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Dr Sarah Marks

  • Overview



    Sarah Marks researches the history of science, medicine and technology - particularly the psychological disciplines and mental health - from the Cold War to the present, from a transnational and comparative perspective. She was awarded her PhD from UCL in 2015, and held a research fellowship at Murray Edwards College, University of Cambridge before joining Birkbeck in October 2016, initially as a Wellcome-funded postdoctoral researcher, then as a Lecturer in Modern History and UKRI Future Leaders Fellow from 2019. She is the founding Director of the Birkbeck Centre for Interdisciplinary Research on Mental Health.

    Sarah is an Editor for the interdisciplinary journal History of the Human Sciences and an advisory board member for the Czech Journal of Contemporary History/Časopis Soudobé dějiny. Her research has been taken up by the WHO Regional Office in Europe, BBC Radio, The Wellcome Collection, and the British Psychological Soc


    • PhD History of Medicine, UCL, 2015
    • MA History of Medicine, UCL, 2009
    • MRes East European Studies, UCL, 2008
    • BA History, UCL, 2006

    Administrative responsibilities

    • Co-Director, MA Medical Humanities
    • History lead for UBEL ESRC Doctoral Training Partnership, 2021-22

    Professional activities

    External reviewer for the European Research Council, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic Panel for History and Archaeology; the Austrian Science Fund (FWF); and the Polish National Science Centre (NCN).

    Member of Expert Review Group for Wellcome Trust Humanities and Social Sciences Early Career Schemes (2021)

    Member of Peer Review College for UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship scheme

    Co-Convenor Transcultural Histories of Psychotherapy Network

    Steering Group Member, Complex and Challenging Research Network

    Member of the MPIWG/Princeton 'Validation and Regulation in the Sciences of Health' Network

    Professional memberships

    Honours and awards

    • Public Engagement Award for Collaboration 2019 (with Daniel Pick, the Hidden Persuaders Project and the Derek Jarman Lab), Birkbeck, University of London,
    • Women's Forum Article Prize 2017, British Association of Slavonic & East European Studies,
  • Research


    Research interests

    • History of Science and Medicine
    • Interdisciplinary Mental Health Studies
    • Science and Technology Studies
    • Modern European History
    • Modern African History
    • Modern Intellectual History
    • Phenomenology

    Research overview

    Research grants: 

    UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship 'CBT in Britain: Welfare, the Individual and the State since 1948'

    Wellcome Collaborative Award (with Dora Vargha, Exeter and Edna Suarez Diaz, UNAM Mexico) 'Connecting Three Worlds: Socialism, Medicine and Global Health after World War II'

    Global Challenges Research Fund Grant 'Oral Histories of Community Mental Health in Ghana'


    Journal articles

    (with Daniel Pick & Mary-Clare Hallsworth) 'Hidden Persuaders on Film: Exploring Young People's Lived Experience through Visual Essays', Research for All, 5:2 (2021) 

    Suggestion, Persuasion and Work: Psychotherapy in Communist Europe’, European Journal of Psychotherapy and Counselling, 20:1 (2018) 

    'Psychotherapy in Europe', History of the Human Sciences, 31:4 (2018) 

    The Romani Minority, Coercive Sterilizations, and Languages of Denial in the Czech Lands’, History Workshop Journal, 84:1 (2017), pp. 128-148  

    Psychotherapy in Historical Perspective’, History of the Human Sciences, vol. 30:2 (2017), pp. 3-16 

    From Experimental Psychosis to Resolving Traumatic Pasts: Psychedelic Research in Communist Czechoslovakia, 1954-1974Cahiers du monde russe, 56 (2015), pp. 53-75 



    Mat Savelli and Sarah Marks (eds) Psychiatry in Communist Europe (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2015).


    Guest-Edited Journal Special Issues

    Psychotherapy in Europe’, Special issue of History of the Human Sciences, vol. 31:4 (2018) 

    Psychotherapy in Historical Perspective’, Special issue of History of the Human Sciences, vol. 30:2 (2017) 


    Book Chapters

    ‘A History of the Talking Cure’ in David Jones (ed.) Understanding Mental Health and Counselling. (OUP, 2020).

    (co-authored with Mat Savelli and Melissa Ricci) ‘The Long (or Short) History of Mental Health.’ in Mat Savelli, James Gillett and Gavin J. Andrews (eds) An Introduction to Mental Health and Illness. (OUP, 2020). 

    ‘What difference has the opening of the archives since 1991 made to the historiography of Communism and the Cold War?’ In Jessica Reinisch and David Brydan (eds) Researching and Teaching Twentieth Century History. (The Historical Association, 2020)

    (co-authored with Mat Savelli) 'Communist Europe and Transnational Psychiatry' in Mat Savelli and Sarah Marks (eds) Psychiatry in Communist Europe (Palgrave, 2015)

    'Ecology, Humanism and Mental Health in Communist Czechoslovakia' in Mat Savelli and Sarah Marks (eds) Psychiatry in Communist Europe (Palgrave, 2015)

    'Psychologists as Therapists: Behavioural Traditions' in John Hall, David Pilgrim and Graham Turpin (eds) Clinical Psychology in Britain: Historical Perspectives (British Psychological Society, 2015)


    Policy Report

    (contributor) WHO Regional Office in Europe, ‘Culture and Reform of Mental Health Care in Central and Eastern Europe.’ Geneva: World Health Organization, 2018.  

    Writing for a Popular Audience

    (with Charlie Williams and Daniel Pick) ‘The Hidden Persuaders’ 6-part digital story series commissioned for the Wellcome Collection, 2018 

    (with Daniel Pick) ‘Radicalization: Lessons on Mind Control from the 1950s’ The World Today (magazine of Chatham House: The Royal Institute of International Affairs), February 2017


    Book Reviews

    Joel Dimsdale, Dark Persuasion: A History of Brainwashing from Pavlov to Social Media. (Yale University Press, 2021), Science, 373:6556 (2021)

    Leslie Topp, Freedom and the Cage: Modern Architecture and Psychiatry in Central Europe, 1890-1914. (Penn State University Press, 2017), Social History of Medicine, 32:2 (2019)

    Ana Antic, Therapeutic Fascism: Experiencing the Violence of the Nazi New Order in Yugoslavia. (Oxford University Press, 2017), Social History of Medicine, 31:3 (2018)

    Mitchell G. Ash and Jan Surman (eds), The Nationalization of Scientific Knowledge in the Habsburg Empire, 1848-1918. (Palgrave, 2012), Central Europe, 14 (2016)

    Volker Roelcke, Paul Weindling and Louise Westwood (eds), International Relations in Psychiatry: Britain, Germany and the United States to World War II' Social History of Medicine, 25 (2012) 

    Selected Blog Posts

    Psychotherapy Across the Atlantic’, History of the Human Sciences Blog, 21st December 2018 

    Brainwashing in Communist Czechoslovakia – And After’, Hidden Persuaders Blog, 7th September 2017 

    On the Unexamined Presence of Psychotherapeutics: An Interview with Sarah Marks’, History of the Human Sciences Blog, 4th May 2017 



    Research Centres and Institutes

    Research clusters and groups

    • Mind and Body
    • Public History
    • Global History and Internationalism

    Research projects

    Connecting three worlds: socialism, medicine and global health after WWII.

  • Supervision and teaching

    Supervision and teaching


    Current PhD Students

    Sasha Bergstrom-Katz ‘On the Subject of Tests: The History of Psychometric Testing in the United States’ (Department of Psychosocial Studies, Birkbeck, co-supervised with Dr Amber Jacobs)

    Hannah Blythe 'The use of interpersonal relationships to treat and understand madness in Britain’s first community-based mental health charities,1879-1939' (Faculty of History, University of Cambridge, co-supervised with Prof Peter Mandler)

    Mary Heffernan 'Psychoanalysis and Ireland, 1911-1998' (Department of History, Classics & Archaeology, Birkbeck, co-supervised with Dr Sean Brady)

    Rebecca Hudson 'Pathology and penal risk prediction: investigating the construction of personality disorder and decisions on captivity in British prisons' (Department of Criminology, Birkbeck, co-supervised with Dr Rachael Dobson)

    Janina Klement 'Mapping Critical Psychiatry: A Transnational Study of Critical Psychiatry’s Reception in Western Europe and the US since 1965' (UCL School of European Languages, Cultures & Societies, co-supervised with Prof Sonu Shamdasani)

    Rebecca Klette 'Nordic Decay: The reception and application of degeneration theory and the concept of atavism in Scandinavian psychiatry, criminology, and eugenics, 1880-1922' (Department of History, Classics and Archaeology, Birkbeck)

    Kiara Wickremasinghe, 'Innovation in Psychiatric Crisis Care: an Investigation into Peer-Supported Open Dialogue in Inner London' (Bloomsbury Doctoral Partnership, SOAS Department of Anthropology & Sociology, co-supervised with Prof David Mosse)

    Keiran Wilson, '(Anti-)Therapeutic jurisprudence: Queer narratives of power and control under The Mental Health Act' (Department of Criminology, Birkbeck, co-supervised with Dr Sarah Lamble)



    Teaching modules

    • Critical Entanglements in the Medical Humanities (SSHC483S7)
    • Methods: Medicine, Culture, Text (SSHC484S7)
    • Dissertation in Medical Humanities (SSHC485D7)
    • Independent Research Module (SSPA085D7)
    • Crossing Borders: Studying in SSHP (SSSS001S3)
  • Business and community

    Business and community

    I have media training.


    I am happy to receive enquiries from the media on the following topics:

    • History of mental health, psychiatry and psychotherapy
    • Science and Medicine in the Cold War
    • History of Czechoslovakia and Eastern Europe under Communism


      Media contributions

      Sky TV History 'Strangest Things' Season 2 

      BBC Radio 4 'D for Diagnosis: What's in a Name'

      BBC Radio 3 'Free Thinking: Are We Being Manipulated?'

      BBC Radio 4 'Archive on 4: Dictators on the Couch'

      Public Engagement and Creative Arts

      In Spring 2022 Sarah will be collaborating with artists Sasha Bergstrom-Katz and Tomas Percival to curate an exhibition, 'Psychotechne: Assessment, Testing and Categorisation' at the Birkbeck Peltz Gallery

      Sarah collaborated with Professor Daniel Pick and the Hidden Persuaders research group, Birkbeck’s Derek Jarman Lab, the Freud Museum, and north London schools on a public engagement project with funding from the Wellcome Trust from 2017-2019. This led to an exhibition and a series of filmmaking workshops and screenings on ideas about brainwashing and hidden persuasion in history, science and culture.