I am a social and cultural historian, with expertise in disability, medicine, gender and the body. I am the author of Disability in Eighteenth-Century England: Imagining Physical Impairment (Routledge, 2012), which won the Disability History Association Outstanding Publication Award for the best book published worldwide in disability history. I was Co-Director of Disability and Industrial Society: a Comparative Cultural History of British Coalfields 1780-1948 (Wellcome Trust, 2011-16), which explored the perception, treatment and experiences of disabled coalminers in south Wales, Scotland and North East England. This research led to my most recent book, Disability in the Industrial Revolution: Physical Impairment in British coalmining 1780-1880 (co-authored with Daniel Blackie), published by Manchester University Press in 2018. My current research explores the long history of disabled people’s political activism in Britain since the eighteenth century. I am also a member of the Awen Institute, a £3.8 million project funded by the Wales European Funding Office (2019-22), where I lead research on older and disabled people’s access to the arts and heritage.
A key question guiding my research and teaching is what happens to our understanding of the past when we place people normally marginalized from historical narratives at the centre of the story? I am committed to broadening public understanding of marginalized people’s experiences through collaboration with broadcasters, museums and creatives. I was historical adviser on the BBC Radio Four series, Disability: A New History (2013), and led a team that curated From Pithead to Sickbed and Beyond: the Buried History of Disability in Wales before the NHS (National Waterfront Museum, 2015).