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Professor Keir Waddington

Professor Keir Waddington

Professor of History, Head of History

School of History, Archaeology and Religion

+44 (0)29 2087 6103
4.40, John Percival Building
Media commentator
Available for postgraduate supervision


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 and diseased meat, literature and the Gothic laboratory, medicine and charity, and hospitals and asylums. I am currently working on projects related to: health and pollution regulation in the Victorian and Edwardian rural environment, and on ways of undertaking interdisciplinary research projects.

I am a co-director of the ScienceHumanities initiative - an attempt to think and rethink the relationships and the boundaries between the sciences and the humanities - 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, water, and the rural environment
  • ScienceHumanities

Impact and engagement (since 2015)

  • 2018: Panel, Guizhou University Innovative Teaching Programme, Cardiff University
  • 2018 ‘Turning Students into Scholars’, Digital Humanities case study for JISC,
  • 2018: ‘Its Alive! Its Alive!’, Frankenfest, Cardiff University
  • 2018: The Moonstone, BookTalk, Cardiff University
  • 2018: ‘Sedation, Shocks, and the Somatic: Treating mental illness from the 1880s to 1940s’, Talk in support of ‘Drawing Bipolarity’, Exhibition opening, Insole Court Cardiff.
  • 2018: ‘Public Health and the Limits of Sanitation in Rural Glamorgan, 1850-1900’ , Merthyr Local History Society
  • 2017: ‘Drought, Disease, Dirty Water, and the Local, 1870-1914’, Cardiff Scientific Society
  • 2017: ‘Local Communities and Public Health in Victorian and Edwardian Rural Glamorgan’, Gelligaer Historical Society
  • 2016: ‘Digital Texts and Teaching Medical History’, Jisc, London
  • 2016: ‘Medical Prosthetics: Past, Present and Future’, St Fagans National History Museum
  • 2016:2016 ‘Spaces and Places of ScienceHumanities’, ScienceHumanities blog, Sept 2016, 
  • 2015: Strange Case of Jekyll and Hyde, BookTalk, Cardiff University
  • 2015: ‘Before Nightingale’, Women’s History week, Cardiff University


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

Honours and awards

Current awards

  • Co-Investigator, Wellcome Trust Small Grant in the Humanities and Social Sciences [with Martin Willis and James Castell, Cardiff]

Previous awards

  • Co-investigator, Cardiff University Incoming Visiting Fellow award [with Martin Willis and James Castell, Cardiff]
  • Cardiff Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme, rural mortality 1870-19140
  • Co-investigator, College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences (Cardiff), Internationalization Fund, ScienceHumanities II, [with Martin Willis and James Castell, English, Cardiff]
  • Co-investigator, AHRC, ‘Bridging the Gap’ GW4 consortium network [with Bath, Bristol, and Exeter universities) on co-production of research
  • Co-investigator, ISSF Wellcome Trust, Medical Humanities Collaborative Award [with Julie Brown, Medical Education, Cardiff]
  • Co-investigator. College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences (Cardiff), International Visibility Fund, Science Humanities, [with Martin Willis and James Castell, English, Cardiff]

Professional memberships

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

  • Advisory Board, ‘Building a Healthier City’, Bath Record Office (Wellcome funded project)
  • External Academic Advisor, Centre for Humanities and Social Sciences of Health Medicine and Technology, University of Liverpool
  • Advisory Board, ‘‘From “A Penny in the Pound” to “Free at the Point of Delivery”, Gwent Archives
  • Academic Council, Institute of Historical Research

Networks/Centres (Membership)

  • AHSS Digital Humanities network
  • GW4 Regional Medical Humanities network
  • Coma and Disorders of Consciousness Research Centre (, Cardiff and York universities

Speaking engagements


  • 'Thinking medically, thinking digitally', Heritage Dot, HLF/Lincoln University
  • Plenary, 'A Flat Past?'. Environmental and Medical Perspectives on Modern Francophone Culture Conference, University of Bristol
  • '‘Kindly see to the matter’: Local communities, sanitation and modernity in rural Monmouthshire, 1850-1920', Gwent Archives
  • Plenary Panel, 'The ScienceHumanities', 3rd International Conference on Science and Literature, Sorbonne University, Paris
  • Invited Commentator, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin


  • ‘Drought, Disease, Dirty Water, and the Local, 1870-1914’, Cardiff Scientific Society
  • 'The ScienceHumanities Practices', Centre for Environmental Humanities, Bristol
  • 'The Everyday and the ScienceHumanities', Center for Interdisciplinary Studies of Science and Cultural Theory, Duke University
  • Invited Participant on a roundtable on interdisciplinarity, Department of English, Duke University
  • 'A watery turn', School of History, Swansea University
  • '"we are in the midst of a fight’" Authority, Responsibility, and Rural Sanitation, 1870-1914, European Association for the History of Medicine and Health bi-annual conference, Bucharest


  • 'Drought, disease, and modernity in rural Wales, c. 1880 – 1914', Medicine and Modernity conference, University of Oxford
  • '‘think yellow and smells fearfully’: Placing industrial waste, river pollution, and sanitary reform in late-nineteenth century rural South Wales, Social History of Medicine bi-annual conference, University of Kent
  • ‘Epidemiologies of Place’: Fashioning the Romantic and Insanitary Rural Environment in late-Victorian writing on Wales', British Society of Literature and science annual conference, University of Bristol


  • ‘“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
  • 'Uncertain Cows: Risk, Vets and Debates about Bovine TB and BSE in the nineteenth and twentieth century', Royal Veterinary College / DEFRA


























  • Making of the Modern World - 20 credits
  • History in Practice - 20 credits
  • Modern Britain - 20 credits
  • Projecting the Past - 20 credits
  • World full of Gods - 20 credits
  • Exploring Historical Debate - 30 credits
  • Approaches to History - 30 credits
  • The Dangerous City? Urban Society & Culture 1800-1914 - 30 credits
  • Dissertation - 30 credits (HS1801)

Postgraduate research

I accept suitably qualified PhD students interested in all aspects of the social history of medicine, environmental history, and social history related to nineteenth- and twentieth-century Britain as well as related fields in Victorian urban and social history.

Research interests

  • Environmental history
  • Social History of Medicine
  • Victorian Public Health
  • Literature, Science, and Medicine
  • Interdisciplinary ways of working

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, community responses, 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.


To find out more about this collaborative project, visit the blog at:


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.

Areas of expertise

External profiles