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Dr Louise Hide

MA (London), PhD (London)

Birkbeck Wellcome Trust ISSF Fellow

Contact details

Department of History, Classics and Archaeology
Birkbeck, University of London
Room B32, 26 Russell Square



  • I am a social and cultural historian of ‘madness’, psychiatry and its institutions.  I currently hold a two-year Fellowship funded by the Birkbeck Wellcome Trust Institutional Strategic Support Fund (ISSF) and am working on a cultural history of abuse in institutions for long-term adult care.
  • From January 2011 to December 2013, I was the lead post-doc researcher for the Birkbeck Pain Project, a three-year project that was led by Professor Joanna Bourke. During this time I worked on pain and delusions experienced by men with tertiary syphilis in late nineteenth-century asylums.
  • I am the co-founder and Director with Joanna Bourke of the Birkbeck Trauma Project and was awarded my PhD (Birkbeck) in early 2011.

Research and teaching

  • Introduction
  • My current research focus is on cultures of harm in institutions for long-term adult care from the mid to the end of the twentieth century. This involves understanding how values and beliefs leading to harmful and violent practices have been perpetuated through language, the organisation of space, routines, treatments, and the use of material culture. My earlier work explored the increasing medicalisation of different mental states and behaviours, asylum cultures and the lived experiences of patients and staff inside institutions in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
  • I recently organised with Joanna Bourke and Ana Antic a major international, cross-disciplinary conference titled ‘Cultures of Harm in Institutions of Care. Historical and Contemporary Perspectives’. This included a half-day public workshop organised with the Birkbeck Institute for the Moving Image (BIMI) titled ‘Undercover. Institutional Abuse, Covert Investigations and History’ which brought together academics and media practitioners to explore how ideas of authority and ‘truth’ are embodied in the means through which abuse is recorded. A special issue of the Social History of Medicine including essays based on the conference papers in planned for mid-2018.
  • Research interests
  • History of ‘madness’
  • History of institutional cultures
  • History of abuse contextualised within understandings of ‘care’
  • Social and cultural history of pain and trauma
  • Syphilis, particularly the tertiary stages (general paralysis of the insane and tabes dorsalis)
  • I am particularly interested in exploring how my research can deepen our understanding of how and why institutional abuse continues to this day.
  • Teaching
  • ‘Madness and its Meanings’ (MA module, Autumn 2016)
  • ‘Madness’ is a slippery concept that has been constructed and reconstructed over time between oscillating ideas of normalcy and deviance. Depending on the medical, socio-economic, political and commercial interests of any given period it has been understood as a disorder of the brain, as a result of environmental conditions, or to have both biological and psychosocial causes. Without denying the devastating realities of mental distress, this module looks at how and why certain human behaviours and mental conditions have been interpreted as ‘disordered’ within cultural understandings of gender, ‘race’, sexuality and age. We explore the politicisation and commercialisation of different mental conditions and analyse a wide range of primary source material produced from the late nineteenth century to the present day. Guest speakers join some of the seminars. By asking whose interests the meanings of madness served, as well as how these understandings influenced treatment and the subjective experiences of patients, students will be able to engage more critically with mental health issues of today.
  • In the past, I have taught on modules in 'History and Literature' (MA), 'Britain’s Medical Marketplaces' (MA), and 'Gender, Space and Time' (BA).
  • PhD supervision
  • I supervise a number of MA dissertations and am happy to supervise dissertations at all levels on subjects around the histories of madness, psychiatry and related topics.


  • Books
  • Shut Away. Madness, Medicine and the Asylum (provisional title). Forthcoming 2017, commissioned by Fig Tree (Penguin)
  • Gender and Class in English Asylums, 1890-1914 (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014).
  • Points of View: Capturing the 19th Century in Photographs (London: The British Library, 2009), with John Falconer.
  • Journal articles
  • 'From Asylum to Mental Hospital: Gender, Space and the Patient Experience in London County Council Asylums, 1890-1914' in Jane Hamlett, Lesley Hoskins and Rebecca Preston (eds), Residential Institutions in Britain, 1725-1970. Inmates and Environments (Pickering and Chatto, 2013).
  • 'Making Sense of Pain. Delusions, Syphilis and Somatic Pain in London County Council Asylums, c.1900', 19. Interdisciplinary Studies in the Long Nineteenth Century, 15 (2012).
  • 'Perspectives on Pain. Introduction', 19. Interdisciplinary Studies in the Long Nineteenth Century, 15 (2012), with Joanna Bourke and Carmen Mangion.
  • Book reviews
  • Tommy Dickinson, ‘“Curing Queers”: Mental Nurses and their Patients, 1935–74’, History of Psychiatry, 27.2 (2016), 241-2.
  • Petteri Pietikäinen, ‘Madness. A History’, Social History of Medicine, advanced access 7 May 2016
  • Other publications:
  • ‘Dialogue with Pain. How and when we give meaning to bodily pain’, Wellcome History, 53 (Summer 2014), 2-3.
  • Recent conference papers
  • ‘Unlocking the wards. How the “open-door” policy re-shaped the meaning of space in English psychiatric hospitals, 1945-60s’, Social History of Medicine conference, University of Kent, July 2016. Journal article in progress.
  • Introduction to ‘Cultures of Harm in Institutions of Care. Historical and Contemporary Perspectives’, Birkbeck, 14-16 April 2016.
  • ‘Care, control, or a little of each? Masculinity, the military and mental nurses, 1890 - 1970s’, at ‘Masculinity, health and medicine, c.1750-present’, University of Strathclyde Glasgow, April 2016. Journal article in progress.
  • ‘Mixing the sexes. New therapeutic spaces in English psychiatric hospitals, 1950s-1990s’, Glasgow Caledonian University, February 2016 (invited speaker). Journal article in progress.


  • I regularly advise TV and radio production companies on issues around the history of madness, psychiatry, asylums and medicine. Recent appearances include:
  • Radio:
  • ‘The Language of Pain’, BBC Radio 4, 2 May 2015 (
  • ‘Thinking Allowed’, BBC Radio 4, 16 February 2015 (
  • TV:
  • ‘Secrets from the Asylum’, ITV, 20 August 2014 (consultant and contributor) (
  • I was the lead organiser, with Joanna Bourke, of 'Pain and its Meanings' – a two-day event at Wellcome Collection that attracted national press and radio coverage. Poets, musicians, artists and leading thinkers from different disciplines presented specially commissioned work and thought-provoking papers to stimulate discussion around the meaning of pain.
  • Co-curator responsible for interpretation of ‘Points of View: Capturing the 19th Century in Photographs’, a major exhibition at the British Library, October 2009 - March 2010.

Honours and awards

  • Birkbeck Wellcome Trust Institutional Strategic Support Fund Fellowship


  • I am currently working on a non-fiction book about one of the first women doctors to be employed in an asylum during the late nineteenth century. This has been commissioned by Fig Tree (Penguin) and is due for publication in 2017.