Matthew Smith


  • United Kingdom

Accepting PhD Students


Research output per year

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Personal profile

Personal Statement

I joined the University of Strathclyde and the Centre for the Social History of Health and Healthcare (CSHHH) in 2011, after completing a PhD and post-doctoral work at the University of Exeter's Centre for Medical History.  My research and teaching have focussed on three primary areas within the history of health and medicine: mental health and psychiatry; allergy and immunology; and food and nutrition. Thanks to generous funding from the Wellcome Trust, this research has contributed to one edited volume: Proteins, Pathologies and Politics: Dietary Innovation and Disease from the Nineteenth Century (Bloomsbury, 2018, co-edited by David Gentilcore); and three monographs: An Alternative History of Hyperactivity: Food Additives and the Feingold Diet (Rutgers University Press, 2011); Hyperactive: The Controversial History of ADHD (Reaktion, 2012); and Another Person's Poison: A History of Food Allergy (Columbia University Press, 2015), which was reviewed in the New York Times and recently given honourable mention in the Association of American Publishers' Prose Awards for 2016. 

I am working on two projects at present.  The first, funded by an AHRC Early Career Fellowship, is on the history of social psychiatry in the United States.  I investigate how American psychiatrists and social scientists viewed the connection between mental illness and social deprivation during the decades that followed the Second World War. This funding has resulted in two edited volumes, Deinstitutionalisation and After: Post-War Psychiatry in the Western World (2016) and Preventing Mental Illness: Past, Present and Future (2018), both co-edited by Despo Kritsotaki and Vicky Long, and published in the Palgrave series I co-edit with Catharine Coleborne: Mental Health in Historical Perspective.  I am also in the process of developing a monograph on the history of social psychiatry.

My second project, 'Out on the Pitch: Sexuality and Mental Health in Men's and Women's Sport, 1970-Present' was funded by a Wellcome Trust Seed Award.  I hope to develop this project into a larger project on sport on mental health.

I believe strongly that historical research can have a significant impact on public policy and decision making.  As such, I have tried to engage with the public as much as I can through broadcasting, public lecturing, blogging and speaking to health and education professionals.  My efforts in these areas were enhanced in 2012 when I was named an AHRC/BBC New Generation Thinker.  I have written for medical publications, such as The Lancet and the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ), presented my research to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and work closely with a range of medical and educational professionals.  Recently, my book Hyperactive was used by novelist William Sutcliffe as inspiration and research for his novel Concentr8 (Bloomsbury, 2015).

Currently, I serve as the  Vice-Dean of Research for the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences (HaSS).  Previously, I served as Co-Director of the Centre for the Social History of Health and Healthcare, the Director of Research for History and Deputy Head of the School of Humanities.  I am also a member of the Royal Society of Edinburgh's Young Academy of Scotland and a Fellow of the RSA and the Royal Historical Society.

Teaching Interests

I teach a range of undergraduate and postgraduate classes, focussing primarily on the history of medicine, but also North American history.  My specialist courses include Madness and Society from Ancient Times to the Present; The Price of Health: The UK, US and Canada since 1800; and Food and Health in the West in the Twentieth Century.  In addition, I have taught on Disease and Society, History of the USA, Historiography, Cultures of Empire, Glasgow: History, Culture and Identity and other classes.

I am happy to supervise a wide range of MSc and PhD projects in the history of health and medicine.  Currently I am primary supervisor or co-supervisor for the following PhD students:

Erin Lux (The Mad House or the Big House: Juvenile Delinquency in the Post-War Period)

Iain Ferguson (A Face to Die For: Acne, Accutane and the Quest for Perfect Skin. 1950s-present)

Rachel Meach (A Spoonful of Sugar: Dietary Advice and Diabetes in Britain and the United States, 1945-2015)

Stuart Bradwel (Doctor’s Orders’ – Type 1 Diabetes and the Consultative Relationship, 1970-present)

James Dougan (Deindustrialisation, Gender and Mental Health in Glasgow)

Research Interests

When do certain behavioural characteristics become a psychiatric disorder? How do we know what foods are healthy for us? Why have rates of food allergy and intolerance escalated in recent years? What are the root causes of mental illness?  My research involves analysing questions such as these from a historical perspective not only in the interest of charting our past, but also in the hopes of informing our future.

Education/Academic qualification

Doctor of Philosophy, University of Exeter

Master of Arts, University of Alberta

Bachelor of Education, University of Alberta

Bachelor of Arts, University of Alberta


  • ADHD
  • food allergy
  • social psychiatry
  • children

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  • Research Output



    Re-framing drink and the Victorians : the consumption of alcohol in Britain 1869-1914

    Author: Hands, T., 19 Dec 2016

    Supervisor: Mills, J. (Supervisor) & Smith, M. (Supervisor)

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

    Two Rough Riders : Buffalo Bill and Theodore Roosevelt's enigmatic relationship

    Author: Johnston, J., 21 Jun 2017

    Supervisor: Ellis, C. (Supervisor) & Smith, M. (Supervisor)

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    Pressman-Burroughs Wellcome Career Development Award

    Matthew Smith (Recipient), 2010

    Prize: Prize (including medals and awards)

    Roy Porter Prize Essay

    Matthew Smith (Recipient), 2006

    Prize: Prize (including medals and awards)


    History of Psychiatry (Journal)

    Matthew Smith (Editor)
    2013 → …

    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial work typesJournal or guest editorship

    External Examiner for University of Aberdeen Medical Humanities Programme

    Matthew Smith (External Examiner)
    1 Sep 20141 Sep 2018

    Activity: Examination typesExamination


    Health History and the Curriculum for Excellence

    James Mills (Participant), Emma Newlands (Participant), Arthur McIvor (Participant), Matthew Smith (Participant), Angela Turner (Participant), Patricia Barton (Participant), Ryan Johnson (Participant)

    Impact: Impact - for External PortalCulture and creativity, Education