Department of Humanities

Visiting address
111 Howard, Digby Stuart


I am a Fellow of both the Higher Education Academy and the Royal Historical Society and my main area of research is the social and cultural history of medicine and surgery in late eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Britain but I teach more broadly in the field of modern British history. Before coming to Roehampton I studied at the Universities of York and London and worked at the Universities of Kent and Manchester. When not teaching or researching I spend much of my time cycling, walking or 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

I specialise in the social and cultural history of late eighteenth- and nineteenth-century British medicine and surgery. I am particularly interested in the cultures, ideologies and politics of the British medical profession. My first book, Performing Medicine, explores 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 my other published work I have built upon these established research interests, exploring such issues as public health and the gendered identities of medical practitioners. My most recent published article, for example, examines cultures of libel within early nineteenth-century medical reform and their relationship to the stylistics of radical political expression. In addition to my specific interests in the history of medicine, I am also interested in a range of social and cultural historical topics, including the relationships between war and gender and I have recently undertaken research into the impact of military technology on conceptions of martial masculinities in the age of New Imperialism.

Research projects

I have recently been awarded a Wellcome Trust Investigator Award for a project entitled 'A Theatre of Emotions: The Affective Landscape of Nineteenth-Century British Surgery'. This four year project will run from September 2016 and will explore the place of emotion within the practice, politics and representation of nineteenth-century surgery. Before the advent of anaesthetics in the 1840s, surgical operations were conducted with little or no pain relief and were attended with great suffering and emotional distress. It has generally been assumed that in order to cope with such challenges, surgeons developed a culture of dispassion and emotional detachment. As this project will demonstrate, however, the reality was both more complex and more interesting than this. The operating theatre could play host to a wide range of emotional states from fear and anxiety to pity, sympathy and anger. Encompassing both civil and military worlds, this project will consider how emotion structured relationships between surgeons and their patients, how it shaped surgeons' public performances, identities and reputations and how pain and suffering came to function as powerful tools for social, medical and political reform. It will also consider whether the emotional world of surgery was reshaped by the routine anaesthetization of the patient and whether the increasingly detached and technologized world of modern surgical practice can learn anything from the affective experiences of the past.


My undergraduate teaching is mostly focussed on nineteenth- and twentieth-century British history. Modules include:

HSA020N240A - British Society in War and Peace, 1880-1950

HSA020X347S - Mind, Body and the Challenge of Modernity, 1800-1918

HSA020X342A - Themes in Post-War British Politics, Society and Culture

At postgraduate level I offer an MA module on the politics of medicine and health from cholera to the NHS and undertake supervision of MPhils and PhDs

I welcome inquiries from anyone interested in the history of medicine and the body in the late Georgian and Victorian periods.


Research outputs

  1. Surgery and Emotion: The Era Before Anaesthesia

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

  2. Quintessentially Modern Heroes: Surgeons, Explorers and Empire c.1840-1914

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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