My current research projects and interests:

Sewing wound after herniotomy. 1559 Credit: Wellcome Library, London.

Sewing wound after herniotomy. 1559
Credit: Wellcome Library, London.

Men, Medicine and Masculinity in the long seventeenth century

My main research project at the moment investigates men’s experiences of sexual health problems  in the early modern period. Masculinity in early modern England rested upon the male body exhibiting potency, strength, and rationality. Understandings of the healthy male body were therefore a foundation for ideas about gender and sexuality. This socio-cultural history of men’s sexual and reproductive illnesses will be the first in-depth investigation of how sexual and reproductive problems were accommodated within this complex framework. It will question whether fertility and potency were central to ideas about men’s health and gender.

The project focuses on the seventeenth century, which marks a turning point in the dissemination of knowledge. The explosion of print culture promoted by the collapse of censorship during the civil war resulted in a rapid expansion in works relating to the body, health and reproduction. These provide an unrivalled body of material on which to base a comprehensive analysis of the relationship between early modern masculinity and the body. From its centre in the seventeenth century, the project will also consider continuity and change by looking backwards into the sixteenth century and forwards to the eighteenth century.


Female anatomical figure: Wellcome Library, London.

Female anatomical figure, Gautier d’Agoty
Credit: Wellcome Library, London.


Perceptions of Pregnancy: from the Medieval to the Modern

With my colleague Dr Ciara Meehan I ran a conference on perceptions of pregnancy: from the Medieval to the modern. Organised by School of Humanities, University of Hertfordshire, 16 – 18 July 2014. The conference was generously supported by the Social History Society and the Royal Historical Society. The conference culminated in keynote papers delivered by Professor Joanne Bailey (Oxford Brooks University) and Dr Elaine Farrell (Queen’s University Belfast).

The conference grew out of our of a long-running research interests in fertility, pregnancy and childbirth.  This conference resulted in the creation of a research network for scholars working on all aspects of reproduction. If you would like to join please find details at

The papers from the conference will become available through two publications: a collection of edited essays and a special editions of the Women’s History Network Magazine.



Previously I organised a conference on mortal body ‘The Burthen of the Mortal Body’: Life, Death, Sickness and Health in the Early Modern Period, which was held at the University of Exeter 23-24 August, 2010. The Keynote speaker was Dr. Lauren Kassell, University of Cambridge and the conference brought together postgraduates and early career scholars working on aspects of the lifecycle, health and the body in the early modern period (c.1500-1800). It drew together a diverse range of researchers from the fields of medical, social and cultural history, as well as researchers in fields such as literature and art history.

The conference was generously supported by The Centre for Medical History, University of Exeter, The Centre for Early Modern Studies, University of Exeter and the Wellcome Trust.


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