Elsa Richardson


  • United Kingdom

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Personal profile

Personal Statement

I currently hold a Chancellor’s Fellowship in the History of Health and Wellbeing at the Centre for the Social History of Health and Healthcare (CSHHH). Working at the intersection between the medical and cultural history, my research considers the relation of heterodox practices, beliefs and movements to mainstream society and culture, with particular focus on the interaction between medicine and the imagination, science and the supernatural, psychology and the occult. My current research examines histories of nutrition, vegetarianism, other alternative dietary cultures, mental stress and gastric disorders in late nineteenth and early twentieth-century Britain

Recent research projects have examined Edwardian health reformers, the history of the radical publisher C.W. Daniel, interwar life reformers and health exhibitions in Victorian London. Currently working on a popular history of the gut-brain connection and cultures of digestion more widely. 

My first monograph, published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2017, examined the place of extraordinary visionary experience in the Victorian scientific and popular imaginary. Specifically, it investigated the phenomenon of second sight, a species of foreknowledge associated with the Scottish Highlands and Islands and described how tales of this strange visionary ability came to impact on the formation of psychological theories, scientific methodologies and dominant cultural forms. Outside of these projects, I have also researched and published on women’s life writing, British modernism, vegetarianism in fiction, performance and psychology, feminist consciousness-raising and psychoanalysis.

In addition to lecturing in the history of medicine at the University of Strathclyde and developing my own research, I also curate arts and science events for public institutions. Working with an arts curator, Alice Carey, I have programmed several large-scale events at the Wellcome Collection in London. In 2018/19 I was named one of the BBC Radio 3/AHRC New Generation Thinkers.

Research Interests

Science and the supernatural, the history of psychiatiry and psychology, vegetarianism, utopian social movements, stress and the stomach, work and food, second-wave feminism and psychoanalysis.

Teaching Interests

I have experience teaching on the history of medicine and the history of psychiatry, and I have co-authored undergraduate courses on the history of the supernatural and the history of the modern self. At Strathclyde I teach on 'Madness and Society', convene second-year course, 'Disease and Society' and a fourth-year special subject 'From Ancient Passions to Modern Feelings: The History of Emotions'. 

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 5 - Gender Equality

Education/Academic qualification

Doctor of Philosophy, Extraordinary Powers of Perception: Scottish Second Sight and Victorian Culture, Queen Mary University

1 Oct 20091 Apr 2014

Award Date: 1 Apr 2014

Master of Letters, Victorian Literature , Glasgow University

1 Sept 20081 Jul 2009

Award Date: 1 Jul 2009

Bachelor of Literature or Bachelor of Letters, Glasgow University

1 Oct 20031 Jul 2007

Award Date: 1 Jul 2007


  • vegetarianism
  • supernatural
  • occult
  • Psychology
  • feminism
  • medical history


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