- Social and cultural history
- Histories of activism and public opinion
- Histories of ‘health’
My research is fundamentally interested in expertise and power, and in how, in particular, individual groups or people are able to mobilise to contest, criticise, reshape, cross-cut or indeed enthusiastically accept, categories established by medicine, psychology, politics, law, or education.
I have applied these interests to a range of fields. My PhD, conducted at the University of Warwick (2012-2015), studied child protection policy in late twentieth century Britain. I demonstrated that an expertise grounded in experience and emotion became increasingly powerful in policy and media rhetoric from the 1980s and 1990s – although children, parents, and survivors looking to draw on this expertise also faced challenges relating to structural discrimination, tokenism, and politicisation. My first postdoctoral position (2016-2018) was on a largescale group project at the University of Warwick, studying the cultural history of the NHS. My research focused on campaigning ‘in defence’ of the Service, and argued that activism, first at a local level and, from the 1980s, nationally, played a significant role in constructing ideas of ‘love’ and ‘affection’ for the NHS.
My new research project analyses how, when, and why children have been identified as intellectually ‘gifted’ since 1945, and how this label has changed children’s experiences, family relationships, and life-course. This work provides a lens through which to study conflicts and collaborations between psychology, neurology, genetics, neuroscience, and education, and analyses how parents and children themselves have – or have not – been able to negotiate or to resist professional interventions. In particular, this project looks to understand how gifted children became a proxy for broader international tensions in the Cold War period. While policy-makers in Britain, North America, and Western Europe focused on identifying gifted youth to train future national leaders, parents formed transnational networks to reshape psychological and state expectations.
My research is entwined with public engagement and with my teaching practice. Working at the University of Warwick (2012-2018), I used my research findings to inform my teaching on undergraduate and Masters-level modules about health, society, nation, and social change in the modern world. From 2018-2019, I also co-convened a module about the Cultural History of the NHS, which invited third-year undergraduates to reflect on the research of Warwick scholars, and mentored them to conduct their own.
Public engagement is integral to my work. At the University of Warwick, I co-led the engagement of the major Wellcome Trust project, the Cultural History of the NHS. This involved organising events and exhibitions with hospitals, museums, retirement homes, patient groups, and campaigners, in order to inform research about attitudes towards the NHS over time. I also maintained a public-facing project website, and mentored students to co-curate an exhibition at the Modern Records Centre, in Coventry. My work at Oxford retains this focus on combining research, engagement, and teaching.
I am connected to:
Oxford’s Centre for the History of Childhood - https://www.history.ox.ac.uk/centre-history-childhood
The European University Institute’s network on the Quest for Welfare and Democracy: Voluntary Associations, Families and the State, 1880s to the Present https://welfare-democracy.eui.eu/
The History & Policy Forum on Parenting http://www.historyandpolicy.org/parenting-forum