Disability history shortlisted for Research Project of the Year

Fascinating work on disability history by a Swansea University researcher has been shortlisted for Research Project of the Year in the Times Higher Education Awards. Professor David Turner, from the College of Arts and Humanities, has published on physical disability in 18th-century England, and worked with the BBC on a series on disability history for Radio 4.

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img_turner2Professor Turner examines the ways in which physical impairment was defined, understood and discussed in England between 1660 and 1830.  Disability history has developed over the past decade to show that meanings of impairment are not biologically determined but subject to change over time.

He was also series consultant for The BBC Radio 4 series, Disability: A New History, which was the first major series to explore the history of disability before the 20th century.  It drew on a wealth of new research by historians across the country from sources including letters, diaries, advertisements, even jokes – all of which reveal what daily life was like for those with disabilities.

Throughout the BBC series a rich variety of voices is heard: a man who complains he is the ‘only dwarf in Liverpool’; deaf children writing home from institutions; a wounded soldier, struggling to walk with a wooden leg; a society beauty disfigured by smallpox; ‘freaks’ who exploited their extraordinary bodies on the streets of London – and made a fortune.

This work, which has enriched public understanding of the history of disability, has now been shortlisted for Research Project of the Year by The Times Higher (THE), one of the most respected and authoritative publications for higher education in the world.  

David Turner - disability project awardPicture: an 18th century print showing disabled people in a tavern.  Credit: Wellcome Images

For the THE awards, hundreds of nominations for outstanding institutions, departments and individuals were submitted across 18 categories covering the full range of university activity.  

Swansea University has also been shortlisted in the THE Awards for:

•    University of the Year, with its entry detailing record applications, the new Bay campus, work with businesses, and sports initiatives such as the recent IPC Games, and joint work with Swansea City FC on new facilities. (See facts and figures below)

•    Employer Engagement: leadership development with small businesses, and training programmes run in collaboration with a variety of industries to meet business needs.

•    Excellence and Innovation in the Arts, for the Heritage Skills Programme, run by the Research Institute for Arts and Humanities.  This offered specialist heritage-themed workshops to students and placements in high profile heritage organisations.  

Professor Hilary Lappin-Scott, Swansea University Pro Vice Chancellor, said:

“These accolades are a recognisable measure of our performance and reputation. They show that as an ambitious, research-led institution with top quality teaching, Swansea is an excellent place to study for UK, EU and international students.”

The winners will be announced on Thursday 27 November 2014.

Department of History and Classics

Research Institute for Arts and Humanities