Research Interests

Research Themes

My research interests include the social and cultural history of health and illness, colonial medicine and migration, imprisonment and institutions. I am also interested in maritime and environmental history. My PhD and subsequent research centred on the maritime experiences of convict and free emigrants who sailed to Australia in the nineteenth century. This resulted in the publication of my first book: Health, Medicine and the Sea: Australian Voyages, c.1815-1860 (2012). I have also published on topics including maritime and border health and medicine, colonial vaccination, medical experimentation, quarantines, and am developing work on the common experience of illnesses including scurvy and migraine. Since 2011, I have been working on a book-length project about the social, cultural and medical history of migraine. My projects are all driven by an interest in how different environments, societies, cultures and life-histories affect knowledge and experiences of health and illness. I am particularly interested in examining who gets to represent ideas about health and illness in different times, places and conditions. How have national and colonial governments used medical rationales as a way to deal with ‘problem’ populations? Whose knowledge gets to appear and matter in the historical record? What kinds of arguments about the past do different kinds of evidence allow us to construct?

Current Research Projects

My current research project (funded from 2011-2014 by a Wellcome Trust Research Fellowship), is a cultural, social and medical history of migraine. In addition to a number of peer-reviewed journal articles, book chapters and blog entries, my book in-progress is provisionally titled Migraine: An Episodic History. The project draws on an eclectic range of historical evidence over seven centuries – ranging from medieval wound men and early-modern domestic recipe books, to nineteenth-century medical case books, personal correspondence, entries to art competitions, and Youtube animations of migraine aura. Throughout the project I am concerned with questions of medical experience, knowledge and authority: who speaks about illness in particular circumstances? Whose knowledge is retained in the historical record? Are some voices silenced when another group speaks? I am also interested in using the project to develop current discussions in medical history and humanities about patient histories and illness narratives.

In addition, I am continuing to develop work on the history of medicine in maritime, colonial, and Australian contexts, with projects on the history of quarantine and the health of prisoners.


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