Centre for the History of Medicine in Ireland (CHOMI)

Centre for the History of Medicine in Ireland (CHOMI)

New PhD Project: Ruth Coon: Medicine and the Troubles

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The Centre for the History of Medicine in Ireland is delighted to welcome Ruth Coon who is starting a PhD project on medical provision during the Northern Irish Troubles. Using a range of unexplored documentary evidence, the new project examines how sites such as hospitals were restructured to meet the demands of conflict, the development of orthopaedics and other innovations against the backdrop of the Troubles, and the day-to-day experiences of a range of hospital staff. Funded by the Department of Education and Learning, the project will be supervised by Dr Leanne McCormick and Dr Ian Miller.

Hunger Strike 1877-1981, Kilmainham Gaol, Exhibition

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On 21 September, Dr Ian Miller opened a new exhibition entitled ‘Hunger Strike, 1877-1981’ at Kilmainham Gaol, Dublin. The exhibition sheds new light on hunger strike history, exploring often neglected issues such as gender, the transnational nature of hunger strike and the complex medical ethical issues that have surrounded practices such as force feeding. Funded by Irish Research Council and Office of Public Works, the exhibition was co-convened with international partners Dr Laura McAtackney (Aahrus University) and Dr Ciara Breathnach (University of Limerick). This exciting new exhibition will remain open until the end of January 2018.



New PhD project: Michael Kinsella and Irish mental health

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Royal Edinburgh AsylumUU’s Centre for the History of Medicine in Ireland is delighted to welcome a new PhD student, Michael Kinsella, whose project is entitled ‘Meeting the Needs of Mentally Disordered People among the Ulster Middle Classes, 1850-1916’. This exciting new project will make use of extensive archives in Scotland and Northern Ireland to investigate how middle-class Ulster families made provision for their mentally disordered relatives between 1850 and 1916. It will examine how this socioeconomic group interacted with Irish District Asylums, Irish Private Asylums and Scottish Chartered Asylums to meet the mental health needs of family members in a Victorian prototype of the mixed economy of care. During this period Ulster diverged from the rest of Ireland in its economic development whilst consolidating its political and cultural differences, yet very little is known about how middle-class Ulster families made provision for the care and treatment of relatives who were mentally disordered. Michael’s innovative study promises to make a contribution towards addressing this lacuna. The project is supervised by Dr Ian Miller (first supervisor) and Dr Leanne McCormick (second supervisor).

Conference: Food Anxieties in Twentieth-Century Britain and Ireland, 7 April 2017

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food-history-britainConference: Food anxieties in Twentieth Century Britain and Ireland

Friday 7th April 2017

Centre for the History of Medicine in Ireland, Ulster University.

BA-02-005 (Belfast campus)

The twentieth century witnessed mounting anxiety about what we eat.  In the western world obesity rates rose, the popularity of ‘junk food’ raised concerns about dietary health, and constant food scares caused deep unease. Partly in response to such problems, the post-war period saw rising interest in organic food, vegetarian diets and health foods. The changing epidemiological structure of western societies meant that people were more likely to live longer but suffer from chronic illness such as diabetes and heart disease linked by medical scientists to poor dietary choices.

This workshop will explore anxieties that surrounded food in twentieth-century Britain and Ireland. It asks: In what ways were diet, health and illness linked? To what extent was nutritional advice scientifically objective or moralising in nature? How did consumers interpret the diverse messages emanating from medical scientists and other dietary advisors? In what ways did new medical discourses on ideal weight stigmatise the obese? Did the new diets of an increasingly multicultural society raise health concerns? And how much attention did consumers and patients actually pay to changing warnings about over-eating and negative nutrition?

A keynote address will be delivered by Dr Matthew Smith, University of Strathclyde.

View our: Conference Programme

This Wellcome Trust-sponsored event is organised by Dr Ian Miller (Ulster University) and Dr Bryce Evans (Liverpool Hope University). The event is free but please register before by contacting i.miller@ulster.ac.uk.

New Publication: Medicine, Health and Irish Experiences of Conflict, 1914-45

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medicine-health-irish-experiences-conflictDavid Durnin (CHOMI, UCD) and Ian Miller (CHOMI-UU) have recently published an edited volume entitled Medicine, Health and Irish Experiences of Conflict, 1914-45 (Manchester University Press). This book explores Irish experiences of medicine and health during the First and Second World Wars, the War of Independence and the Civil War. It examines the physical, mental and emotional impact of conflict on Irish political and social life, as well as medical, scientific and official interventions in Irish health matters. The contributors put forward the case that warfare and political unrest profoundly shaped Irish experiences of medicine and health, and that Irish political, social and economic contexts added unique contours to those experiences not evident in other countries. In pursuing these themes, the book offers an original and focused intervention into a central, but so far unexplored, area of Irish medical history.

More information can be found at: http://www.manchesteruniversitypress.co.uk/9781526108234/

New staff at CHOMI-UU

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The Centre for the History of Medicine in Ireland at Ulster University is delighted to welcome new staff member, Dr Leanne Calvert, as Research Associate in Social History. Leanne is working alongside Dr Leanne McCormick (UU) and Dr Elaine Farrell (QUB) on an AHRC-funded project ‘Bad Bridget: Criminal and Deviant Irish Women in North American, 1838-1918’.

Leanne received her PhD from Queen’s University, Belfast, in 2015. Her thesis, which was entitled, ‘Love, life and the family in the Ulster Presbyterian community, 1780-1844’ was funded by an Arts and Humanities Research Council scholarship (2011-14). Using the concept of gender, her thesis explored the experiences of the family from the cradle to the grave. It examined five key areas: Courtship, Marriage, Parents and Young Children, Youth and Adolescence, and Widowhood. She is currently writing up aspects of her research for publication.

Before joining the University of Ulster, Leanne taught history at Queen’s University, Belfast (2012-15) as a teaching assistant and lecturer, and worked on a number of history research projects. A public history project on Ulster Women and Women’s History at Queen’s University, Belfast, is due to go live later this year. She has published in Women’s History Review and Analecta Hibernica.

The Centre is also delighted to welcome back Dr Nigel Farrell and Dr John Privilege who will be teaching undergraduate courses on various aspects of medical history between 2016 and 2018.

New Publication: A History of Force Feeding: Prisons, Hunger Strikes and Medical Ethics, 1909-74

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history-of-force-feedingDr Ian Miller has recently published a new monograph, A History of Force Feeding: Prisons, Hunger Strikes and Medical Ethics, 1909-74 with Palgrave Macmillan. Funded by a Wellcome Trust research fellowship, It is the first monograph-length study of the force-feeding of hunger strikers in English, Irish and Northern Irish prisons. It examines ethical debates that arose throughout the twentieth century when governments authorised the force-feeding of imprisoned suffragettes, Irish republicans and convict prisoners. It also explores the fraught role of prison doctors called upon to perform the procedure. Since the Home Office first authorised force-feeding in 1909, a number of questions have been raised about the procedure. Is force-feeding safe? Can it kill? Are doctors who feed prisoners against their will abandoning the medical ethical norms of their profession? And do state bodies use prison doctors to help tackle political dissidence at times of political crisis?

The book is open access and can be downloaded for free here.


Public Engagement Events: Spring 2016

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Suffragettes: One Hundred Years On. Black Box, Belfast, 14 March 2016. Organised by Dr Ian Miller

Suffragettes: One Hundred Years On. Black Box, Belfast, 14 March 2016. Organised by Dr Ian Miller

Suffragettes: One Hundred Years On, Black Box, Belfast (part of Imagine! The Belfast Festival of Politics and Ideas), 14 March 2016

The suffragettes are currently of major public interest. The 2015 release of the film Suffragette has re-ignited interest in the votes for women campaign, prison experiences and the political and cultural legacies of the suffragettes. ‘The Suffragettes: One Hundred Years On’ is an evening of discussions and performances that bring to life the ideas and politics of the suffragettes and considers how their ideas still influence us today. Organised by Dr Ian Miller (and funded by the Wellcome Trust), this event offers short, accessible talks on themes including the history of the Belfast suffragettes (Dr. Margaret Ward, Queen’s University Belfast) and the ethics of hunger striking, past and present (Dr. Ian Miller, Ulster University). The Manchester-based feminist poet Steph Pike will showcase her poetry inspired by the suffragettes and Sarah Feinstein (University of Manchester) will discuss the cultural legacy of the suffragettes with a discussion of feminist punk music. The event also features a round-table discussion about women’s rights with academics and members of the Belfast Feminist Network which you are invited to join in. For more details, see


Witch Trials of Islandmagee, Black Box, Belfast, 20 March 2016

Andrew Snedden is the author of ‘Possessed by the Devil, the Real History of the Islandmagee Witches’, ‘Witchcraft and Whigs’ & ‘Witchcraft and Magic in Ireland’. Using the Islandmagee Witch Trials of 1711 as a jumping off point Andrew will examine the dynamics of witchcraft belief and accusation in the early modern period across Ireland and Europe. We’ll examine the role of cunning-folk and popular magic in Irish society and attitudes of authorities to their activities.

For more details, see:


CHOMI-UU Annual Report 2014-15

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Centre for the History of Medicine in Ireland, Ulster University annual report

Centre for the History of Medicine in Ireland, Ulster University annual report

The Centre for the History of Medicine in Ireland (CHOMI) (Ulster University) annual report is available here:

Click here to read the CHOMI-UU Annual Report 2014-15.

The Centre for the History of Medicine in Ireland (CHOMI), Ulster University enjoyed a lively and productive year in 2014-15. Centre staff continued their record of high quality publications, with three books, four journal articles and five book chapters being produced. The year also saw the generation of over £230,000 in funding income from sources including, AHRC, Wellcome Trust and British Academy. This followed on from the prestigious Wellcome Trust Research Fellowship in Medical Humanities awarded to Dr Ian Miller, worth over £220,000, who joined CHOMI-UU in 2013. Going forward CHOMI aims to build on this funding success and a number of funding bids to a range of charities and research councils are planned for the future. A successful pilot scheme ‘Horrible medical histories’ was run in a local school and this will form part of the increased public engagement and impact agenda of CHOMI-UU in the incoming year. CHOMI-UU staff were active in presenting their work, locally, nationally and internationally and in generating networks and collaborations. For the incoming year, CHOMI-UU will have an increased focus on interdisciplinary collaborations and on developing networks both within Ulster University and further afield. As part of these networks an international advisory board will be established to lend expertise and direction to the continued growth and success of CHOMI-UU in the future. We look forward to another year of continued growth and opportunities to expand our engagement and outreach activities with a wide range of audiences.

AHRC Research Grant Award

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Dr Leanne McCormick has recently been awarded a prestigious AHRC Research Grant Award with Dr Elaine Farrell (Queen’s University Belfast). The project will investigate the sexually deviant woman, the bad mother and the criminal Irish woman in Boston, New York and Toronto between 1838 and 1918. It focuses on Irish migrant women who engaged in sex outside marriage, neglectful mothers and female criminals to provide fresh perspectives on the familiar narrative of Irish female migration to North America. The project will highlight the multifaceted experiences of the ‘American dream’. Previous studies of unmarried Irish women in America have focused on domestic servants, child-minders and religious sisters, emphasising marriage, reproduction and fertility rates. In contrast, this project examines three intertwined strands – the sexually active woman, the deviant mother and the female criminal – to offer an alternative account of the Irish female migrant experience. A postdoctoral research assistant will be employed during year 2 of the project.