Professor shortlisted for Leadership Award

Swansea University’s Professor David Turner has been shortlisted for the Leadership Award in the AHRC/Wellcome Trust Medical Humanities Awards.

An internationally renowned historian of disability, Professor Turner’s research has played a leading role in the development of this subfield of Medical Humanities.

In Disability and Industrial Society: a Comparative Cultural History of British Coalfields 1780-1948 (Wellcome Trust, 2011-16), Professor Turner’s team of researchers changed our understanding of the Industrial Revolution by putting the marginalised voices of disabled people at the centre of the story.

“The research reveals the hidden histories of men, women and children disabled and working in, or servicing, the coal industry,” he said. “It examines medical, welfare and community responses to disability in the coalfields and has challenged the notion that disability inevitably led to the end of a person’s working life by showing that the occupationally-diverse nature of the coal industry allowed employment opportunities for those left impaired by accidents.”

The research has enhanced public understanding through the exhibition From Pithead to Sickbed and Beyond: the Buried History of Disability in the Coal Industry before the NHS, in collaboration with Swansea’s National Waterfront Museum.

In highlighting an aspect of the Welsh industrial past previously ignored in museum interpretations, the exhibition extended the range and improved the quality of evidence for an important aspect of the region's history and identity, and enhanced the inclusivity of the Museum’s presentation of industrial history.

The research has raised awareness of resources for disability history in archives and empowered disabled people and organisations to undertake their own research projects drawing on the expertise of Swansea’s research team.

image of David Turner

Professor Turner said he was honoured to have been shortlisted for the award. “Disability is part of everyone’s history and studying it helps us to understand how people in the past have responded to difference and how we can learn from this history to build a more equal society today,” he said. “Helping people understand new research in this field through innovative teaching and public engagement is central to how we approach disability history at Swansea University and I’m thrilled that this work has been recognised by being shortlisted for this award.”