Laura Kelly


  • United Kingdom

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Personal profile

Personal Statement

I am Senior Lecturer in the History of Health and Medicine at the University of Strathclyde. I am Co-Director of the Centre for the Social History of Health and Healthcare (CSHHH) and a member of the Scottish Oral History Centre (SOHC). I joined the University of Strathclyde as a lecturer in 2015. Prior to that, I was awarded a PhD in History from the National University of Ireland, Galway in 2011 and undertook an Irish Research Council postdoctoral fellowship at the Centre for the History of Medicine in Ireland, University College Dublin (2012-14). 

My expertise lies in gender history and the social history of medicine in nineteenth and twentieth century Ireland. I have published on the history of women in the medical profession and on medical education and student culture in Ireland. My first monograph Irish women in medicine, c.1880s-1920s: origins, education and careers was published by Manchester University Press in 2012 (paperback, 2015). My second monograph, Irish medical education and student culture, c.1850-1950 was published by Liverpool University Press in September 2017 (paperback, 2020). 

More recently, I have been researching the history of birth control in twentieth-century Ireland. This is the focus of my current project, 'Contraception and Modern Ireland, c.1922-92' which is funded by a Wellcome Trust research fellowship (2016-2021). A monograph based on this research is under contract with Cambridge University Press. I am also interested in the history of activism, particularly around reproductive and sexual health issues. I hold a Carnegie Trust Research Incentive Grant for a project on Pro-life and Pro-Choice Activism in the Republic of Ireland in the 1980s and 1990s. 

I am Chair of the School of Humanities Gender Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (GEDI) committee and sit on the Faculty GEDI committee as the School representative. I currently serve on the Executive Committee of the Women's History Association of Ireland (International Secretary) and on the Executive Committee of the Society for the Social History of Medicine (Gazette editor). 

Research Interests

  • The social history of medicine in modern Ireland
  • Gender and medicine
  • Contraception and reproductive health
  • Activism
  • History of sexuality
  • The medical profession
  • Medical education and student culture

I have received awards from the Wellcome Trust and the Irish Research Council, amongst others for my research and the organisation of international conferences, totalling £433,190 since I began postgraduate study in 2006. I have experience as PI on two projects, one, a Wellcome Trust fellowship in medical humanities on the topic of ‘Contraception and Modern Ireland, c.1922-92’ (2016-2021) and the other an Irish Research Council postdoctoral fellowship for a project on the history of medical education and student culture (2012-2014). 

My current research project, funded by a Wellcome Trust Research Fellowship in Medical Humanities (June 2016 - February 2021), explores the history of contraception in Ireland, c.1922-92. This project examines four main themes: men and women's changing birth control practices and attitudes to contraception; the dissemination of knowledge about contraception; the stories of individuals prosecuted for the illegal sale and distribution of contraceptives; and the role of activist groups in debates on the legalisation of contraception. Utilising a range of sources including oral history interviews, women's magazines and archival material, the project will produce a variety of outputs and will help to place current debates on reproductive rights in Ireland in perspective.

I also hold a Carnegie Trust Research Incentive Grant for a project on Pro-life and Pro-Choice Activism in the Republic of Ireland in the 1980s and 1990s. The project has three key objectives: 1) to explore the social backgrounds, motivations, and experiences of individual men and women involved in abortion activism; 2) to investigate the strategies, campaigns and provision of healthcare and support services by activist groups; 3) to examine the impact of activists on legal and medical professionals, church hierarchies and the public. 


Teaching Interests

In 2020/21 I am teaching the following modules:

  • V1346/V1468: Sex, medicine and society in Britain and Ireland, 1880s-1980s
  • V1988: Gender, health and modern medicine


I am supervisor to the following PhD students:

Jasmine Wood: Disability and intimacy in the lives of wounded British soldiers, 1914-45 (REA studentship)(second supervisor) 2017-
Georgia Grainger: A history of vasectomy in Britain from 1960 to the twenty-first century (REA studentship)(first supervisor) 2018-
Kristin Hay: An Oral History of Contraception and Abortion in Scotland, c.1960-2000 (Wellcome Trust funded)(first supervisor) 2018-
Mara Dougall: Writing Unity: a practice-led exploration of female physicality in early twentieth-century Britain (internally funded)(second supervisor) 2018-
Rory Stride: An investigation of the ways deindustrialisation and resultant job losses impacted on women workers in Scotland (AHRC funded)(second supervisor) 2018-
Jois Stansfield: History of speech therapy in Britain

(first supervisor) 2021-

Education/Academic qualification

Doctor of Philosophy, National University of Ireland

Award Date: 1 Jun 2011

Master of Arts, University of Glasgow

Award Date: 1 Jan 2007

Bachelor of Arts, National University of Ireland

Award Date: 1 Jan 2006


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