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 University of 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).

I am the author of three monographs: Contraception and Modern Ireland: a social history, c.1922-92 (Cambridge University Press, 2023, available open access), Irish medical education and student culture, c.1850-1950  (Liverpool University Press, 2018) and Irish women in medicine, c.1880s-1920s: origins, education and careers (Manchester University Press, 2012, paperback 2015).

My recent work has focused on the history of reproductive health and activism in twentieth-century Ireland. In addition to my recent monograph, I have published several articles relating to this theme. I am currently researching the history of pro-choice and pro-life activism in 1980s and 1990s Ireland and developing my next book project on this topic.

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 also 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. Between 2016 and 2021 I held a Wellcome Trust research fellowship for my project 'Contraception and Modern Ireland, c.1922-92'. My earlier work explored the history of women in the medical profession and medical education and student culture in Ireland.

I am a member of the Centre for the Social History of Health and Healthcare (CSHHH), the Scottish Oral History Centre, and the Modern Irish History group at Strathclyde.

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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)
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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 Research Community (Discretionary Award)
Cresswell, Rosemary (Principal Investigator) Kelly, Laura (Co-investigator)
01-Jan-2021 - 30-Jan-2025
Society for the Social History of Medicine Events (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

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Professor Laura Kelly

Tel: 444 8357