Poverty and Protest in the Brixworth Poor Law Union in late-Victorian Times’, winner of the Spectrum Press History Prize for best dissertation in poverty studies, 1996.

Outreach and Public Engagement Profile:

Recent Relevant Publications:

  1. E. T. Hurren, ‘The Dangerous Dead: Dissecting the Criminal Corpse’, The Lancet, Vol. 382, No. 9889, pp. 302-3, 27th July 2013 issue.
    E. T. Hurren, ‘Royal Baby’s Birth and Medical Timing’, 22nd July 2013, Daily Telegraph.
  2. E. T. Hurren, ‘Dying for Victorian Medicine: The Body Trade that Trained Doctors’, BBC History Magazine (December, 2012, Xmas Issue), issue 13, and available on podcast.
  3. E. T. Hurren, ‘Victorian Medicine’s Lost Property: Dissecting London’s Poor’, Royal College of Surgeons, (April 2011), and available on podcast.
  4. S. Lipscombe, ‘All the King’s Fools’, History Today, Volume 61, Issue 8, August 2011, covering E T Hurren ‘s role as Historical Consultant to the project team and co-applicant on the Wellcome Trust grant to stage event at Hampton Court
  5. E. T. Hurren, ‘King Henry VIII’s Medical World’, 2009, written for Historic Royal Palaces, Henry 1509-2009

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