Skip to main content

Dr Louise Hide

  • Overview



    I am a social and cultural historian of psychiatry and its institutions. I hold a Wellcome Trust Fellowship in Medical Humanities for my research project titled ‘Hiding in Plain Sight: Cultures of Harm in Residential Institutions for Long-term Adult Care, Britain 1945-1980s’.

    From 2015-2017, I held a Birkbeck Wellcome Trust ISSF Career Development Fellowship which I used to develop my current project, and to design and teach my MA module 'Madness and its Meanings'.

    Between 2011 and 2013 I was lead researcher and public engagement co-ordinator on the Wellcome Trust funded Birkbeck Pain Project, led by Professor Joanna Bourke.

    I was awarded my PhD in 2011. My first monograph, based on my PhD thesis, Gender and Class in English Asylums, 1890-1914 was published in 2014.


    • Wellcome Trust Fellowship in Medical Humanities. 

    • Two-year Fellowship funded by the Birkbeck Wellcome Trust Institutional Strategic Support Fund (ISSF).

    • Gender and Class in English Asylums, 1890-1914 was published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2014. I am currently working on two books: a history of the asylum told through the stories of five women who experienced asylum life in Britain from the 1850s to the 1970s; and a monograph provisionally titled A History of Old Age Care in Britain, from the Workhouse to the Care Home which is under contract with Polity Books.


    • PhD, Birkbeck, University of London
    • MA, Goldsmiths, University of London

    Professional activities

    In April 2021, I co-led with Janet Weston, supported by Anna Jamieson and Judy Lieber, a cross-disciplinary international two-day symposium titled: 'Old age care in times of crisis: Past & Present'. I am part of an interdisciplinary group seeking additional funding for a new network titled 'Age and the Caring Crisis'. 

    I founded the Challenging Research Network for scholars from the Humanities and Social Sciences who work on complex and emotionally demanding research. The network meets regularly. A workshop titled ‘Supporting researchers working on sensitive histories’ was held in January 2020 and funded by the Birkbeck Institute for Social Research. A series of seminars preceded this.

    I was joint guest editor (lead) with Professor Joanna Bourke of a special issue of the Social History of Medicine, 31.4 (2018) titled 'Cultures of Harm in Institutions of Care', which emerged from a major international conference of which I was lead organiser.

    I am on the steering committee of the Birkbeck Centre for Interdisciplinary Research on Mental Health and the Birkbeck Centre for Medical Humanities. I have given a number of papers and lectures to clinicians.

    I regularly peer review articles for professional journals and books for academic presses. I have acted as a peer reviewer of grant applications for Wellcome Trust and BA/Leverhulme. I have examined students at all levels, including PhD.


  • Research


    Research interests

    • History of institutional cultures
    • History of old age care
    • History of 'madness'
    • Social and cultural history of pain and trauma
    • History of the emotions and senses

    Research overview

    I hold a Wellcome Trust Fellowship in Medical Humanities for my project ‘Hiding in Plain Sight. Cultures of Harm in Residential Institutions for Long-Term Adult Care, Britain 1945-1980s’.

    Part of this project involves a return to the extensive documentation generated by inquiries held during the late 1960s and 1970s into abuse, neglect and failures of care in long-stay psychiatric hospitals. A close analysis of the records, which include thousands of pages of interview transcripts and witness testimonies, reveals prevailing belief systems, attitudes and practices that gave rise to and perpetuated abusive and neglectful behaviours.

    How, I ask, did these beliefs and attitudes gain traction within the ward and hospital environments? In what ways were they transmitted through cultural vectors such as: rhetorical devices (language, jokes and silence); the organisation of spatial and temporal structures; the role of material objects such as television sets or clothing; and the practice of cruel and neglectful behaviours. How were these actions and behaviours understood within contemporaneous ideas of compassion and empathy? Which mechanisms and systems – normalisation, complicity, denial, disavowal and ‘turning a blind eye’ – facilitated them? How were notions of ‘harm’ and ‘doing harm’ conceptualised and, in turn, articulated within shifting meanings and expectations of ‘care’, being ‘cared for’, and being a ‘carer’?

    In addition to my main research project, I have formed a cross-disciplinary, cross-institutional group for academics working on particularly challenging subject matter such as sexual violence, abuse, racism, genocide, sexualities and genders. This has evolved from a series of seminars held at Birkbeck in 2019 followed by a one-day closed workshop that was funded by the Birkbeck Institute of Social Research (BISR) and took place in January 2020. Run by a small organising committee of committed scholars, the Challenging Research Network meets regularly and is creating an online resource to share with colleagues.

    Research Centres and Institutes

    Research clusters and groups

  • Supervision and teaching

    Supervision and teaching


    I designed and taught the MA module 'Madness and its Meanings' three times, often inviting guest speakers to share their research specialisms with the class. 

    I have taught on the core BA module 'Exploring the Past' as well as modules on 'History and Literature' (MA), 'Britain’s Medical Marketplaces' (MA), and 'Gender, Space and Time' (BA).


  • Publications




    Book Section


    • Mangion, Carmen M. and Bourke, Joanna and Hide, Louise (2012) Perspectives on Pain: Introduction. 19: Interdisciplinary Studies in the Long Nineteenth Century (15), Birkbeck University. ISSN 1755-1560.
  • Business and community

    Business and community


    I regularly advise TV and radio production companies on issues around the history of madness, psychiatry, asylums and medicine. Radio and television appearances include:
    ‘The Language of Pain’, BBC Radio 4, 2 May 2015
    ‘Thinking Allowed’, BBC Radio 4, 16 February 2015
    ‘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

    I regularly give public talks and speak at different institutions on various aspects of the history of psychiatry and its institutions, including asylums.