Michael Brown
  • 111 Howard, Digby Stuart

Accepting PhD Students

PhD projects

History of medicine; history of surgery; gender history; history of emotions; history of war


Research activity per year

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Personal profile


I am a cultural historian of medicine, surgery, gender and war, with a special interest in politics, identities and the emotions. My research currently focuses on the emotional cultures of surgery in nineteenth-century Britain and in 2015 I received a Wellcome Trust Investigator Award to lead a team investigating the relations between surgery and emotion from 1800 to the present. I joined Roehampton in 2010 having studied at the Universities of York and London and worked at the Universities of Kent and Manchester. When not working I spend a not inconsiderable amount of my time 'enjoying' the bounteous privilege of supporting Leyton Orient Football Club.


BA (Hons) in History - University of York (1998)

MSc and DIC in the History of Science, Technology and Medicine - University of London (1999)

PhD in History - University of York (2004)

Research interests

My work to date has explored themes in the cultural histories of medicine, surgery and war, largely through the interpretive prisms of politics, identity, gender and the emotions. My first book, Performing Medicine: Medical Culture and Identity in Provincial England, c.1760-1850 (Manchester University Press, 2011) analysed the transformation of British medicine from a late eighteenth-century culture of polite sociability, civic inclusivity and intellectual liberality to a nineteenth-century model of disciplinary exclusivity, social utility and collective professional self-identification. In a range of articles I have explored such issues as the politics of medical charity in the early nineteenth century, the cultural ideologies of public health and the literary and political stylistics of the radical medical press.

I also have a long-standing interest in the cultural history of war, and have written on such topics as the medical profession’s articulation of a militarised gender identity and the anxieties surrounding masculinity and military technology in the late Victorian British empire.  I also recently co-edited and contributed to a book entitled Martial Masculinities: Experiencing and Imagining the Military in the Long Nineteenth-Century (Manchester University Press, 2019).

My most recent research emerges from my Wellcome Trust Investigator Award and explores the emotional cultures and politics of nineteenth-century British surgery.  Among other things, I have written two articles which consider the role of the brothers John and Charles Bell in shaping the cultures of Romantic surgery and have recently completed a monograph for Cambridge University Press entitled Emotions and Surgery in Britain, 1793-1912.

I am currenty developing two new research projects with Professor Joanne Begiato of Oxford Brookes University that explore the emotional and material histories of nineteenth-century Britain. The first of these is an emotional and embodied history of hands in Victorian culture, while the second explores the emotionality and materiality of late ninteenth-century popular militarism.


Research projects

Between 2016 and 2021 I was Principal Investigator on a Wellcome Trust Investigator Award for which I was awarded £628,760 for the main project plus an additional £19,650 for public engagement activities. This project, entitled Surgery & Emotion, explored the place of emotion within the practice, politics and representation of surgery from the nineteenth century to the present day. Undergoing surgery can be an extremely emotionally troubling experience for patients. Performing surgery also makes its emotional demands on surgical operators. Despite this, the emotional dynamics of surgery have never been fully explored until now. This project sought to understand how surgeons have historically conceived, and continue to conceive, of their work and their relationships with patients in terms of feeling. Often, these relationships are thought of as being shaped principally by ‘clinical detachment’, but this project pushed beyond such clichés to explore the emotional complexities of the surgical encounter.

The Surgery & Emotion project ran a series of professional and public-facing events in collaboration with the Royal College of Surgeons of England, Royal College of Nursing, Science Museum and the Science and Industry Museum, Manchester. It encouraged practising surgeons and other clinical practitioners to think about the place of emotions in their working lives, brought together surgeons and members of the public to discuss the emotions associated with surgery, and disseminated historical research about emotions and surgery in civil and military realms to a range of audiences at the Wellcome Collection, National Army Museum, and other major cultural institution. Our research was even cited by the Royal College of Surgeons in their Report on the Future of Surgery.

The Surgery & Emotion project has produced a major body of historical research including fifteen articles, a special edition of Medical Humanities and three single-authored books in press or preparation. Thanks to the Wellcome Trust, all publications directly funded by the project are available as Gold Open Access. To find out more about the project, including its events and publications, see our website.



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