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Yr Athro Keir Waddington

Yr Athro Keir Waddington

Professor of History (Study Leave 2022/3)

+44 (0)29 2087 6103
4.40, John Percival Building
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Research interests

A specialist in medical and environmental history, my research interests focus on nineteenth- and twentieth-century Britain and Western Europe. I have published books and articles on: rural environmental history, public health, diseased meat, literature and the Gothic laboratory, medicine and charity, and hospitals and asylums. Having completed a book for Palgrave on the social history of medicine in Europe from 1500 to the present, I am currently working on projects related to: health and pollution regulation in the Victorian and Edwardian rural environment, drought and the rural environment, industrial river pollution, and the ScienceHumanities.

I am a co-director of the Collaborative Interdisciplinary Study for Science, Medicine and the Imagination Research Group, which is dedicated to the study of the history of science (particularly the medical sciences) and the imagination (literary and cultural), and editor of Social Histories of Medicine monograph series published by Manchester University Press.

Current research projects

  • Health and pollution regulation in the Victorian and Edwardian rural environment
  • Drought
  • Industrial river pollution and the rural environment
  • ScienceHumanities

Impact and engagement

  • 2016 Medical Prosthetics: Past, Present and Future, St Fagans National History Museum
  • 2015 Strange Case of Jekyll and Hyde BookTalk, Cardiff University
  • 2015 ‘Before Nightingale’, Women’s History Week, Cardiff University
  • 2014 ‘A History of Bovine TB’, Badger Trust annual conference
  • 2014 ‘Could you become a citizen of Victorian England’, HistoryExtra http://www.historyextra.com/quiz/citizenship/could-you-become-citizen-victorian-england
  • 2013 ‘Food and History’ policy forum, 82nd Anglo-American conference
  • 2013 How the lights gets in, Conversations between art, science and health:
  • 2013 Festival of Death, Cardiff University
  • 2013 Pride and Prejudice, Cardiff BookTalk, Cardiff University
  • 2012 SciScreen@Cheltenham Science Festival
  • 2012 ‘The Gothic Laboratory’, Hendrick’s Gin lecture, Last Tuesday Society, London
  • 2012 ‘A Dangerous Method’, SciScreen, Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff
  • 2011 Talk on Frankenstein and Medicine, Creative Minds Ideas Festival, Cardiff University
  • 2011 History Wales, Debate on Making History, Hay Festival
  • 2011 Medfest, Panellist, Cardiff University
  • 2011 ‘Narratives of Illness’, Exhibition, National Eisteddfod; Temporary exhibition, University of Glamorgan


Education and qualifications

1992-95 History PhD, University College London/Institute of Historical Research

1991-92 MA History, University College London

1988-91 BA History, University of East Anglia

Career overview

1999 - present School of History, Archaeology and Religion, Cardiff University

1997-99 Research Fellow, Queen Mary & Westfield College

1995-96 Research Fellow, Wellcome Centre for History of Medicine at UCL

1994-98 Part-time Lecturer, School of History, University of East Anglia

1994-95 RHS Centenary Research Fellow, Institute of Historical Research

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Current awards

  • Research Leave Fellowship, Cardiff University
  • Co-investigator, AHRC, ‘Bridging the Gap’, GW4 consortium network on co-production of research
  • Co-investigator, ISSF Wellcome Trust, Humanities Collaborative Award [with Julie Brown, Medical Education, Cardiff]
  • Co-investigator, AHSS International Visibility Fund, ScienceHumanities [with Martin Willis and Jamie Castell,English, Cardiff]
  • Co-investigator, Cardiff University, College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences Digital Humanities Initiative Bid [with Anthony Mandal, English, Cardiff]

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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

  • Academic Council, Institute of Historical Research
  • Advisory Board, UK Medical Heritage Library Project, JISC-Wellcome funded
  • Advisory Board, ‘Our Country Lives: Nutrition, Health and Rural England’, Museum of English Rural Life, University of Reading
  • External Advisory Director, Centre for the Study of Science and Imagination (SCIMAG), University of Westminster.

Networks/Centres (Membership)

  • AHSS Digital Humanities network
  • GW4 Regional Medical Humanities network
  • Coma and Disorders of Consciousness Research Centre (http://cdoc.org.uk/), Cardiff and York universities

Ymrwymiadau siarad cyhoeddus


  • ‘“misled by the picturesque appearance of villages”: The rural idyll, backwardness, and imagining the rural environment’, SLSA conference, Atlanta
  • ‘Digital Texts and Teaching Medical History’, JISC, London
  • ‘Cutting against the grain: Frances Burney, Emotion, Pain and the Science Humanities, Cardiff Romanticism and Eighteenth-Century Seminar, Cardiff
  • ‘Drought, disease, and modernity in rural Wales, c.1880-1914’, Medicine and Modernity conference, Oxford
  • ‘“think yellow and smells fearfully”: Placing industrial waste, river pollution, and sanitary reform in late-nineteenth century rural South Wales’, Society for the Social History of Medicine conference, Kent)
  • 'Uncertain Cows: Risk, Vets and Debates about Bovine TB and BSE in the nineteenth and twentieth century', Royal Veterinary College / DEFRA


  • ‘Imaginary investments’: History, fiction and the writing of illness narratives', School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University
  • '‘When meat becomes dangerous’, National Yang-Ming University, Taiwan
  • 'The Problem of Progress', Academia Sinica, Taiwan
  • 'Thinking Regionally: Narrative, Medical Humanities and Region', Plenary, Medical Humanities Conference, University of Bristol University
  • '"Making a “nuisance”: Public health on the ground in Victorian Britain', Royal Society of Medicine, London























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





  • Making of the Modern World - 20 credits (HS1105)
  • History in Practice: Fury, Folly and Footnotes - 20 credits (HS1107)
  • Exploring Historical Debate - 30 credits (HS1711)
  • Medicine and Modern Society – 30 credits (HS1799)
  • History & ICT: A Guided Study - 30 credits (HS1705)
  • The Dangerous City? Urban Society & Culture 1800-1914 - 30 credits (HS1896)
  • Dissertation - 30 credits (HS1801)

MA modules

  • Rethinking Victorian Britain
  • City and the Environment
  • Dirt, Disease and Public Health
  • Understanding the Social History of Medicine
  • Trends in HIstorical Research
  • Skills for Historical Research

Postgraduate research

I accept suitably qualified PhD students interested in all aspects of 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.

Research interests

  • Social History of Medicine
  • Environmental history
  • Victorian Public Health
  • Victorian urban history
  • Literature, Science, and Medicine
  • Historical theory and methods

Current research projects

Health and pollution regulation in the Victorian and Edwardian rural environment

This project bridges environmental history and the medical humanities to investigate health and pollution regulation 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, 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.

Drought and the rural environment

From 1884 onwards, Britain experienced a series of major droughts, which reached their peak in the ‘Long Drought’ (1890-1909). Using rural Wales as a case study, this project explores vulnerabilities to water scarcity during periods of drought to examine the material and socio-political impact of water scarcity and the resulting environmental and health problems faced in rural areas. In addressing how droughts in rural communities were physical and social phenomena that generated considerable alarm about infectious disease, the project explores how periods of water scarcity were an important determinant in improvements to rural water provision.

Industrial river pollution

Drawing on the idea that industrial nuisances ‘emerged gradually, in geographically particularlised way’ (Pontin), this project explores the materiality of industrial waste in rivers to examine how polluted water was a damaging, if inescapable by-product of local economies. From this starting point, it investigates the politics of intervention and strategies of control adopted by rural sanitary authoirites and their attempts to police river pollution. Central to this examination is the conflicts that emerged and how these conflicts provide insights into not only practices of intervention, but also into the difficulties of working across boundaries/borders and the interconnections between the rural, quasi-urban, and urban places. The project also considers the role of rural nuisance inspectors, the difficulties of tackling industrial waste, and how communities turned to rural authorities to clean-up their environment. Finally, the project considers whether any tangible environmental benefit resulted from these activities.


to find out more about this collaborative project, visit the blog at: https://cardiffsciencehumanities.org/


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