Professor Elizabeth T. Hurren

    Professor Elizabeth T. Hurren, BA (Hons), PhD, FHEA, FRHistSElizabeth Hurren

Contact Details

Administrative Responsibilities

  • Chair in History
  • Fellow of the Royal Historical Society
  • Athena Swan Lead, School of History, Politics and International Relations
  • Public Engagement Lead, Wellcome Trust Institutional Strategic Support Fund
  • Chair of the Research Ethics Committee of the College of Science and Engineering, and College of Arts, Humanities and Law
  • Registered Higher Education Mental Health, First Aid Champion, MHFA England
  • External Examiner Swansea University
  • Co-Investigator - 'The Impact of the Pandemic on Home-Working and Well-Being' - led by Professor Stephen Wood, Chair in Management at Leicester University, in partnership with leading scholars at the Universities of Manchester, UEA and Exeter

Elizabeth is an Historian of the Body, Poverty, and Welfare, specialising in histories of anatomy, childbirth, coroners, crime and punishment, death and dying, forensic medicine, and patient voices, from 1550 to the present-day. She has published both chronologically and thematically from Leonardo da Vinci to the Human Genome.

Her current research focus is translational research opportunities, working collaboratively with a wide range of external organisations such as Historic Royal Palaces, Royal College of Surgeons, Science Museum, National Archives, as well as local heritage organisations in the East Midlands. This often involves being an historical consultant and co-creating with the general public and academic partners across the arts and humanities, social sciences, medical education and ethics, as well as life sciences and precision medicine.

Hidden Histories of the Dead
Book cover for Hidden Histories of the Dead

Elizabeth’s is currently working on a British Academy funded project: ‘The Politician’s Child; Growing up in the Public Eye of Modern Britain’ – her latest publication is available in the Journal of Family History (2020)

Her next book is Wellcome Trust funded and will shortly be published on Open-Access Gold in the spring of 2021 with Cambridge University Press: Hidden Histories of the Dead: Disputed Bodies in Modern British Medical Research




Personal Details

    Elizabeth was born and brought up in Northern Ireland. She moved to England in 1988, and had a very successful career in international banking for 10 years before retraining as an academic in the late-1990s.

    Elizabeth has held three full-time academic posts in the last 20 years, after obtaining a BA (Hons) in History and English (1st class) in 1996 and a PhD in History in 2000 from Leicester University.

    Previously she worked at the University of Northampton (Senior Lecturer, 2000-4), and Oxford Brookes University (Reader, 2005-11), before joining the School of History, Politics and International Relations at Leicester University as a Reader in History in January 2012. She is now a Professor and holds a personal Chair in History.

    Elizabeth is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (2019) and holds an HE Advanced Teaching Accreditation, New Approaches to University Teaching (Lancaster, 1998). She has been a member of the Association of Research Ethics Committees (AREC) since 2005 and has wide-ranging expertise in medical ethics


    Elizabeth has taught extensively in her 20-year career, across wide thematic topics from the early modern, to modern period. She is a transnational and multi-disciplinary lecturer, often delivering modules in history, medicine, science, health, welfare, and the body. Her courses are popular across the four University Colleges because she also teaches medical ethics, well-being and the history of emotions. Her teaching awards include:

    • National Education Heritage Award for Excellence in Disability Education (2012) Leicester University's Students Union Lecturer of the Year Award (2019)
    • Registered HE Mental Health First Aid Champion

    At undergraduate and masters’ level Elizabeth's teaching profile has included in 2020/21:

    • Jack-the-Ripper: Victorian Crime, Culture and Society
    • Beauty, Sex and Science: Who Body is it Anyway?: Special Subject
    • People and Places: History on Trial – David Irving and Holocaust Denial
    • The Historian’s Craft

    MA teaching includes:

    • Directed Reading Module
    • The Country House
    • Patients and Practitioners
    • Historical Research Methods

    PhD Supervision

    Elizabeth supervises PhD students on topics across the chronological range from the 1550s to the present-day. She has supervised 11 PhD students to completion since 2005, and is currently recruiting more. Do get in touch by email.

    Her interests are thematically and spatially wide, and she would in particular like to hear from students with new projects covering: hidden histories of the body; childbirth, maternity care and midwifery; life writing and autobiographies, especially pathography writing about dignity and end-of-life experiences; histories of healthcare institutions (asylums, hospitals, workhouses); the lives of patients and their doctors; medical tourism and human trafficking of organs and body parts; the Human Tissue Act (2004); histories of courtship, the family and kinship; medical remedies; the forensic and social history of the coronial office; histories of morbid curiosity, crime and punishment; and any aspect of children growing up in the public eye of modern British politics.

    Elizabeth also takes a keen interested in practice based PhDs, where those with interests in film making, poetry, creative writing, policy work or art undertake a practical project of their choosing and write a reflective piece on the nature of the research process which together constitute the PhD.

    You may already have topics in mind, but if you are open to different ideas, then Elizabeth has a number of pre-prepared PhD projects which spin out of her Wellcome Trust and British Academy funded grants. For these projects, historiographical reading is already identified and the core sources are already located or transcribed.

    A selection of potential PhD projects, includes:

    • The Madness of Love: A History of Courtship in the Asylum System
    • Who Body is it Anyway?: Pathography, Living and Writing about End-of-Life
    • Big Pharma and its Economic Dominance in a Global Marketplace
    • Precision Medicine: Patient Perspectives of Modern Biomedicine
    • Hidden Histories of the Dead: The Inside Story of Modern Medical Research
    • Medical Tourism in a Global Medical Marketplace
    • Executing Female Criminals: Crime, Gender and Justice, 1750-1950
    • Medical Ethics and Patient Case Record Sharing in the NHS

    Consultancy and Media Work:

    Elizabeth has an extensive track-record of presenting on radio and television and working with the media. In total, she has worked closely with 12 leading TV production companies. She was the editor of Wellcome History, the premier public engagement publication of the Wellcome Trust in London from 2012-216. She has also worked on wide-range of Heritage Lottery Fund projects including, the Lyddington History Society, in conjunction with Heritage England and the Burghley House Trust.

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

    In 2020, Elizabeth continues to work with the National Archives on a major Dignity project using their MH12 series.

    Recently (see image below), Elizabeth was the main historical consultant for the Science Museum in London in the re-presentation of its refurbished £24m Medicine Galleries, sponsored by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Wellcome Trust and Wolfson Foundation. These opened in November 2019 and house over 3, 000 objects from the Sir Henry Wellcome Collection. The new catalogue and galleries reveal personal stories about the transformational power of medicine. They provide historical context for our experience of medicine and health today. Designed by Wilkinson Eyre, the vast galleries cover more than 3000m², an area equivalent to 1,500 hospital beds on the museum’s first floor. This almost doubles the area of the existing medicine galleries and positions medicine at the centre of the museum.
    Science Museum

    Speaking at the opening, Ian Blatchford, Director of the Science Museum, said: “The Wellcome Galleries are intellectually adventurous, rich in personal stories and at times incredibly moving. Covering more than 3000m2—an entire museum within a museum—the scale and ambition of these five vast galleries is unprecedented. Over three million visitors a year, each with their own personal experiences of medicine, can now uncover remarkable stories about our health in the world's largest medical galleries. These five vast and visually stunning new galleries are at the very heart of the Science Museum. They complete our ambitious Masterplan project which has transformed more than half of the museum since 2010, creating aesthetically and intellectually stimulating new spaces for our visitors”.

    Sir Jeremy Farrar, Director, Wellcome Trust, said: ‘Wellcome and the Science Museum have a deep connection built from the legacy of Henry Wellcome and the breadth of his collections, which are a core part of these spectacular new galleries. We also share a fundamental belief that human experience – at every level from individuals, family, and communities to society as a whole – is at the heart of science, medicine and improving health for everyone.’

    Medicine: The Wellcome Galleries has been generously supported by Wellcome Trust (Title Funder), National Lottery Heritage Fund (Principal Funder), GSK (Principal Sponsor), The Wolfson Foundation (Major Funder), Vitabiotics (Major Sponsor), Art Fund (Funder), Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF, Funder), Britford Bridge Trust, Dr Martin Schoernig, Medical Sciences Historical Society and an anonymous donor. The Observer are the Media Partner for Medicine: The Wellcome Galleries.

    Elizabeth has also worked extensively with BBC Radio 4 Making History series since 2007, BBC1 and BBC2 Factual Programmes, often in collaboration with Historic Royal Palaces on series such as Disability History and New Biotechnology, Fit to Rule: How Royal Illness Changes History, Britain’s Tudor Treasure: A Night at Hampton Court, as well as ITVI series such as Back to the Workhouse & Great Railway Journeys. In 2020, Elizabeth has been presenting for BBC’s Murder Mystery and my Family and Warner Brothers Australian TV series, Who do you think you are, both due to air at Easter 2020.

    Selections of Popular Publications, Museum Work, & Disability Education Initiatives

    E. T. Hurren, ‘The Dead-Alive: Surviving the Gallows of Georgian Executions, BBC History Magazine, (February 2019) Issue, pp. 41-6 - Wellcome Trust Grant funded WT095904AIA
    E. T. Hurren, ‘The Dead Body Trade’, Collector’s Edition: The Story of Crime and Punishment, BBC History Magazine, (28 November 2018), pp. 62-67 - Wellcome Trust Grant funded WT087215MA
    E. T. Hurren, ‘The Dangerous Dead: Dissecting the Criminal Corpse’, The Lancet, Vol. 382, No. 9889, pp. 302-3, 27th July 2013 issue - Wellcome Trust Grant funded WT087215MA
    E. T Hurren, ‘The Body Snatchers: The Grisly Source behind some of the most extraordinary medical discoveries’, Daily Mail, 14 October 2012 - Wellcome Trust Grant WT095904AIA
    E. T. Hurren, ‘Royal Baby’s Birth and Medical Timing’, 22nd July 2013, Daily Telegraph - Wellcome Trust Grant funded WT095904AIA
    E. T. Hurren, ‘Dying for Victorian Medicine: The Body Trade that Trained Doctors’, BBC History Magazine (December, 2012, Xmas Issue), issue 13, and podcast - Wellcome Trust Grant funded WT087167MA
    E. T. Hurren, ‘Victorian Medicine’s Lost Property: Dissecting London’s Poor’, Royal College of Surgeons, (April 2011-12), podcast - Wellcome Trust Grant funded WT087215MA
    2012: ‘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
    2011: ‘All The King’s Fools: History of Disability at the Tudor Court’, Theatrical Drama, Historical Consultant to Project Team, Arts Council and the Misfits Company of Disabled Actors based in Bristol, autumn, sell-out performances and staffed workshops at Clore Learning Centre- Award for Educational Initiative at the National Museum and Heritage Awards (2013)
    2010: Compton Verney Art Gallery, Warwickshire, public engagement presenting and introducing gallery visitors to: ‘Bring Your Body Day: The Medical Art of Paintings in the Collection’, ‘Francis Bacon‘s Fascination for Anatomy’ and Friends Lectures

    Protesting about Pauperism Book CoverPoverty and Sickness Book CoverDying for Victorian MedicineDissecting the Criminal Corpse Book Cover

    Academic Publications


    E. T. Hurren, Hidden Histories of the Dead: Disputed Bodies in Modern British Medical Research 1945-2000, [Cambridge University Press, under contract, open access gold, in production, forthcoming in press early 2021] – Wellcome Trust funded
    E. T. Hurren, Dissecting the Criminal Corpse: Staging Post-Execution Punishment in Early Modern England (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016) ISBN 9781137582485
    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 British Medical Association’s Book of the Year 2015 and Highly Commended.
    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.
    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 Journal Articles:

    E. T. Hurren, ‘The Politician’s Child: Growing up in the Public Eye of Modern Britain, c. 1970-2020’, Journal of Family History (e-published 5/9/2019), Volume 45, (2020), Issue 2, pp. 131-157, DOI: 10.1177/0363199019873362
    E. T. Hurren, ‘Other Spaces’ of the Dangerous Dead of Provincial England, 1752-1832’, History, Journal of the Historical Association, Volume 103 (Jan, 2018), Issue 354, pp. 27-59, DOI: 10.1111/1468-229X.12534
    E. T. Hurren, ‘Dissecting Jack-the-Ripper: An Anatomy of Murder in the Metropolis’, Crime, Historie and Sociétés [Crime, Histories and Society], Journal of the International Association for the History of Crime and Criminal Justice, (December 2016), ISSN 1422-0857, Volume 20, Issue No. 2. pp. 5-30

    E. T. Hurren, ‘Deliver me from this Indignity! Cottage Hospitals, Localism and NHS Healthcare in Central England, 1948-1978, Family and Community History, Volume 19 Issue 2, (October, 2016),, pp. 129- 151

    E. T. Hurren and S. King, ‘Courtship at the Coroners Court in 18th and 19th century England’, Social History, Volume 40, Issue 2, (May, 2015), pp. 185-207

    Recent Chapters

    E. T. Hurren, ‘The Making of the Modern Land Agent in Victorian Times’ in C. Beardmore, S. King and G. Monks (eds), The Land Agent in Britain: Past, Present and Future (Cambridge Scholars Press, 2016), ISBN (13): 978-1-4438-9933-8, pp. 169-192
    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
    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
    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
    E. T. Hurren, ‘Belonging, Settlement and the New Poor Law in England and Wales 1870s1900’, in S. King and A. Winter (eds) Migration, Settlement and Belonging in Europe, 1500-1930s Comparative Perspectives (Berghahn, Oxford, 2013), pp. 127-152 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
    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

    Selection of Previous Articles:

    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

    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
    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
    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
    E. T. Hurren, 'Selling and Buying the Dead Poor to Train English Doctors, 1870-1900', Journal of Social Studies, Stein Rokken Centre (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
    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
    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
    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
    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

    Grant Income:

    Elizabeth works collaboratively on translational research grants that are inter-disciplinary; she has done a considerable amount of funded historical consultancy. Her career portfolio totals £2.7m and personal share of grants generated is £1m (as at 1 Jan 2020)
    2017-19: PI, £5, 350, British Academy, SG162620, PI, Research Grant, ‘The Politicians’ Child: Growing up in the Public Eye, c. 1970-2020’.
    2016-19: Joint PI, £530, 986, Wellcome Trust, WT096580MA, Large Programme Grant, ‘Disputed Bodies: Narrative of Medical Research 1940s to 2001 in Europe’
    2013-19: CI, £165, 000, Arts and Humanities Research Council, Collaborative Doctorial Awards, ‘The English Versailles, Refashioning the 18th Century Landed Estate c. 1750-1850’. Academic collaboration with Buccleuch Living Heritage Trust based at Boughton House in Northamptonshire (known historically as the English Versailles), Lamport Hall Preservation Trust, and the University of Leicester. All three PhDs (Elizabeth supervised 2 of 3) were completed by December 2019.
    2012-20: HC, £30, 000, Heritage Lottery Fund, YH-10-06803, HC, ‘Historic Buildings & People of a Rutland Manor’ - in partnership with the Burghley House Trust and Lyddington Manor History Society, mentored grant writing– remain a board member, provided ongoing historical expertise. Community book published February 2016.
    2011-18: CI, £945, 389, Wellcome Trust, WT095904AIA, Large Programme Grant, ‘Harnessing the Power of the Criminal Corpse’.
    2011-12: CI, £30, 000, Wellcome Trust, WT095287MA –People’s Award for Public Engagement, ‘All The King’s Fools and Disability History at Hampton Court’ - Won a National Education Heritage Award for Excellence in Disability (2012)
    2010-11: PI, £44, 255, Wellcome Trust, WT087215, Research Leave Award, ‘Dying for Victorian Medicine: English Anatomy and its Trade in the Dead Poor, c. 1832 to 1929’. Book short-listed for British Medical Association Book of the Year Prize 2015
    2010-11: PI, £5, 000 and Euros3000, RF/3/RFG/2008/0621, Leverhulme Study Abroad Fellowship and École des hautes études en sciences sociales [EHESS] Paris Resident Fellowship, ‘Anatomy: Paris and London, 1550-1850’ – staffed public EHESS lecture series and worked in Paris in the National Archives
    2009-13: PI, £147, 000, Wellcome Trust, WT082969AIA, ‘Anatomy and the Body in Ireland, 1750-1950’.
    2009-10: PI, £10, 000, Wellcome Trust: WT087167MA, Broadcast Development Award with Pier Productions Ltd of BBC Radio 4, seed development of EveryBody (funded 2009, and pitched to broadcasters 2010).
    2008-9: CI and Historical Consultant, £76, 000, Arts Council and Wellcome Trust Large Arts Award, ‘A Little Neck: Anne Boleyn and Child Birth’, Historical Drama staged at Hampton Court, sold-out September 2009 performances, in collaboration with HRP & Goat and Monkey Theatre Productions Ltd.
    2007-13: CI, £760, 000, Wellcome Trust, WT082808/B/07/Z - Strategic Award, ‘Healthcare in Public and Private: from Early Modern to Modern Times in Europe
    2007-8: PI, £5, 500, Wellcome Trust PhD Training Award in the History of Medicine, funded the design and delivery of a new year-long post-graduate training scheme
    2006-7: PI Euros2300, DFG, Stipendiary Visiting Professor at the University of Trier, Germany
    2005-6: PI, £3000, Wellcome Trust, GR070032MA, Research Expenses Grant, ‘The Body in Modern Medical Research

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