Dr Jennifer Crane

  • 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

  • ‘The NHS … Should not be Condemned to the History Books’: Public Engagement as a Method in Social Histories of Medicine

  • ‘Save our NHS’: activism, information-based expertise and the ‘new times’ of the 1980s

  • Why the history of public consultation matters for contemporary health policy

  • Child Protection in England, 1960–2000: Expertise, Experience, and Emotion

  • ‘The bones tell a story the child is too young or too frightened to tell’: The Battered Child Syndrome in Post-war Britain and America

  • More
Featured Publication
Child Protection in England 1960 - 2000

Child Protection in England, 1960-2000: Expertise, Experience, and Emotion (Palgrave, 2018).

This book explores how children, parents, and survivors reshaped the politics of child protection in late twentieth-century England.  Activism by these groups, often manifested in small voluntary organisations, drew upon and constructed an expertise grounded in experience and emotion that supported, challenged, and subverted medical, social work, legal, and political authority.  New forms of experiential and emotional expertise were manifested in politics – through consultation, voting, and lobbying – but also in the reshaping of everyday life, and in new partnerships formed between voluntary spokespeople and media.  While becoming subjects of, and agents in, child protection politics over the late twentieth century, children, parents, and survivors also faced barriers to enacting change, and the book traces how long-standing structural hierarchies, particularly around gender and age, mediated and inhibited the realisation of experiential and emotional expertise.


Find out more at: https://www.palgrave.com/gb/book/9783319947174


I currently teach:


Approaches to History Disciplines in History
  History of the British Isles VII: From 1900
In the Media

‘Whose needs? Histories of ‘need’ in the National Health Service’, British Medical Journal Opinion, 28 June 2018 - https://blogs.bmj.com/bmj/2018/06/28/jennifer-crane-whose-needs-histories-of-need-in-the-national-health-service/

‘The NHS at 70: its greatest achievements and the power of individual stories’, British Medical Journal Opinion, 18 April 2018 - https://blogs.bmj.com/bmj/2018/04/18/the-nhs-at-70-its-greatest-achievements-and-the-power-of-individual-stories/

Appearance on Sunday Brunch, Channel 4, 8 July 2018 – (clips video here https://twitter.com/SundayBrunchC4/status/1017378042874880002)

Quoted in: ‘NHS at 70: How hospital food has changed down the years’, i news, 2 July 2018 - https://inews.co.uk/nhs/nhs-at-70-how-hospital-food-has-changed/

Quoted in: ‘Holy British care cow’, Dutch Financial Times, 30 June 2018 - https://fd.nl/weekend/1259659/heilige-britse-zorgkoe-is-mank-en-topzwaar

Quoted in: ‘Providing care based on need and free at the point of delivery is NHS’s greatest achievement, say readers’, British Medical Journal, 27 June 2018.

Roberta Bivins and Jennifer Crane, 'What is the N in the NHS?', Devo-Then, Devo-Now: What Can the History of the NHS Tell Us About Localism and Devolution in Health and Care? (London: Institute for Public Policy Research, August 2017). - https://www.ippr.org/files/2017-08/1502961603_devo-then-devo-now-august-2017.pdf

Eve Colpus and Jennifer Crane, Making Child Protection 'Child Centred' (Southampton: Public Policy @ Southampton, 2016). - https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B0FYJxwH0c9tLUtrcDZNZWVrcHM/view

'Electronic Health Records' (London: Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, 2016). - https://researchbriefings.parliament.uk/ResearchBriefing/Summary/POST-PN-0519

'Is Laughter the Best Medicine?', History Today, Volume 66, Issue 11, November 2016.- https://www.historytoday.com/jenny-crane/laughter-best-medicine

Jenny Crane and Margaret Charleroy, 'We can learn a lot from the (often gruesome) history of food in hospitals and prisons', published by The Conversation, Yahoo News, the Metro, and the Independent in June 2017. - https://theconversation.com/we-can-learn-a-lot-from-the-often-gruesome-history-of-food-in-hospitals-and-prisons-76659

Jennifer Crane and Eve Colpus, 'Are Children Happier than they used to be?', published in the Conversation and the Independent in October 2016. - https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/features/childline-30-children-happier-mental-health-helpline-a7388951.html

Social Media