CSHHH Seminars & Lecture

The Centre for Social History of Health and Healthcare at Strathclyde University and Glasgow Caledonian University organizes a yearly programme of seminars accompanied by an annual lecture.

The 2024 Programme:

13 February 2024
Room TL324

Prof Sasha Handley
Professor of Early Modern History, University of Manchester

Soporific Recipes and the Material Renaissance, 1500-1700
This paper locates the material arrangement of human sleep within the wider culture of experimentation, observation and creativity known as the ‘material renaissance’. Recipes were at the centre of this vibrant culture of making with Pamela H. Smith (and others) characterising recipe making as vital epistemic practices in this period. This paper asks how this new “hands-on” epistemology responded to concerns about sleep quality in early modern Europe (England and Germany). Examining people’s attempts to sleep well through the medium of recipes, I set out new modes of observation and experimentation with organic soporifics and signal the importance of these medicinal trials for the therapeutics of sleep care.


20 February 2024
Room TL324

and on Zoom

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Meeting ID: 821 7826 2779

Password: 975679


Medical Humanities in China and the UK – Fellows Workshop

Dr Kaija-Liisa Koovit
Kaija will discuss arthroplasty (surgical procedures which intend to restore the function of a joint) and the politics of patient choice. When choosing the best artificial medical device for a patient, surgeons depend on personal experience and clinical research, but most often, they rely on the arthroplasty registries and its measure of success – the revision rate. That rate does not always reflect what is best for the patient.

Dr Luis Bernardi Junqueira
Luis’ talk will focus on the arrival of psychical research in early 20th-century China and its impact on Chinese approaches to health and religious experience. More specifically, I will discuss how Chinese reformers adopted and adapted psychical research – a Euro-American discipline concerned with the scientific investigation of paranormal phenomena – to address specific societal challenges in their pursuit of modernity.

Dr Mia Chen Ma
Mia’s presentation will address how science fiction is increasingly recognized as a vital genre for contemplating medical theories, practices, and public health issues amid technological advancements and ethical debates. It will touch on issues such as waste pollution and its health implications, green industry, urban living and the risk society, and international surrogacy, among others.



5 March 2024
Room TL565

Prof Hilary Marland, University of Warwick 

‘There is nothing peculiar in the insanity of child-bed’: Diagnosing, Locating and Treating Insanities of Reproduction c.1870-1930
After the 1870s the separate existence of puerperal insanity, a diagnostic category that had done good service since the 1820s in framing the relationship between childbirth and mental illness, began to be questioned in the medical literature. By around 1900 the diagnosis appeared to have been eliminated from the psychiatric canon, the coincidence of childbearing and insanity no longer regarded as sufficient to warrant a discrete diagnosis. Rather than producing taxonomic clarity, however, the result was diagnostic confusion, the label puerperal insanity was still widely used in medical texts and the courtoom, and as late as 1935 one psychiatrist was prompted to declare that puerperal insanity was still enjoying a ‘protracted funeral’.

This paper explores how this changing diagnostic backdrop translated into practice when childbirth was framed as an associated or exciting cause of mental disorder rather than a distinct category. In many asylums the label puerperal insanity continued to be used in the first decades of the twentieth century, and formed, along with the insanities of pregnancy and lactation, an important category of admission. While diagnosis was increasingly related to heredity causes and associated with physical disease, asylum superintendents were alert to the impact of frequent childbirth, pregnancy loss and the deaths of infants in producing mental breakdown and to the particular conditions of life, be they poverty, exhaustion, vice, or ethnicity and migration, which made women vulnerable to mental illness. Around the same time, some doctors expressed increasing concern about the social stigma attached to asylum admissions for mothers experiencing mental breakdown around the time of childbirth; they began to consider other locations for treatment as well as exploring the potential role of improved maternity care in protecting women from mental breakdown.


12 March 2024
Room TL565

Wendy Kline
Wendy Kline, Ph.D., Dema G. Seelye Chair in the History of Medicine at Purdue University, is internationally recognized for her scholarship in the history of medicine, history of women’s health and the history of childbirth. She is the author of four major books: Exposed: The Hidden History of the Pelvic Exam (Polity, Spring 2024); Coming Home: How Midwives Changed Birth (Oxford University Press, 2019);  Bodies of Knowledge: Sexuality, Reproduction, and Women’s Health in the Second Wave (U. of Chicago Press 2010); and Building a Better Race: Gender, Sexuality, and Eugenics from the Turn of the Century to the Baby Boom (U. of California Press, 2001).

“Do I need to take a security guard to the gynecologist?” Sexual Misconduct and the Crisis in Reproductive Health Care in the U.S.
Beginning in 1960, a trip to the gynecologist was nearly synonymous with getting the birth control pill – or at least the main reason many visited the gynecologist in the U.D. but by the 1990s, it was becoming clearer that more and more sexually active women were putting off a trip to the gynecologist due to the shame and fear of getting a pelvic exam. But why has the pelvic exam become a source of shame and fear? The exposure of sexual misconduct in the examining room has eroded the sense of trust between patients and gynecologists, resulting in a massive decline in preventive reproductive health care. In this talk, I argue that the real problem has to do with the unaddressed, indeed silenced, stigma surrounding the practice of the routine gynecological exam. It has to do with the very uncomfortable question of what it means to touch and peer into the vagina of a patient. and it’s a problem that’s been with us since the origins of gynecology.