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Keir Waddington

Professor Keir Waddington

Professor of History (Study Leave 2022/3)

School of History, Archaeology and Religion

Media commentator
Available for postgraduate supervision


I am presently head of History in the School, and chair of the Board of Studies.

My research focuses on medical and environmental history, 1800 to the present.

My publications in this area have explored the role of landscape in shaping rural public health, the history of responses to the threat of diseased meat, how the laboratory is represented in Gothic literature, the relationships between medicine and charity, and the history of hospitals and asylums. My present research has three strands: the first explores health and pollution in the Victorian and Edwardian rural environment; the second considers the role of topography in shaping public health provision. The final strand is an analysis of methods of collaboration between the humanities and the sciences both now and historically.

The latter is one of the key activities of the ScienceHumanities Initiative, a major research project which I lead with Professor Martin Willis (English literature) and Dr James Castell (English Literature). More information on the ScienceHumanities Initiative can be found on its website (

My teaching expertise is in the social history of medicine and urban history, and more broadly in nineteenth-century British and European history. My central teaching focus, however, emerges from my research on the historical relationships between medicine and society. I have taught this widely, to both undergraduate and postgraduate students and have supervised MA and PhD research in this area.

In addition, I have had the opportunity to influence the research and teaching of the social history of medicine internationally through cross-University initiatives, external examining, and a range of international lectures, seminars and public activities.

I would welcome inquiries from potential research students interested in studying the social history of medicine and science and environmental history; and queries from public groups or media outlets interested in my research and scholarship.

For further information on my present research projects and publications please click the relevant tab above.























  • Andrews, J., Briggs, A., Porter, R., Tucker, P. and Waddington, K. 1997. History of Bethlem. Abingdon: Routledge.



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My research focuses on the study of the social history of medicine and environmental history. My first monograph, History of Bethlem(1997), resulted from a collaborative project with four other academics to demystify Bedlam and explores its history from its foundation to the present.

My second monograph, Charity and the London Hospitals, 1850-1898 (2000) investigated the dynamics of Victorian hospital fundraising and the nature of London charity, while my fourth monograph The bovine scourge: neat, tuberculosis and public health, 1850-1914 started my current research focus on Victorian and Edwardian public health.

I have also published An introduction to the social history of medicine: Europe since 1500 aimed at undergraduates and postgraduates interested in the social history of medicine.

My present research has two key directions: the first bridges environmental history and the medical humanities to investigate health and pollution in the Victorian and Edwardian rural environment. The project uses a cross-regional analysis to explore how rural communities engaged with poor environmental quality as well as the development and limits of regulation and the actors involved. I focus particularly on ideas and practices of expertise and authority, community responses, landscape and isolation, as well as notions of backwardness and agency, to investigate the physical and regulatory infrastructures put in place to address rural environmental concerns.

The second examines methods of collaboration between the humanities and the sciences, conceived theoretically, politically, and practically. This is undertaken as part of the ScienceHumanities Initiative which I co-lead with Professor Martin Willis, an internationally recognized expert of literature, science and medicine at Cardiff, and Dr James Castell, romanticist and animal studies expert, also at Cardiff. Together we lead a number of projects aimed at understanding and reinvigorating current methodologies of collaboration, with more recent work focusing on Covid futures. As part of this we work in partnership with Duke University's Centre for the Interdisciplinary Study of Science and Cultural Theory, led by Professor Robert Mitchell, and we host a ScienceHumanities Summer School for international participants (each May). The ScienceHumanities initiative also works in partnership with Fiction meets Science at Bremen University. Our most recent publication is a report Two ways of telling this story: Best practice in interdisciplinary collaboration.

To find out more about this collaborative project, visit the blog at:

I have led research projects related to all of my areas of interest with the support of funding from the AHRC, The Wellcome Trust, ESRC, and from Cardiff University.



  • Making of the Modern World - 20 credits
  • History in Practice - 20 credits
  • Modern Britain - 20 credits
  • Projecting the Past - 20 credits
  • World full of Gods - 20 credits
  • Exploring Historical Debate - 30 credits
  • Approaches to History - 30 credits
  • The Dangerous City? Urban Society & Culture 1800-1914 - 30 credits
  • Dissertation - 30 credits (HS1801)

Postgraduate research

I accept suitably qualified PhD students interested in all aspects of the social history of medicine, environmental history, and social history related to nineteenth- and twentieth-century Britain as well as related fields in Victorian urban and social history.


I joined the School of History and Archaeology as a Research Fellow in September 1999, and since then have worked in a range of roles in the School from Director of Postgraduates to Director of Research and Engagement and more recently as Director of Teaching and Learning.

Before taking up the post at Cardiff, I held posts at the Wellcome Centre for the History of Medicine working with Roy Porter on the History of Bethlem and followed by a research fellowship at St Bartholomew's and the Royal London School of Medicine and dentistry researching the history of medical education and contributing to the work of the Centre for Medical and Dental Education. I have also worked previously at the University of East Anglia.

I undertook my doctoral work at University College London and held a fellowship at the Institute of Historical Research.

Honours and awards

Current awards

  • Co-Investigator, Wellcome Trust Small Grant in the Humanities and Social Sciences [with Martin Willis and James Castell, Cardiff]

Previous awards

  • Co-investigator, Cardiff University Incoming Visiting Fellow award [with Martin Willis and James Castell, Cardiff]
  • Cardiff Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme, rural mortality 1870-19140
  • Co-investigator, College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences (Cardiff), Internationalization Fund, ScienceHumanities II, [with Martin Willis and James Castell, English, Cardiff]
  • Co-investigator, AHRC, ‘Bridging the Gap’ GW4 consortium network [with Bath, Bristol, and Exeter universities) on co-production of research
  • Co-investigator, ISSF Wellcome Trust, Medical Humanities Collaborative Award [with Julie Brown, Medical Education, Cardiff]
  • Co-investigator. College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences (Cardiff), International Visibility Fund, Science Humanities, [with Martin Willis and James Castell, English, Cardiff]

Professional memberships

Editorial Boards

  • Editor, Society for the Social History of Medicine's monograph series published by Manchester University Press
  • Editorial Board, Social History of Medicine
  • Editorial Board, Intersections in Literature and Science monograph series, University of Wales Press

Advisory Boards

  • Advisory Board, ‘Building a Healthier City’, Bath Record Office (Wellcome funded project)
  • External Academic Advisor, Centre for Humanities and Social Sciences of Health Medicine and Technology, University of Liverpool
  • Advisory Board, ‘‘From “A Penny in the Pound” to “Free at the Point of Delivery”, Gwent Archives
  • Academic Council, Institute of Historical Research

Networks/Centres (Membership)

  • AHSS Digital Humanities network
  • GW4 Regional Medical Humanities network
  • Coma and Disorders of Consciousness Research Centre (, Cardiff and York universities


I supervise students on a range of topics on the social history of medicine and environmental history related to nineteenth- and twentieth-century Britain as well as related fields in Victorian urban and social history.

Among my present supervisees, topics under investigation include:

  • Cholera and the role of port sanitary authorities in Victorian Wales
  • Patient experiences in the asylum, 1870-1930
  • Social and economic change in rural Monmouthshire