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Life Cycles, Bodies, Health and Disease

We look at the life cycle, including childhood, gender, disease, death and personhood.


The School facilitates research in this highly interdisciplinary field. It includes medicine in literary culture, ageing, and the delivery of medical care. 


Who we are, and what we do

With members drawn from across History, Classics and Archaeology, we examine the lifecycle, gender, migration, reproduction, disease, death, and personhood in the past from interdisciplinary perspectives. We have considerable strength and depth in the history of medicine, environmental history, the history of childhood, and histories of death and body disposal, across different periods and regions. Group members have secured funding from Wellcome, the Leverhulme Trust, and the AHRC to support research and impact work in the field, and recent major monographs by group members include Violetta Hionidou’s Abortion and Contraception in Modern Greece, 1830-1967: Medicine, Sexuality and Popular Culture (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2020); Clare Hickman’s The Doctor's Garden: Medicine, Science, and Horticulture in Britain (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2021) and Shane McCorristine’s The Spectral Arctic: A History of Dreams and Ghosts in Polar Exploration (London: UCL Press, 2018).

Our strand is committed to nurturing research ideas and careers at all stages, and our members range from postgraduate students and colleagues on fixed term contracts, to professors within the School. In addition to workshops and conferences thematically connected to the strand’s interests, we hold regular reading group meetings and writing review sessions, enabling group members to discuss new developments in the field, and secure feedback on everything from grant and book proposals to article drafts and conference papers.

Lifecycles offer a unique environment to explore past perspectives on life cycles and health, but our group members also participate a leading role in wider Faculty and University-wide research networks, particularly Newcastle’s Medical Humanities Network, co-convened by Dr Vicky Long, and the Environmental Humanities Initiative, co-convened by Dr Shane McCorristine.


Teaching and resources

We offer undergraduate and taught postgraduate students a range of modules thematically connected to our research across the degree programmes taught within History, Classics, and Archaeology. Modules connected to our research include the second year options, Contesting Reproductive Rights in the UK and Ireland; War, Wounds, and Disabilities in the Modern Russian, American and British Worlds; and Famines in History. At third year, relevant special subjects include Sex, bodies and identities in Classical Greece; Madness, Nerves and Narratives in Georgian Britain, c. 1714-1830; Birth Control in the 19th and 20th centuries; Lunatic to Citizen? Madness and Society since 1900; Human Dissection in Antiquity.

Our MA in the History of Medicine exploits the breadth of our research expertise, enabling students to study past practices and experiences of medicine over a wide geographical and chronological scope; often taken by intercalating medical students to gain a new perspective on their profession, this degree also serves as excellent preparation for doctoral research. We hold a Wellcome Master's Programme Award in Humanities and Social Science for the period 2021/22 to 2023/24, and will be awarding five studentships over this period to students studying on the MA in History of Medicine. Many of our PhD students have secured funding from Wellcome or the AHRC Northern Bridge to support their studies. Newcastle Library’s Special Collections and Archives hold a number of valuable collections for historians of medicine, including the Pybus Collection; c. 2000 volumes, mostly classics of the history of medicine.


Upcoming events

‘Abortion, contraception and family building practices across the First Demographic Transition: New views from Europe’, 10th of June 2022, co-organised by Violetta Hionidou and Eilidh Garrett, with the British Society of Population Studies 

Greece, Turkey and the past and present of forced migrations”, September 5th – 6th 2022, Newcastle University, UK. International conference supported by the British School at Athens, the British Institute at Ankara and the Britain-based Greek Group Political Studies Association and Turkish Group Political Studies Association. Organisers: Professor Violetta Hionidou and Dr Dimitris Skleparis.

'Infancy, Childhood, Personhood and Health: Multidisciplinary Perspectives' workshop, September 12th 2022.  Co-organized by the Medical Humanities Network and the Life Cycles, Bodies, Health and Disease research strand and in partnership with the Childhood and Youth NUCoRE.

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    PhD students

    Recent graduates

    • Dr John Burke - 'Britain and the Cyprus Crisis of 1974: Conflict, Colonialism and the Politics of Remembrance' 
    • Dr Michail Raftakis - 'Mortality Change in Hermoupolis, Greece, 1859-1940'