Professor Laura Kelly



Personal statement

I am a historian of modern Ireland with expertise in gender history, oral history and the social history of medicine. I joined the University of Strathclyde as a lecturer in February 2015. I was promoted to Senior Lecturer in 2018 and Professor of Modern Irish History in December 2022. Prior to arriving at Strathclyde, I was awarded a PhD in History by the National University of Ireland, Galway in 2011 and undertook an Irish Research Council postdoctoral fellowship at the Centre for the History of Medicine in Ireland, University College Dublin (2012-14).

My recent work has focused on the history of contraception in twentieth-century Ireland; this was funded by a Wellcome Trust research fellowship entitled 'Contraception and Modern Ireland, c.1922-92' (2016-2021). My third monograph, which is based on this research, was published by Cambridge University Press in March 2023 and is available open access. I have also published several articles on this theme.

I am also interested in the history of activism, particularly around reproductive and sexual health issues. I am currently researching the history of pro-choice and pro-life activism in 1980s and 1990s Ireland. I currently hold a RSE Personal Research Fellowship (2023-24) for a project entitled 'Anti-abortion activism in the Republic of Ireland, c.1972-92'. I recently held a Carnegie Trust Research Incentive Grant for a project on Pro-life and Pro-Choice Activism in the Republic of Ireland in the 1980s and 1990s. 

My earlier research focused on the history of women in the medical profession and on medical education and student culture in Ireland. It has resulted in two monographs and several articles. My first monograph Irish women in medicine, c.1880s-1920s: origins, education and careers was published by Manchester University Press in 2012 (paperback, 2015) and my second monograph Irish medical education and student culture, c.1850-1950 was published by Liverpool University Press in September 2017 (paperback, 2020). 

Back to staff profile


In 2023/24 I am on research leave. 

I am happy to hear from prospective students about PhD supervision in areas related to the social history of medicine, gender history and modern Irish history.

I am supervisor to the following PhD students:

Rory Stride: An investigation of the ways deindustrialisation and resultant job losses impacted on women workers in Scotland (AHRC funded)(second supervisor) 2018-
Jois Stansfield: The history of speech therapy in Britain

(first supervisor) 2021-

Victoria Cocozza: Legality and reality: women’s experiences of abortion in the West of Scotland c.1945-68 (Global Research Award)

(first supervisor, 2023-)

Monique Lerpiniere: A Hidden Migration History: South Asian Medical Professionals in Scotland, 1872-2022 (SGSAH Collaborative Doctoral Award) 

(first supervisor, 2024-)

Recently graduated PhD students:

  • Dr Kristin Hay: An oral history of birth control practices in Scotland: Gender, sexuality and Scottish society, c.1965-1980. (2023)
  • Dr Georgia Grainger: 'Objectionable, mean and demeaning': The popularisation of vasectomy in Britain, c.1920-1990. (2023)
  • Dr Jasmine Wood: Disability and intimacy in the lives of wounded British soldiers, 1914-45. (2022)
  • Dr Mara Dougall: Writing Unity a Practice-led Exploration of Female Embodiment in Historical Fiction Set in Early Twentieth-Century Britain. (2021)
Back to staff profile

Research Interests

  • The social history of medicine in modern Ireland
  • Gender and medicine
  • Contraception and reproductive health
  • Activism
  • History of sexuality
  • The medical profession
  • Medical education and student culture

I have received funding awards from the Wellcome Trust, Carnegie Trust, Royal Society of Edinburgh and the Irish Research Council, amongst others.

I currently hold a RSE Personal Research Fellowship for a project on Anti-abortion activism in the Republic of Ireland, c.1972-92 (August 2023 - July 2024).

I recently held a Wellcome Trust Research Fellowship in Medical Humanities (June 2016 - February 2021), for a project which explored the history of contraception in Ireland, c.1922-92.

Professional Activities

Wellcome Trust (External organisation)
GEDI committee of School of Humanities, Hass Faculty, Strathclyde University (External organisation)
External Examiner - MA in History at NUI Galway
Society for the Social History of Medicine (External organisation)
Reproductive and sexual health activism, c.1960–present
Royal Society of Edinburgh's Young Academy of Scotland (External organisation)

More professional activities


A Hidden History: South Asian Medical Professionals in Scotland 1872-2022
Mahn, Churnjeet (Principal Investigator) Kelly, Laura (Co-investigator)
08-Jan-2024 - 30-Jan-2027
Society for the Social History of Medicine Events (Discretionary Award)
Cresswell, Rosemary (Principal Investigator) Kelly, Laura (Co-investigator)
01-Jan-2021 - 30-Jan-2025
Society for the Social History of Medicine Research Community (Discretionary Award)
Cresswell, Rosemary (Principal Investigator) Kelly, Laura (Co-investigator)
01-Jan-2021 - 30-Jan-2025
Abortion activism in the Republic of Ireland in the 1980s and 1990s
Kelly, Laura (Principal Investigator)
01-Jan-2019 - 30-Jan-2022
Building Shared Futures: Co-developing Medical Humanities in China and the UK
Mills, Jim (Principal Investigator) Kelly, Laura (Research Co-investigator)
01-Jan-2019 - 31-Jan-2024
An Oral History of Contraception and Abortion in Scotland c. 1960-2000 (Kristin Hay)
Kelly, Laura (Principal Investigator) Newlands, Emma (Co-investigator)
01-Jan-2018 - 30-Jan-2022

More projects

Back to staff profile


Professor Laura Kelly

Tel: 444 8357