University Awards in Humanities and Social Science

University Awards in Humanities and Social Science: people we've funded

This list includes current and past grantholders.


Dr Zoe Fritz

University of Cambridge

Diagnosing diagnosis: a multidisciplinary perspective

Diagnosis is at the heart of the medical encounter, but many features of making, communicating and recording a diagnosis remain poorly understood and little researched. Without greater understanding, we cannot provide adequate guidance to clinicians about what information to share with patients or advise patients about what questions to ask when being diagnosed. It could also mean that policies that address problems with ‘overdiagnosis’ or ‘misdiagnosis’ might have unintended consequences.

I will use qualitative methods including ethnography and interviews as well as analysing medical records and quantifying the reach and permanence of diagnostic labelling between healthcare settings. An ethical analysis will explore how the interplay between responsibility, uncertainty and trust affects process and communication when making a medical diagnosis. This multidisciplinary research will benefit from combining different perspectives and methodologies.

In particular, I will examine the process of making, communicating and recording a medical diagnosis in the acute care setting, looking at institutional influences on the diagnostic process, and ethical and philosophical influences on making and communicating diagnoses. I will establish an empirically based ethical framework for making, communicating and recording a diagnosis intended to improve patient outcomes and benefit individuals and society as a whole.

Dr Anna Pearce

University of Glasgow

Improving life chances and reducing child health inequalities: harnessing the potential of existing data

I will research the issues that are crucial to tackling child health inequalities (HIs) – factors including socio-economic circumstances and parental health-related behaviours. I will ask whether it is possible to predict who will be most likely to develop poor health and whether this can help to target interventions. I will also look at early years interventions and the way they are rolled out (eg to everyone or targeted at those at greatest risk) and the affect on HI. 

I will use linked administrative data in Greater Glasgow and Clyde and three UK cohorts (the Millennium Cohort Study, Growing Up in Scotland and the Southampton Women’s Survey). I will examine indicators of child health, such as cognitive development, weight and unintentional injuries, and also parental health-related behaviours, such as immunisation, breastfeeding and smoking. Maternal mental health, childcare and parenting will be investigated as mediating mechanisms that can be affected by interventions from early years services. 

Findings will inform local and national policy and practice.

Dr Sofia Xenofontos

University of Glasgow

The physician of the soul: medicine and practical ethics in Galen

This project aims to shed light on Galen’s role as a moralist and soul doctor, an aspect of his intellectual profile that has been little studied and poorly understood.

I will holistically examine psychological and ethical works alongside a large number of technical tracts – both medical and philosophical – that have moral and/or moralising elements and connotations. The goal is to give prominence to the dynamic interdependence between medicine and practical ethics in its historical, social, and cultural context. I will ask how Galen adjusted his moral agenda to the needs and requirements of contemporary elite life, how he communicated his ethical teachings and to whom. I will also look at the techniques he used to assign himself moral authority and how successful this was.

The project will place Galen firmly in the tradition of philosophical writing on the therapy of emotions,  helping us to properly reassess his influence on later Arab moralists/physicians. The project will be the starting point for more in-depth research on the reception of Galenic (and not just Hippocratic) medical ethics in modern medicine.


Dr Stephen Mawdsley

University of Strathclyde

The Jake Walk Blues: intoxicants, disability and stigma in America

During America's Great Depression, the patent medicine Jamaica Ginger was adulterated with a toxic chemical that could cause limb paralysis. Contaminated Jamaica Ginger affected white and African American sharecroppers and mill workers, who sought the medicine during Prohibition due to its availability and high alcohol content. Between 50,000 and 100,000 people became afflicted, leaving survivors with lasting physical disability, limited economic opportunity, and severe social stigmas. Survivors and their families organised action groups, tested remedies, and pushed for legal recourse, while the federal government tried to bring the perpetrators to justice. 

Drawing on a rich collection of archival records, oral histories, blues music, literature, and historical newspapers, Stephen's project will explore the legacy of this forgotten episode in American history.

Dr Hannah Newton

University of Reading

Sensing sickness in early modern England

This project is about the sensory experience of serious physical disease in early modern England. Taking the dual perspectives of patients and their loved ones, the study will investigate what happened to the five senses during illness. It will focus on  how patients and their relatives responded emotionally and spiritually to sensory suffering,  what was done to mitigate the impact of illness on the senses, and how doctors explained the sensory alterations that occurred during disease.

The ultimate goal of the project is to provide a more complete picture of what it was like to be ill, or to witness the illness of others, in early modern England.

Dr Stephanie Snow

University of Manchester

Constructing quality of care: experiences, policies and practices since the 1960s

The idea that healthcare quality could be defined and measured through outcomes, structures and processes emerged in the USA in the 1960s and then spread to other nations, including the UK.

Drawing on interviews with clinicians, policymakers and patient groups in the UK and the USA, this project will historicise the emergence of the international healthcare quality movement, focusing on how it has transformed health policy and practice at every level. Quality improvement initiatives have been accompanied by increasing concern about patient safety and this work will produce new evidence to explain why this might be so. It will also bridge approaches in the medical humanities and policy engagement. 

Dr Duncan Wilson

University of Manchester

Species loss and the ecology of human-animal health: understanding and preventing extinction in the twentieth century and beyond

In the 1940s, prominent British scientists drew on ecological work highlighting the interdependence between species to argue that animal extinction posed a grave threat to human health. These claims underpinned the work of new conservation organisations and, as the sense of environmental crisis grew during the 1960s, regularly appeared in popular sources.

This project analyses the emergence and influence of the view that extinction threatened human health, and scrutinises how the idea was grounded in the outlook and aims of particular individuals and groups. The research will connect the medical humanities with environmental history and animal studies, to chart how this view of extinction fostered questions about which species we should try and save, and how we should do it. Given the dire warnings about the rate of species loss today, this history is vital for critical reflection on the changing connections between human and animal health, and why we value some animals over others.


Dr Chiara Beccalossi

University of Lincoln

Sexology, hormones and medical experiments in the Latin Atlantic world: local power and international networks, 1918–1985

Dr David Griffiths

University of Surrey

A history of the treatment and care of intersex conditions in the UK

Dr Martyn Pickersgill

University of Edinburgh

Beyond diagnosis? Novelty, need and the normative in the twenty-first century

Dr Duncan Wilson

University of Manchester

Species loss and the ecology of human-animal health: understanding and preventing extinction in the twentieth century and beyond


Dr Irina Metzler

Swansea University

Blind priests and mad rectors: health, disease and disability among the later medieval European clergy


Dr Abigail Woods

King’s College London

One medicine? Investigating human and animal disease, 1850–2015


Dr Angela Davis

University of Warwick

Jewish mothers and Jewish babies: childbearing and childrearing amongst Jewish women in England and Israel, 1948–1990

Dr Gill Haddow

University of Edinburgh

Animal, machine and me: the search for replaceable hearts

Dr Catherine Petit

University of Warwick

Medical prognosis in late antiquity

Dr Edmund Ramsden

Queen Mary, University of London

Space, place and psychosocial wellbeing: the psychological sciences and the built environment in the United States,1940–1980

Other grantholders