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Professor Phil Cooke

Professor Phil CookeProfessor of Italian History & Culture
I joined Strathclyde University as a lecturer in Italian in 1993, after 8 years at Edinburgh University where I took a first degree in Italian with Russian Studies. I took Italian from scratch at Edinburgh having studied French and Spanish at school. I came to Scotland from the South of England in 1984, and have lived here ever since, apart from several years living in various cities in Italy (Rome, Milan, Siena and, above all, Florence where I have done a lot of my research and collaborate with the history journal Passato e presente). I was promoted to Senior Lecturer in 2000 and to Professor of Italian History and Culture in 2013. I teach Italian Language, History, Film and Literature at all levels. I am particularly interested in the interaction between history and culture and in the 'political use of history'. This means that my courses are interdisciplinary in nature, and try to understand contemporary Italy from a variety of different angles and approaches. Recently I have developed interests in the History of Science and within it the history of medicine. I am particularly interested in how knowledge, ideas and concepts circulate. 

Research and Teaching Interests

For a few years, in addition to my main line of research on 20th century Italy, I’ve been working on the history of medicine in Italy in the 18th and 19th century. This has taken me to the Italian manuscripts in the Wellcome collection which, as soon became clear, have been lying on the shelves there ever since they were bought in the early 20th century. The materials mainly cover the period from 1780-1830 and the majority are highly elaborated student notes of lectures given by medical professors in such centres as Bologna, Pisa, Florence, Rome, Pavia. The documents provide a unique insight into what was taught in Italy at a a time of significant developments in the history of medicine. One example highly relevant to Scotland is the spread of Brunonianism and its mutation into what was known as controstimolo. The research has also taken me to Italy and I have done further research in Florence (the archive of Santa Maria Nuova which is held at Careggi hospital) and the Universities of Pavia and Padua. Padua possesses a specialist medical history library and a museum of the history of medicine. 

The Wellcome Trust has agreed to make digital copies of a selection of the manuscripts and this process in on-going.

Looking forward I am trying to put together a project on the translation of medical ideas/texts in the 18th/19th century. So, to give an example, the works of the Italian surgeon Antonio Scarpa were translated into English by an Edinburgh based medic, Wishart. And we can also look at the process in reverse – an Italian student who worked with me via an Erasmus + exchange has been looking into the translations into Italian (and French) of Bell, Cullen and the Hunters.


18th & 19th CenturyItalyMedical StudentsTranslationTransnational History