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Dr Elsa Richardson

Strathclyde Chancellor's Fellow


Personal statement

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 forthcoming monograph, published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2017, examines the place of extraordinary visionary experience in the Victorian scientific and popular imaginary. Specifically, it investigates the phenomenon of secod sight, a species of foreknowledge associated with the Scottish Highlands and Islands, and describes how tales of this strange visionary ability came to impact on the formation of psychological theories, scientific methodologies and dominant cultural forms. 

Outside of this project, I have researched and published on women’s life writing, British modernism, vegetarianism in fiction, performance and psychology, feminist consciousness-raising and psychoanalysis. With the help of a Research Bursary from the Wellcome Trust, I am currently working on a project examining the nineteenth-century history of vegetarianism and the impact of meat-free philosophy on developing medical understandings of nutrition and the stomach. This is with the aim of developing a long-term research project looking at the cultural and medical story of the working lunch in nineteenth-century cities, alongside a popular history of the vegetarian movement in Britain and America. 

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. 





Second Sight in the Nineteenth Century : Prophecy, Imagination and Nationhood
Richardson Elsa
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)
Inspired by Constance Maynard : exploring women's sexual, emotional and religious lives through their writings
Mackelworth Jane, Eyre Angharad, Richardson Elsa
Women's History Review Vol 25, pp. 1-16, (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

The Occult in and Beyond Victorian Scotland
Periodical Occulture and the Occult Public Sphere
Victorian Impacts
Life Expectancies: The Body Between Exposure and Development
Invited speaker
Cultures of Anxiety
Matinee Mesmerique
Invited speaker

more professional activities


The First Health Food Empire: Eustace Miles and Life Reform, 1900-1930
Richardson, Elsa (Principal Investigator)
Period 01-Oct-2017 - 30-Sep-2019

more projects