Dr Rebecca Wynter PhD

Dr Rebecca Wynter

Institute of Applied Health Research
Post Doctoral Research Fellow

Contact details

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

Rebecca is a Postdoctoral 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, during which time she became interested in material culture and began to specialise in the history of mental healthcare. 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.

Rebecca 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. Since then, her research has centred on the history of medicine, and in particular mental health facilities, ‘epileptic colonies’, medical humanitarianism in the First World War, interwar psychiatric laboratories, and British neurosurgery. She has taught a wide array of courses to school, Erasmus, History and Medical students, and to adult learners. She has attained Associate Fellowship to the Higher Education Academy.

Rebecca was appointed a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Centre for Postgraduate Quaker Studies (University of Birmingham and University of Lancaster) in 2012. She co-curated her first major exhibition (with Dr Betty Hagglund) at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery; ‘Faith & Action: Quakers & the First World War’ ran for six months in 2015. Rebecca 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). She is on the Executive Committee of the Friends Historical Society, and part of the University of Kent’s Gateways to the First World War Research Network.

The Reviews Editor for the journal Quaker Studies, most recently Rebecca was awarded a Visiting Research Fellowship at John Rylands Research Institute (University of Manchester, 2015) and grants for research by the Guarantors of Brain and Worcestershire World War 100. 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 accidental injury
    • First World War medicine and medical humanitarianism
    • Quakers and other nonconformists in medicine and aid work
    • Neurosurgery and neurodiversity (especially epilepsy
    • Complaint and whistleblowing
    • Health in prisons and workhouses


Rebecca’s work centres on two main themes: 1) medicine, reform, and conscience; and 2) how 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 from 2016 to 2020, 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, psychological and disability strands of the research, as well as the organisation of the project’s exhibitions.


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.


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, forthcoming, 2017, 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, forthcoming, 2017.

‘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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