Dr Rebecca Wynter PhD

Dr Rebecca Wynter

Institute of Applied Health Research
Honorary Research Fellow

Contact details

Social Studies in Medicine (SSiM)
Institute of Applied Health Research
Murray Learning Centre
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Rebecca is an Honorary Research Fellow for the four-year AHRC-funded project, ‘Forged by Fire: Burns Injuries and Identity in Britain, c.1800-2000’.

Rebecca is a historian of medicine and of Quakers. Her research and publications centre on the history of psychiatry, mental health, neurosurgery, neurodiversity, and First World War medicine and disability. She has worked with museums, developing and co-curating exhibitions, and with community-based groups on public history projects.


  • PhD Modern History, University of Birmingham
  • MPhil (B) History, Film and Television, University of Birmingham
  • BA (Joint Hons) History and History of Art


Rebecca obtained her first degree in History and History of Art. She went on to study an MPhil (B) in the Department of American and Canadian Studies at the University of Birmingham and for a time worked at Central Television News. She graduated from her PhD at the University of Birmingham in 2008. Her thesis was a comparative study focused on material culture and the ways it was deployed to manage control and organise ‘life inside’ local asylums and prisons during the first half of the nineteenth century.

Rebecca has taught a wide array of History, History of Medicine and study skills courses to school, Erasmus, History and Medical students, to adult learners, in further and higher education and for Villiers Park Charitable Trust. She has attained Associate Fellowship to the Higher Education Academy.

Rebecca was appointed a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Centre for Research in Quaker Studies (University of Birmingham and University of Lancaster) in 2012.

She co-curated ‘Faith & Action: Quakers & the First World War’, her first major exhibition (with Dr Betty Hagglund) at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery  in 2015. She worked with documentary makers for the BBC’s ‘World War I at Home’ programming. She became Postdoctoral Researcher and Project Officer for ‘Quakers & the First World War: Lives & Legacies’, co-produced by Central England Quakers and the University of Birmingham’s School of Education (funded by the AHRC through the University’s Voices of War and Peace Engagement Centre). Most recently Rebecca was awarded a Visiting Research Fellowship at John Rylands Research Institute, University of Manchester, Guarantors of Brain and Worcestershire World War 100 research grants, and in 2018 conference grants from the Society for the Social History of Medicine and Universities of Birmingham, Huddersfield and Queen Mary.

She is now the Roy Porter Prize Chair and on the Executive Committee of the Society for the Social History of Medicine, which she was voted onto in 2019. She is Reviews Editor for Quaker Studies and has been awarded Outstanding Journal Reviewer by Liverpool University Press in 2016 and in 2019. She also serves on the Executive Committee of the Friends Historical Society  and is part of the University of Kent’s Gateways to the First World War Research Network.

Rebecca’s book reviews have appeared in an array of journals including History of Psychiatry and Bulletin of the History of Medicine.  Moreover, she has presented at numerous national and international academic seminars, workshops and conferences, and been an invited speaker at clinical professional development, public study and archival and museum-based events.


  •  History of Medicine, Intercalated Medical Science BMedSci (PoSH)
  • Tutor, Centre for Research in Quaker Studies, Department of Theology and Religion (Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre)
  •  Supervision of Third Year dissertations, Department of History

Postgraduate supervision

  • PhD Supervisor, Department of Theology and Religion

Rebecca is interested in supervising doctoral research students in the following areas of history:

  • Psychiatry, mental health, and mental health care
  • Burns and unintended injury
  • First World War medicine and medical humanitarianism
  • Quakers and other nonconformists in medicine and aid work
  • Neurosurgery and neurodiversity (particularly epilepsy)
  • Complaints and whistleblowing
  • Health in prisons and workhouses


Rebecca’s work centres on two main themes: 1) medicine, reform, and conscience; and 2) how mental health, medicine and science have been communicated and understood.

The central areas of Rebecca’s research are: psychiatry and mental health; neurosurgery and neurodiversity; disability and rehabilitation; whistleblowers and patient activism; medical volunteering and humanitarianism.

The ‘Forged by Fire: Burns Injuries and Identity in Britain, c.1800-2000’ project, which is scheduled to run to 2021, is reliant on this research expertise and her experience.   

While the main Research Fellow for the four-year project, Rebecca has primary responsibility for the war and psychological strands of the research, as well as the organisation of the project’s exhibitions. She is currently developing projects on ambulance and police.


Rebecca’s book reviews have appeared in Quaker Studies, Social History of Medicine, History of Psychiatry, and Bulletin of the History of Medicine. She has written reports for Social History of Medicine Gazette and SKINmed: Dermatology for the Clinician, posts for John Rylands Library Blog, and the Voices of War and Peace and Modern British Studies websites, and an article for Wellcome History.


Faith in Reform: Anniversaries, Memory and Mental Health in International Historical Perspective (London: Palgrave MacMillan, forthcoming 2021), edited and introduction (with Rob Ellis and Jennifer Wallis).

A Quaker Conscientious Objector: The prison letters of Wilfrid Littleboy, 1917-1919 (Bath: Handheld Press, 2020), edited and introduction (with Pink Dandelion).

Complaints, Controversies and Grievances in Medicine: Historical and Social Science Perspectives (London: Routledge, 2015), edited and Introduction (with Jonathan Reinarz),

Special Issues

‘Communicating Mental Health’, Medical Humanities, 43 (2),  co-edited with Leonard Smith.

‘Quaker Responses to the First World War’, Quaker Studies, 21 (2), 2016, co-edited with Ben Pink Dandelion.

Editorials, Book Chapters and Journal Articles

‘Introduction: historical contexts to communicating mental health’, with Leonard Smith, Rebecca Wynter and Leonard Smith (eds), ‘Communicating Mental Health’, Medical Humanities, 43 (2), pp. 73-80..

‘Editorial – History, Reappraisal, Transmission’, Pink Dandelion and Wynter (eds), ‘Quaker Responses to the First World War’, special issue of Quaker Studies, 21 (2), 2016, pp. 135-139.

‘Conscription, Conscience and Controversy: The Friends’ Ambulance Unit and the ‘Middle Course’ in the First World War’, Pink Dandelion and Wynter (eds), ‘Quaker Responses to the First World War’, special issue of Quaker Studies, 21 (2), 2016, pp. 213-233.

‘Pictures of Peter Pan: Institutions, Local Definitions of ‘Mental Deficiency’, and the Filtering of Children in Early Twentieth-Century England’, Family and Community History, 18 (2), 2015, pp. 122-138.

''Horrible dens of deception’: an asylum and its discontents, c.1815-1858’, in Tom Knowles and Serena Trowbridge (eds), Insanity and the Lunatic Asylum in the Nineteenth Century (London: Pickering & Chatto, 2015), pp. 11-27.

‘The Spirit of Medicine: The use of alcohol in nineteenth-century medical practice’ (with Jonathan Reinarz), in Susanne Schmid and Barbara Schmidt-Haberkamp (eds), Drink in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries (London: Pickering & Chatto, 2014), pp. 121-141.

‘‘Good in all respects’: appearance and dress at Staffordshire County Lunatic Asylum, 1818-1854’, History of Psychiatry, 22 (1), March 2011, pp. 40-57.


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