Dr Elsa Richardson

Strathclyde Chancellor's Fellow


Personal statement

I currently hold a Chancellor’s Fellowship in the History of Health and Wellbeing at the Centre for the Social History of Health and Healthcare (CSHHH). Working at the intersection between the medical and cultural history, my research considers the relation of heterodox practices, beliefs and movements to mainstream society and culture, with particular focus on the interaction between medicine and the imagination, science and the supernatural, psychology and the occult. My current research examines histories of nutrition, vegetarianism, other alternative dietary cultures, mental stress and gastric disorders in late nineteenth and early twentieth-century Britain

Recent research projects have examined Edwardian health reformers, the history of the radical publisher C.W. Daniel, interwar life reformers and health exhibitions in Victorian London. Currently working on a popular history of the gut-brain connection and cultures of digestion more widely. 

My first monograph, published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2017, examined the place of extraordinary visionary experience in the Victorian scientific and popular imaginary. Specifically, it investigated the phenomenon of second sight, a species of foreknowledge associated with the Scottish Highlands and Islands and described how tales of this strange visionary ability came to impact on the formation of psychological theories, scientific methodologies and dominant cultural forms. Outside of these projects, I have also researched and published on women’s life writing, British modernism, vegetarianism in fiction, performance and psychology, feminist consciousness-raising and psychoanalysis.

In addition to lecturing in the history of medicine at the University of Strathclyde and developing my own research, I also curate arts and science events for public institutions. Working with an arts curator, Alice Carey, I have programmed several large-scale events at the Wellcome Collection in London. In 2018/19 I was named one of the BBC Radio 3/AHRC New Generation Thinkers.


Lentils beyond the veil. Spiritualism, vegetarianism and dietetics
Richardson Elsa
Aries Vol 22, pp. 136-154 (2021)
Cranks, clerks, and suffragettes : the vegetarian restaurant in British culture and fiction 1880-1914
Richardson Elsa
Literature and Medicine Vol 39, pp. 133-153 (2021)
Man is not a meat-eating animal : vegetarians and evolution in late-Victorian Britain
Richardson Elsa
Victorian Review Vol 45, pp. 117-134 (2019)
Stemming the black tide of mud : psychoanalysis and the occult periodical
Richardson Elsa
The Occult Imagination in Britain, 1875-1947 (2019) (2019)
Second Sight in the Nineteenth Century : Prophecy, Imagination and Nationhood
Richardson Elsa
Palgrave Studies in Literature, Science and Medicine Palgrave Studies in Literature, Science and Medicine (2017)
New queer histories : Laura Doan's Disturbing Practices and the Constance Maynard Archive
Richardson Elsa
Women's History Review Vol 25, pp. 161-168 (2015)

More publications


I have experience teaching on the history of medicine and the history of psychiatry, and I have co-authored undergraduate courses on the history of the supernatural and the history of the modern self. At Strathclyde I teach on 'Madness and Society', convene second-year course, 'Disease and Society' and a fourth-year special subject 'From Ancient Passions to Modern Feelings: The History of Emotions'. 

Research interests

Science and the supernatural, the history of psychiatiry and psychology, vegetarianism, utopian social movements, stress and the stomach, work and food, second-wave feminism and psychoanalysis.

Professional activities

'Love at the Crank’s Table: Sex and the Natural Diet’
'The Revived Self: Occultism and Folklore at the Fin de Siècle’
'Eustace Miles and the Rise of Physical Culture’
Lentil Soup Beyond the Veil
Ghost Hunting in the Highlands: Ada Goodrich-Freer and Scottish Second Sight
They have not our thoughts of weight and measure’: Second Sight, History and Subjectivity

More professional activities


The Emotional Stomach: A Historical Approach to the Gut-Brain Axis
Richardson, Elsa (Principal Investigator)
31-Jan-2022 - 30-Jan-2022
Eating On The Go: Cultures of Consumption and the Railway in Britain, 1840-1940 (Chloe Shields)
Richardson, Elsa (Principal Investigator)
01-Jan-2019 - 29-Jan-2024
The First Health Food Empire: Eustace Miles and Life Reform, 1900-1930
Richardson, Elsa (Principal Investigator)
01-Jan-2017 - 31-Jan-2019

More projects