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Ruth Beecher

  • Overview



    Ruth Beecher is a historian and applied researcher. Her research and teaching interests include the history of British and American health and social care, with an emphasis on the history of children and families, the history of the professions and the history and politics of gender, sexuality and sexual violence.

    Her current research investigates the role of health professionals and feminist survivor activists in relation to early intervention in child sexual abuse in Britain, 1970-2000, using archival research and new oral histories.

    She is co-chair of the international Challenging Research Network, a group of researchers and academics who work in complex, emotionally demanding, and politically charged research territories. 

    She is the founder and a trustee of the heritage charity Úna Gan a Gúna: Irish Women’s Oral History Collective. This is a feminist collective dedicated to ensuring that the memories, experiences, and lives of Irish and diaspora women are documented and preserved. Ireland’s history has traditionally focused on the lives of men, Úna seeks to make it richer and fuller by gathering, preserving and sharing women’s stories.


    • Read my article about the challenges health visitors, GPs and other community-based health practitioners have faced in relation to responding to child sexual abuse: Ruth Beecher, 'Children, Sexual Abuse and the Emotions of the Community Health Practitioner in England and Wales, 1970-2000,' Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences (2023), jrad024

    • Read this special issue on perpetrators of sexual violence: Ruth Beecher & Stephanie Wright, 'Historicising the perpetrators of sexual violence: global perspectives from the modern world,' Women's History Review (2023),

    • Visit the blog page of SHaME website to see reflections on current events, research, conferences, ethical dilemmas, and other items of interest related to sexual abuse and sexual violence.


    • PhD, University of London, 2015
    • Masters in Applied Research, University of Sheffield, 2001
    • BA (Hons), University of London, 1997

    Web profiles

  • Research


    Research overview

    My current research focuses on the role of British health practitioners in identifying child sexual abuse since the 1970s. Drawing on archival research and oral history interviews with nurses, doctors, psychologists and psychiatrists, I explore the social and cultural contexts of medical and psychiatric epistemologies and practices. More specifically, I examine the development of a range of nursing, psychiatric and medical authority and expertise in terms of children’s health, wellbeing and protection. By investigating how community practitioners and emerging ‘expert elites’ adapted their clinical practices and took on or refused new identities as ‘safeguarding specialists,’ I examine interdisciplinary altercations over the mind and body of the child. I also investigate how children who have experienced sexual abuse are silenced in the historical record as well as in their own everyday lives.

    I am collecting the first oral history collection of nursing, medical and psychiatric perspectives on child protection in Britain. Twenty oral histories interviews have been undertaken to date and will be archived for future scholars' use. These are life course oral histories with a great deal of information about practitioners’ career motivation and experience that will be of benefit to historians not only of child welfare, medicine and sexual violence but of modern British history more broadly.

    Research clusters and groups

    • Conflict and violence
    • Difference, race and inequality
    • Mind and Body
    • Public history
  • Supervision and teaching

    Supervision and teaching


    I have supervised a number of undergraduate and masters dissertations on US and UK history and popular culture topics including: abolitionism, Booker T. Washington’s strategy for civil rights, black rock and roll, the effect of American civil war on the Lancashire cotton industry, political attitudes to the Vietnam War, depictions of the Vietnam War in film, representations of mothering in literature, educational achievement of white working class boys.


    I have previously convened American History since 1600 and Popular Culture in American History as an Associate Lecturer in American History, at Birkbeck (between 2008/9 and 2011/12, and 2015/16).

    Teaching modules

    • Research Skills for Historians (SSHC386Z7)
  • Publications



  • Business and community

    Business and community


    ‘The Betrayed Girls’ Film Screening and Panel Discussion on child sexual exploitation organised as part of Bloomsbury Festival, Oct 2020. I organised this event and participated as a panellist alongside the film’s director Henry Singer, consultant paediatrician Dr Deborah Hodes and young people’s practitioner Abosede Onaboye. See for video recording of the event. 

    ‘Writing, Research, and Surviving Sexual Trauma: A Creative Response,’ public event organised as part of author Winnie. M. Li’s Writer in Residence programme. See video of the event at

    ‘Spotlight On: Jon Bird, National Association for People Abused in Childhood,’ video interview hosted by SHaME: