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Past conferences, symposia and workshops

Below is a archival list of the events that the Centre for Medical History has hosted or organised in the past:

24th - 25th June 2019
University of Exeter

Read more here.

4th - 6th October 2018
Centre de Cultura Contemporania de Barcelona (CCCB), Spain

Read more here.

Call for Papers

Humours, Mixtures, & Corpuscles

A Medical Path to Corpuscularism in the Seventeenth Century

Domus Comeliana, Pisa, 18-20 May 2017


Fabrizio Bigotti & Jonathan Barry 

The Centre for Medical History of the University of Exeter (United Kingdom) and the Fondazione Comel - Institutio Santoriana (Italy) are pleased to announce an International Conference: Humours, Mixtures and Corpuscles, A Medical Path to Corpuscularism in the Seventeenth Century.

Organised by Dr Fabrizio Bigotti and Professor Jonathan Barry, to be held at the Domus Comeliana of Pisa on 18-20 May 2017.

The conference aims to explore the interplay between minima naturalia, corpuscles, and atoms in the medical thought of the seventeenth century (broadly considered, 1550-1720) by especially focusing on the legacy of the Italian physician Santorio Santori (1561-1636). Santorio, who is credited to be the first to introduce a quantitative approach into medicine and biology by means of his studies on the insensible perspiration of the body (perspiratio insensibilis), was also the first to conceive the action of corpuscles and atoms mechanically as a result of his experiments on the properties of drugs and mixtures. As the impetus towards the quantification of compound substances which led European physicians to embrace corpuscular theories remains largely unknown to scholars, this conference will shed light not only on the context and influence of Santorio’s legacy, but also on the many directions taken by medical experimentation in the seventeenth century.

Keynote Speakers:                                                                         

Georgiana Hedesan       (University of Oxford)

Christoph Lüthy            (Radboud University)

William R. Newman        (Indiana University)

Vivian Nutton                (First Moscow State Medical University)

Papers from scholars of any nationality are invited on any aspect of early modern medicine and science. Contributions on general aspects (e.g. Renaissance Aristotelianism and Galenism, Medical School of Padua, alchemical medicine, properties of mixtures, preparation of drugs, etc.) as well as on single authors (Baglivi, Basson, Boyle, Descartes, Falloppia, Fracastoro, Glisson, Iungius, Santorio, Sennert, Spinoza, etc.) are equally welcome. In the spirit of the conference, however, particular attention will be devoted to papers referring to Santorio and the history of perspiratio insensibilis (from Dodart to Keill).

PhD students are strongly encouraged to join the event which will be supported by five Santorio Fellowships for Medical Humanities and Science (500 euros each) funded by the Fondazione Comel - Institutio Santoriana.  More information about the application process is available from the following webpage:

Papers should be a maximum of 20-25 minutes followed by 10 minutes of reply. Abstracts of a maximum 300 words should be sent to Dr Fabrizio Bigotti at by 22nd February 2017 with successful papers notified by the end of February.

A publication of the conference proceedings is anticipated from Springer in 2018.

13th - 14th February 2017
University of Exeter

Read more here.

One-day Workshop
28th November 2015

Endsleigh Room E
Friends Meeting House, Euston Road
London NW1 2BJ

Sponsored by the Wellcome Trust and the University of Hertfordshire
Guest Speaker: Dr Margaret Pelling, University of Oxford

Workshop programme

Workshop website

Over the past five centuries, facial hair has been central to debates about masculinity. Over time, changing views of masculinity, self-fashioning, the body, gender, sexuality and culture have all strongly influenced men’s decisions to wear, or not wear, facial hair. For British Tudor men, beards were a symbol of sexual maturity and prowess. Throughout the early modern period, debates also raged about the place of facial hair within a humoural medical framework. The eighteenth century, by contrast, saw beards as unrefined and uncouth; clean-shaven faces reflected enlightened values of neatness and elegance, and razors were linked to new technologies. Victorians conceived of facial hair in terms of the natural primacy of men, and new models of hirsute manliness. All manner of other factors from religion to celebrity culture have intervened to shape decisions about facial hair and shaving. 

And yet, despite a recent growth in interest in the subject, we still know little about the significance, context and meanings of beards and moustaches through time, or of its relationship to important factors such as medicine and medical practice, technology and shifting models of masculinity. To promote research on this issue we will be hosting a one-day workshop in London.

For further information please contact the organisers

Dr Alun Withey, University of Exeter

Dr Jennifer Evans, University of Hertfordshire

Conference Dates: 3-4 September 2015
Conference Venue: The Long Room Hub, Trinity College Dublin
Organised By: The Centre for Medical History, University of Exeter
Supported By: The Wellcome Trust
Hosted By: The Centre for Early Modern History, Trinity College Dublin
In Co-operation With: The Centre for the History of Medicine in Ireland at University College Dublin and the University of Ulster

The Medical World of Early Modern Ireland Conference Programme

The Medical World of Early Modern Ireland Conference Abstracts

The medical world of early modern Ireland was not only rooted in a society undergoing rapid transformation but also increasingly connected to transnational networks of migration, education, trade and ideas. It was profoundly shaped from within by changes such as the collapse of the Gaelic order, and from without by factors including the curricula of continental universities. A growing body of research is now enabling a more nuanced understanding of this complex and variegated world. Yet Irish medical historiography was recently and quite reasonably described as a field where 'the modern period overwhelms the early modern'. Synchronic comparison, most notably with England, also reinforces the impression of early modern Irish medical history as a still relatively underdeveloped subject. 

These circumstances point towards the continued need for a greater and sustained scholarly engagement with the history of medicine in early modern Ireland. Moreover, the wide range of contexts encompassed by the subject, social, cultural, linguistic, intellectual, institutional, confessional and so on, highlights the particular importance of on going knowledge exchange and collaborations between scholars. Such endeavour is also vital to enabling better awareness of the contents of, and challenges posed by, a frequently problematic archival base. The fact that many of the types of early modern source available for other countries were in Ireland either never created in the first place or subsequently destroyed is obviously of enormous consequence. At the same time, some rich and distinctive elements, such as Gaelic medical manuscript culture, are beyond the expertise of many historians.

This conference was designed to meet these and other challenges by bringing together scholars working on the history of medicine in Ireland in the period 1500-1750. It allowed them to present the findings of latest research, whether focused on the island itself, relevant transnational contexts, or both. Under the aegis of the ambitious Early Modern Practitioners project at the University of Exeter, the conference was seen as a benchmark event that facilitated appraisal of the current state of the subject and helped define the parameters of a sustainable future research agenda.


The Medical and Psychological Care of Children: Historical and Current Perspectives 

3rd October 2014
0900 - 1700
The Buckerell Lodge Hotel, Topsham, Exeter

Keynote Speaker: Professor John Stewart, Professor of Health History, Glasgow Caledonia University

supported by: The Centre for Medical History, University of Exeter and The Wellcome Trust

CCHN Conference Registration Form

CCHN Conference Programme

CCHN Conference Poster

5th April - 29th June 2014
Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter

Between 1900 and his death in 1936, the billionaire pharmaceutical giant, Sir Henry Wellcome, amassed over a million objects from across the globe and for his Museum of Medical History. A substantial proportion of these related to human sexuality in all its forms. Wellcome believed passionately in the potential of historical artefacts to unlock the secrets of human sexuality by revealing the varieties and complexities of the way that sex has been understood and represented in different cultures across global history.

The variety of attitudes and cultural practices embodied by this display of objects prompts us to question our own attitudes towards such contemporary issues as censorship and display, the boundaries between childhood and adulthood, control of sexuality, fertility and contraception, pleasure and power relations. It asks our audiences to open up their minds and to reflect of the value and significance of sex to us today.

Friday 16th May 2014 


What is Wales’ place within the broader history of medicine? Traditional histories of Wales have often tended to look inwards, with a narrow focus upon medical folklore, nineteenth-century industrial health or Wales' role in the creation of the National Health Service. In older narratives of progress and professionalization, Wales has often appeared insular and disconnected. But as historians have turned to the importance of the local and regional, as well as the national, the place of Wales within a wider medical world, both now and in the past, increasingly calls for attention.

This workshop will act as a hub for colleagues from a wide range of disciplines to encourage new dialogues about future directions for Welsh medical history.

A conference jointly organised by Collaborative Interdisciplinary Study of Science, Medicine and the Imagination Research Group, Cardiff University, Centre for the History of Medicine, University of Exeter, and The Wales Network for the History and Social Study of Science, Technology and Medicine (Myrddin)

24th and 25th April 2014

Supported by the Centre for Medical History.

The future offers a critical space to negotiate sexual possibilities. It can serve as a doomsday warning, provide utopian fantasies or aspirational goals for real reform. Such visions of the sexual future are often achieved through an imaginative reworking of motifs and elements from the past. This colloquium investigates how and why sexual knowledge, articulated in science, literature, art, politics, law and religion, turns to the past to envision the future.

When it comes to imagining the future, the past can be cast in manifold ways. It can appear as mythical, traditional, ancestral, atavistic, hereditary, primitive, classical, or historical. It can also serve a number of purposes. It can lend weight or authority; it can provide a rhetoric of objectivity, neutrality and empiricism to support visions of the future. It can galvanise calls for reform by appearing to offer visions of realistic possibility, alternative social worlds that have existed in the past and are therefore more than idle fantasy. The past can also be deployed in narratives about progress and decline, civilization and evolution, which lead towards a utopian or dystopian future. It can be marshalled as evidence to articulate universalising claims about humanity, provide evidence of variability across time, illustrate future possibilities or legitimise change. In addition, the past can offer a space of forgetting and loss and therefore a means of rejecting or engaging critically with the very concept of the future. It is the aim of the colloquium to examine how such uses of the past in the service of the future intersect with sexual knowledge and experience.

Forming part of the Sexual Knowledge, Sexual History project, this colloquium invites scholars from a range of disciplines to examine any aspect of the nexus between past, future and sex.

15-16 April 2014

Supported by the Centre for Medical History.

A workshop on physical and mental health of working life since 1850 will be held at the University of Exeter.

The numbers of participants will be limited to contributors and invited participants. If you wish to present a paper or report of work in progress please email Joseph Melling ( 

Thursday 10th April 2014
12 noon to 1.30pm, Building:One Bateman Lecture Theatre

Warwick Anderson (University of Sydney)

During the past thirty years, immunological metaphors, motifs, and models have come to shape much social theory and philosophy. It may seem that immunology has served to naturalize claims about self, identity, and sovereignty—perhaps most prominently in Jacques Derrida’s later studies. Yet the immunological science that functions as “nature” in these social and philosophical arguments is derived from interwar and Cold-War social theory and philosophy. Immunology can claim a complex, entangled history, derived from multiple cultural geographies of sensitivity and reactivity. Theoretical immunologists and social theorists knowingly have participated in this common culture. Thus the “naturalistic fallacy” in this case might be reframed as an error of categorization: its conditions of possibility would require ceaseless effort to purify and separate out the categories of nature and culture. The problem – inasmuch as there is a problem – therefore is not so much the making of an appeal to nature as assuming privileged access to an independent, sovereign category called “nature.” So, then, what is the nature of which we speak? Where is the immunological located?

This open seminar is part of a meeting on 'Immunitary Geographies', jointly organised by the Departments of Geography, History and Sociology, Politics and Anthropology and will be followed by a small workshop with further papers and more opportunity for discussion.

If you would like to join the workshop, please email Gail Davies ( or Nick Binney ( for further details and to register your interest.

8th and 9th April 2014

Supported by the Wellcome Trust and hosted by the Centre for Medical History

Register your place

Landscapes of Occupation Conference Programme

Occupational identity and the economic activity of individuals have seen growing attention from historians and historical geographers over the past thirty or forty years. While earlier generations of historians, including Postan and Tawney, addressed occupational structure as an aspect of the general structure of agricultural and industrial production, researchers are increasingly focusing upon the question of economic activity from the perspective of the individual. It is increasingly recognized that occupational identity was neither definite, nor fixed. How did households combine economic strategies in response to opportunities, challenges, and natural cycles? How did economic and occupational identity change throughout an individual’s lifecycle? Indeed, how did occupational identity actually reflect economic activity?

Large research projects as well as individual researchers are making important contributions to these debates from macro and micro perspectives, ranging from large scale demographic work to detailed prosopography. Exeter’s ‘Medical World of Early Modern England, Wales and Ireland’ is assembling ever greater contextual detail around the lives of practitioners of medical occupations, including much evidence of shifting identity and surprising diversity of activity. Many other projects are constantly adding to this complementary range of data, but only when both micro and macro research is brought together can the questions surrounding early modern occupational identity be addressed.

The workshop is designed to bring together papers addressing the following themes:

Individuals, Economic Activity, and Developments in the Early Modern Economy

  • How can demographic data capture the complexity of occupations?
    • Can we see realistic reflection of occupation, or a mark of status or aspiration?
    • Occupational specialisation is often seen as characteristic of the early modern economy, but is this reflected in occupational labels and sources available to us?
    • Historians also see the early modern economy as characterised the growing scale of businesses and workshops. How can this be reconciled with growing specialisation?

Gender and Occupation

  • How can female economic activity be captured in the pre-modern period?
  • How can historians address the varied and variable economic strategies employed by medieval and early modern households when demographic sources concentrate on male occupations?

Guilds, Colleges and Occupational Identity

  • It is often argued that in the early modern period, traditional guild-based identities became ceased to reflect the actual economic activities of individuals
    • Can membership of guilds and professional bodies, such as the medical colleges, accurately reflect the practice of that individual?

Rural and Urban Economic Lives

  • Economic developments, such as specialisation and professionalization, have traditionally been associated with the early modern period are associated with cities and urban growth, but how did new occupations interact with rural contexts?
  • How did the growth of rural industries, such as the new draperies, affect relationships of wealth and development between towns and the countryside?

The workshop will be held at the University of Exeter Streatham campus over two days, Tuesday 8th and Wednesday 9th April 2014. Sessions will be structured around pre-circulated papers, and presentations of five minutes, to allow maximum time for discussion.

29 June–16 July 2013

Stazione Zoologica, Laboratory of Benthic Ecology
Villa Dohrn, Ischia

Directors: Janet Browne (Harvard University), Christiane Groeben (Naples), Nick Hopwood (Cambridge University), Staffan Müller-Wille (University of Exeter).

Funding: Wellcome Trust, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn

The faculty include Peter Murray Jones, Hiro Hirai, James E. Strick, Helen A. Curry, Luis Campos, Bernadette Bensaude-Vincent, Stefan Helmreich, Wolfgang Schäffner and Hans-Jörg Rheinberger.

For more information on the Ischia Summer School and about upcoming summer schools, please see the Ischia Summer School website

4–7 July 2013

Supported by the College of Humanities, The Centre for Medical History, Classics and Ancient History, University of Exeter, Oxford University PressThe Hellenic Society and The Classical Association.

An international conference held to celebrate the work of Professor Christopher Gill building on his studies of the psyche and the self in the ancient world.

In three impressive volumes Professor Gill has integrated literary approaches with ancient psychology and medicine, from Homer and Plato to the Stoics and Galen. He has additionally addressed the question whether some of these approaches may contribute to improving our own lives and wellbeing.

The conference presented papers on the development of the psyche from Homer to tragedy and Plato, on the underworld, on medical and philosophical debates on psychology ; on modern medical understanding of ancient wellbeing; on happiness, hope and truth, and freedom, and on Neoplatonic approaches to the self and the human relationship with the divine.

Conference materials


25–26 April 2013

Supported by the Centre for Medical History and the Wellcome Trust

The Centre for Medical History at Exeter University is holding an interdisciplinary postgraduate colloquium focusing on the theme of ‘Civilising Bodies’, bringing together academics working in the field with postgraduate researchers.

This is an exciting opportunity to see researchers discussing innovative approaches to questions of the relationship between society, the body, and its representations in a variety of media.

The narratives, discourses, and imagery of bodies and their relationship with civilisation have affected a wide range of media, from novels, poetry, and political tracts to art and film; a diversity reflected in the papers on show.

The event will showcase postgraduate research and work by established academics on themes ranging from monstrous female bodies to medical scandals, discourse of race and savagery to the body in literature. It will be a great opportunity to meet fellow scholars working in this area within both a social and academic environment.

Guest Speakers

Dr Lesley Hall (Wellcome Library)
Professor Mark Jackson (University of Exeter)

22–24 April 2013

Supported by the College of Humanities, University of Exeter, The British Society for the History of Science and the Royal Historical Society.

In many near eastern traditions, demons appear as a cause of illness: most famously in the stories of possessed people cured by Christ. These traditions influenced perceptions of illness in Judaism, Christianity and Islam in later centuries but the ways in which these cultures viewed demons and illness have received comparatively little attention. For example, who were these demons? How did they cause illness? Why did they want to? How did demons fit into other explanations for illness? How could demonic illnesses be cured and how did this relate to other kinds of cure? How far did medical or philosophical theory affect how people responded to demonic illnesses in practice?

This conference will take a comparative approach, taking a wide geographical and chronological sweep but confining itself to this relatively specific set of questions. Because Jewish, Christian and Islamic ideas about demons and illness drew on a similar heritage of ancient religious texts from New Testament times to the early modern period there is real scope to draw meaningful comparisons between the different periods and cultures. What were the common assumptions made by different societies? When and why did they differ? What was the relationship between theory and practice? We would welcome papers which address these issues for any period between antiquity and the early modern period, and which discuss Christian, Jewish or Islamic traditions.

Conference materials

Conference programme

25th June 2012, Reed Hall, University of Exeter

Supported by the Wellcome Trust, at the Centre for Medical History, University of Exeter.

For more information, please see the Conference poster

27–28 August 2012

Supported by the ESRC-funded project ‘Tianjin Under Nine Flags: Colonialism in Comparative Perspective, 1860-1949’ and the Centre for Medical History at the University of Exeter.

The history of internationalism from the late-nineteenth century to the interwar period, and its tense relations with national rivalries, global empires and the establishment of totalitarian regimes, has been a major area of recent debate and investigation. Much attention has focussed on networks of communication, commerce, voluntary society, humanitarianism, empire, philanthropy and the various organisations around the League of Nations. Yet scientific institutions have often seemed to be absent from these discussions. Despite the wide literature on the cultural and social significance of the sciences within global and national societies across this period, and the growing interest in the tensions between national and internationalist ambitions in scientific work, it remains the case that the connections between these historiographies are little understood.

The aim of this conference is to build links and dialogue between historians of modern science and medicine and historians of international society in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century. Scholars working in each of these fields are welcome. We particularly aim to interrogate the place of scientific networks within the international culture of the period, how scientific values, institutions and concepts influenced and were shaped by wider forms of internationalism, and how these worked within wider processes of international interaction, rivalry and contestation.

Conference materials

Conference Call for Papers

Conference poster

Conference programme

26–27 April 2012

Supported by the Wellcome Trust, at the Centre for Medical History, University of Exeter

This interdisciplinary conference seeks to investigate how statuary intersects with questions of sexuality, and temporality, specifically history. It explores the numerous different ways in which statues – as historical and/or imagined artefacts – allow us to think about the past and its relation to sex, gender and sexuality.

The conference brings together contributors from a variety of disciplines, including history, gender and sexuality studies, literary and cultural studies, art history, classics, archaeology and philosophy.

Keynote Speakers

Dr Stefano-Maria Evangelista (University of Oxford)
Dr Ian Jenkins (British Museum)

Conference materials

Conference programme

Conference poster

2–3 April 2012

In 1952, Hans Selye published a best-selling book on the relationship between stress and disease. Based largely on the results of his own laboratory experiments on the role of pituitary and adreno-cortical hormones in the mediation of stress reactions, Selye’s account of biological stress was neither new nor universally accepted. Nevertheless, The Stress of Life captured the imagination of post-war populations struggling to reconstruct families, communities and societies torn apart by the traumas of global conflict and threatened by the politics of the Cold War.

Funded by the Wellcome Trust, this international conference seeks to bring together historians of medicine with scholars of social, cultural, gender and economic history to analyse not only the manner in which links between emotions and health were formulated and substantiated during the post-war decades, but also how the stress of life was variably articulated and experienced in the aftermath of the war.

Conference materials

Conference registration form


15–16 September 2011

This two-day workshop, which has come out of a two-year project on mental health and returning patient care, aims to explore the experiences of in-patient treatment, including the journeys into and out of the mental institution, in a broad geographical range. It seeks to contribute to a better understanding of the significant changes in the care for the mentally unwell the past century has witnessed.

The workshop will bring together a wide audience, including scholars at different stages of their careers from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds, clinicians, and guardians of medical records. Thus, we hope to open up a dialogue between the research community, medical practitioners, and the archives.

Conference material


22nd–23th August 2011

Supported by the Classics Association and the Wellcome Trust.

This conference continues the very popular series which has been held annually since 2000 at the Universities of Newcastle and Reading, and most recently in 2010 at Cardiff University. The series aims to provide a forum for a mixture of junior doctoral, post doctoral researchers and more established scholars, and to cover a broad range of subjects under the general heading "Ancient Medicine". This year's programme features Professor Brooke Holmes (Princeton University) on "The Sympathetic Cosmos and the Purposeful Body in Galen's On Natural Faculties" and Professor Helen King (The Open University) on "The early modern Phaethousa: transformations of a Hippocratic case history" and covers a range of presentations from Hippocrates and Old Comedy to Medieval Byzantine poetry and the reception of Galen in early modern surgery.

Conference material


14th–17th July 2011, University of Exeter

For more information about the annual conference, please see the BSHS website.

14 April 2011

'From the Cradle to the Grave' is an interdisciplinary event designed to bring together postgraduate students and early career academics working throughout the humanities, including the fields of English, Modern Languages and Cultures, Politics, Film Studies, Classics and Ancient History, Medical History, Drama and Theology and Religion The conference will focus on the impact of health and medicine in the 'making and unmaking' of all modern arts, from the nineteenth century onwards. Rather than simply examining finished texts, films, artworks or pieces of theatre and film, the central goal of this conference is to examine the processes by which medicine and the arts have influenced each other across time and place and explore the ways in which both fields continue to intersect.

We will be hosting an art and screen exhibition on the relationship between hospital art and health using artistic pieces from Devon and Cornwall, organised in conjunction with Arts and Health South West and Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital. The conference will also incorporate a plenary discussion on the nature of 'Medical Humanities' and publishing within the field, as part of Deborah Kirklin's keynote address.

Keynote speakers

Professor Brian Hurwitz (King's College London)

Deborah Kirklin MD (University College London and Editor of Medical Humanities)

Conference themes

  • Representations of medicine in culture (eg music, visual cultures, film, literature) and the impact of culture on health and medicine
  • Ethical implications of combining medicine and the arts
  • Formulating and conceptualising the field of 'Medical Humanities'
  • Theoretical and empirical approaches to studying relationships between medicine/Medical History and the arts
  • The politics, processes and limitations of exchange between medicine and the arts
  • Practice-based applications of reciprocity, such as promoting health through the arts
  • Conference materials

Conference materials

Conference programme

Conference programme

6–7 April 2011

Pasold Research Fund Conference.

Supported by the Wellcome Trust, at the Centre for Medical History, University of Exeter

This conference brought together historians of textiles and clothing, and of health, with scholars of social, medical, cultural, and economic history to examine the rich connections between textiles, human health and welfare, environmental issues, and self expression (including ‘sunlight seekers’ and ‘body culture’ movements of the past 150 years).

The conference addressed four main themes:

  • Early modern and modern textiles manufacturing and the association of benign and malign influences in the growth of industry and the impact on the labour force, land and water use.
  • The modern environmental costs of textiles production, from soil utilisation (and erosion) to the chemical manufacture of man-made fibres and the consequences of toxic minerals and chemicals for both workers and the wider community.
  • The animal world and the costs of textile and skin production: hunting, farming, and human-animal health concerns. The rise of a new politics of health around animal utilisation.
  • The textile sector in relation to future environmental degradation, bio-health and sustainability.

Conference materials

Conference programme

Conference poster