Anna Jamieson

Department of History
British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow

Anna Jamieson is an interdisciplinary historian specialising in visual and material cultures of women and psychiatry in eighteenth and nineteenth-century England. Her current research is funded by the British Academy.

Anna’s research has been awarded the British Society of Eighteenth-Century Studies annual President’s Prize (2021) and been published in Eighteenth-Century Studies and Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies. Her co-edited volume, The Cultural Construction of Hidden Spaces: Essays on Pockets, Pouches and Secret Drawers is forthcoming with Brill.


  • PhD, History of Art, Birkbeck, University of London (2021)
  • MA, History of Art, Birkbeck, University of London (2016)
  • BA, History and History of Art, University of Leeds (2011)


After completing her PhD, Anna worked as Lecturer in History of Art and Museum Cultures, 1700-1900, at Birkbeck, University of London, between 2021-2023. Teaching across a range of topics including dark tourism, modernism and eighteenth-century spectacle, exhibition and display, Anna was a founding member of Birkbeck's Centre for Interdisciplinary Research on Mental Health and Birkbeck & the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine’s Age, Care and the Caring Crisis Working Group. Between 2022-23, she was co-director of Birkbeck’s Centre for Museum Cultures.

Anna has held research fellowships at the Lewis Walpole Library (Yale University), the John Rylands Research Institute (University of Manchester), the Northern Network for Medical Humanities Research, the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art and the Bodleian Library (University of Oxford). In 2024, she will undertake fellowships at the Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin, and the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington. She regularly presents her research at conferences and workshops, including the universities of Oxford, Lincoln, Durham and Bristol, Northumbria School of Design and the University of Birmingham’s Mental Health Humanities Network.

Anna engages with broader audiences as a contributor to podcasts, documentaries and talks including History Hack, Art Matters and The Garden, and in 2022, was invited to share her research on the BBC2 documentary ‘Lucy Worsley Investigates: The Madness of King George’.

She is also an associate editor at The Polyphony, a medical humanities website, and is particularly interested in commissions on the intersections between medical humanities, material culture and lived experiences of illness, in both past cultures and our own.


Anna is an interdisciplinary historian of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, with a focus on English psychiatric and cultural history. Her current research explores the lived experience of mentally ill women through material and visual culture, working at the intersections of the medical and health humanities and histories of psychiatry, space, the emotions and the senses.

Anna’s doctoral thesis examined cultural, social and institutional responses to female insanity between 1770 and 1833. It called for a reassessment of the dominant cultural archetypes linked to female insanity during this period archetypes, exemplifying the many ways that mentally ill women were conceptualised by eighteenth and nineteenth-century publics: including the mad shopper, the domesticated patient, the contented wanderer and the educated spinster. In doing so, it offered a new reading of the ‘feminisation of madness’ scholarly model.

As a postdoc, Anna has developed aspects of this research into her first monograph, The Gaze of the Sane: Asylum Tourism in England, 1770-1845. Drawing connections between historic and modern spectacles of suffering, this project sheds new light on the politics and practices of late eighteenth and early nineteenth-century asylum tourism. She has also developed her expertise in material culture methodologies, exploring the commercialisation of material objects that celebrated ‘Love’s Madness’ and co-editing a volume that explores the micro-history of personal and hidden spaces through three spatial areas: the body, clothing and furniture.

Anna’s British Academy-funded postdoctoral project offers a new feminist history of psychiatry. Titled 'Materialities of Care: Women, Material Culture and the English Private Madhouse, 1760-1840' , it explores the material, sensorial and emotional world of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth-century private madhouse, a space culturally and historically conceptualised as a site of deprivation, abuse and pain. Through its construction of a series of micro-histories on the material lives of privately incarcerated female patients, the project provides innovative material analysis of the private madhouse and its affective, sensorial, emotional or therapeutic bearings on patients. In doing so, it generates new methodologies through which to creatively and ethically analyse histories of psychiatry and women.

Anna has ongoing interests in dark tourism and freak studies, and the ways that histories of mental illness and health are told through museum displays. Her ongoing work seeks to address the methodological challenges that researchers working within this interdisciplinary field face, such as retrospective diagnosis, dealing with fragmentary source material and the use of speculative and imaginative methods in historical research.