Dr Laura Kelly

Senior Lecturer


Personal statement

I am Senior Lecturer in the History of Health and Medicine at the University of Strathclyde. I am Director of the Centre for the Social History of Health and Healthcare (CSHHH) and a member of the Scottish Oral History Centre (SOHC). I joined the University of Strathclyde in 2015 following doctoral study and lecturing at the National University of Ireland, Galway and an Irish Research Council postdoctoral fellowship at the Centre for the History of Medicine in Ireland, University College Dublin. 

My main field of research is the social history of medicine in nineteenth and early twentieth century Ireland and I am particularly interested in gender and medicine. My work to date has largely focused on women in the medical profession, medical education and student culture in Ireland. My first monograph Irish women in medicine, c.1880s-1920s: origins, education and careers was published by Manchester University Press in 2012 (paperback, 2015). My second monograph, Irish medical education and student culture, c.1850-1950 was published by Liverpool University Press in September 2017. 

More recently I have become interested in the history of birth control in twentieth-century Ireland. This is the focus of my new research project, 'Contraception and Modern Ireland, c.1922-92' which is funded by a Wellcome Trust research fellowship (2016-2020).


Irishwomen United, the Contraception Action Programme and the feminist campaign for free, safe and legal contraception in Ireland, c.1976-81
Kelly Laura
Irish Historical Studies (2018)
Elizabeth Garrett Anderson : early pioneer of women in medicine
Kelly Laura
The Lancet Vol 390, pp. 2620-2621 (2017)
Irish medical education and student culture, c.1850-1950
Kelly Laura
Reappraisals in Irish History Reappraisals in Irish History (2017)
'She has broken down the barrier of bigotry and exclusiveness and forced her way into the profession' : Irish women in medicine, c.1880s-1920s
Kelly Laura
Russian and Soviet Healthcare from an International Perspective (2016) (2016)
Irish medical student culture and the performance of masculinity, c.1880-1930
Kelly Laura
History of Education (2016)
Engendering Ireland : New Reflections on Modern History and Literature
Barr Rebecca Anne, Buckley Sarah-Anne, Kelly Laura

more publications


In 2018/19 I will be teaching the following at the University of Strathclyde:

  • Sex, medicine and society in Britain and Ireland, c.1880s-1980s (third year/honours module)
  • Gender, health and modern medicine (MSc module)

I am currently supervisor to the following PhD students:

Jasmine Wood: Disability and intimacy in the lives of wounded British soldiers, 1914-45 (REA studentship)(second supervisor) 2017-
Georgia Grainger: A history of vasectomy in Britain from 1960 to the twenty-first century (REA studentship)(first supervisor) 2018-
Kristin Hay: An Oral History of Contraception and Abortion in Scotland, c.1960-2000 (Wellcome Trust funded)(first supervisor) 2018-
Mara Dougall: Writing Unity: a practice-led exploration of female physicality in early twentieth-century Britain (internally funded)(second supervisor) 2018-
Rory Stride: An investigation of the ways deindustrialisation and resultant job losses impacted on women workers in Scotland (AHRC funded)(second supervisor) 2018-

Research interests

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

I am very happy to supervise undergraduate and postgraduate students interested in these areas.

I have received awards from the Wellcome Trust and the Irish Research Council, amongst others for my research and the organisation of international conferences, totalling £352,402 since I began postgraduate study in 2006. I have experience as PI on two projects, one, a Wellcome Trust fellowship in medical humanities on the topic of ‘Contraception and Modern Ireland, c.1922-92’ (2016-2020) and the other an Irish Research Council postdoctoral fellowship for a project on the history of medical education and student culture (2012-2014). 

My current research project, funded by a Wellcome Trust Research Fellowship in Medical Humanities (June 2016 - August 2020), explores the history of contraception in Ireland, c.1922-92. This project examines four main themes: men and women's changing birth control practices and attitudes to contraception; the dissemination of knowledge about contraception; the stories of individuals prosecuted for the illegal sale and distribution of contraceptives; and the role of activist groups in debates on the legalisation of contraception. Utilising a range of sources including oral history interviews, women's magazines and archival material, the project will produce a variety of outputs and will help to place current debates on reproductive rights in Ireland in perspective.


Professional activities

Elected Member of the RSE Young Academy of Scotland (External organisation)
History (Organisational unit)
AHRC Peer Review College (External organisation)
History (Organisational unit)
Economic and Social History Society of Ireland (External organisation)
Irish Network for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine (External organisation)

more professional activities


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-2021
Psychedelic Birth: R.D. Laing and the Transformation of Psychiatry (Visiting Fellowship: Wendy Kline)
Kelly, Laura (Principal Investigator)
02-Jan-2018 - 01-Jan-2019
Contraception and Modern Ireland, c.1922-92
Kelly, Laura (Fellow)
01-Jan-2016 - 31-Jan-2020

more projects