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Prof Matthew Smith


Personal statement

I joined the University of Strathclyde and the Centre for the Social History of Health and Healthcare (CSHHH) in 2011, after completing a PhD and post-doctoral work at the University of Exeter's Centre for Medical History.  My research and teaching have focussed on three primary areas within the history of health and medicine: mental health and psychiatry; allergy and immunology; and food and nutrition. Thanks to generous funding from the Wellcome Trust, this research has resulted in three monographs: An Alternative History of Hyperactivity: Food Additives and the Feingold Diet (Rutgers University Press, 2011); Hyperactive: The Controversial History of ADHD (Reaktion, 2012); and Another Person's Poison: A History of Food Allergy (Columbia University Press, 2015), which was reviewed in the New York Times and recently given honourable mention in the Association of American Publishers' Prose Awards for 2016. 

I am working on two projects at present.  The first, funded by an AHRC Early Career Fellowship, is on the history of social psychiatry in the United States.  I investigate how American psychiatrists and social scientists viewed the connection between mental illness and social deprivation during the decades that followed the Second World War. This funding has contributed to the edited volume, Deinstitutionalisation and After: Post-War Psychiatry in the Western World, which I co-edited with Dr Despo Kritsotaki and Dr Vicky Long, and will be published in the Palgrave series I co-edit with Catharine Coleborne, Mental Health in Historical Perspective.  The three of us, along with Prof Oonagh Walsh are working on a second edited volume, Preventing Mental Illness: Past Present and Future for the same series.  I am also in the process of developing a monograph on the history of social psychiatry.

My second project, 'Out on the Pitch: Sexuality and Mental Health in Men's and Women's Sport, 1970-Present' is funded by a Wellcome Trust Seed Award.  I hope to develop this project into a larger project on sport on mental health with historian Dr Ali Haggett, sociologist Dr Mark Doidge and Dr Daniel Callwood, who is the researcher for the Seed Award project.

I believe strongly that historical research can have a significant impact on public policy and decision making.  As such, I have tried to engage with the public as much as I can through broadcasting, public lecturing, blogging and speaking to health and education professionals.  My efforts in these areas were enhanced in 2012 when I was named an AHRC/BBC New Generation Thinker.  I have written for medical publications, such as The Lancet and the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ), presented my research to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and work closely with a range of medical and educational professionals.  Recently, my book Hyperactive was used by novelist William Sutcliffe as inspiration and research for his novel Concentr8 (Bloomsbury, 2015).

Currently, I serve as the  Vice-Dean of Research for the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences (HaSS).  Previously, I served as Co-Director of the Centre for the Social History of Health and Healthcare, the Director of Research for History and Deputy Head of the School of Humanities.  I edit book reviews for History of Psychiatry, have sat on Wellcome Trust funding panels and serve on the Peer Review College of the AHRC, for whom I am a Leadership Fellow.  I am also a member of the Royal Society of Edinburgh's Young Academy of Scotland and a Fellow of the RSA and the Royal Historical Society.


Smith Matthew, Gentilcore David
Proteins, Pathologies and PoliticsProteins, Pathologies and Politics, (2018)
Allergic to innovation? Dietary change and debate about food allergy in the USA
Smith Matthew
Proteins, Pathologies and PoliticsProteins, Pathologies and Politics, (2018)
"Snips and snails and puppy dog tails” : boys and behaviour in the USA
Smith Matthew
Canadian Bulletin of Medical History, (2018)
Smith Matthew, Long Vicky, Walsh Oonagh, Kritsotaki Despo
Preventing Mental IllnessPreventing Mental Illness, (2018)
Socioeconomic Factors and Mental Health
Smith Matthew, Richert Lucas
Palgrave Communications, (2018)
Remembering the west end : social science, mental health and the American urban environment, 1939-1968
Smith Matthew, Ramsden Edmund
Urban History, (2017)

more publications


I teach a range of undergraduate and postgraduate classes, focussing primarily on the history of medicine, but also North American history.  My specialist courses include Madness and Society from Ancient Times to the Present; The Price of Health: The UK, US and Canada since 1800; and Food and Health in the West in the Twentieth Century.  In addition, I have taught on Disease and Society, History of the USA, Historiography, Cultures of Empire, Glasgow: History, Culture and Identity and other classes.

I am happy to supervise a wide range of MSc and PhD projects in the history of health and medicine.  Currently I am primary supervisor or co-supervisor for the following PhD students:

Erin Lux (The Mad House or the Big House: Juvenile Delinquency in the Post-War Period)

Iain Ferguson (A Face to Die For: Acne, Accutane and the Quest for Perfect Skin. 1950s-present)

Rachel Meach (A Spoonful of Sugar: Dietary Advice and Diabetes in Britain and the United States, 1945-2015)

Stuart Bradwel (Doctor’s Orders’ – Type 1 Diabetes and the Consultative Relationship, 1970-present)

James Dougan (Deindustrialisation, Gender and Mental Health in Glasgow)

Research interests

When do certain behavioural characteristics become a psychiatric disorder? How do we know what foods are healthy for us? Why have rates of food allergy and intolerance escalated in recent years? What are the root causes of mental illness?  My research involves analysing questions such as these from a historical perspective not only in the interest of charting our past, but also in the hopes of informing our future.

Professional activities

External Examiner for PhD viva at UCL
External Examiner
Palgrave McMillan (Publisher)
External Examiner for University of Aberdeen Medical Humanities Programme
External Examiner
Hyperactive around the world? The history of ADHD in global perspective
Invited speaker
Curriculum for Excellence
Visiting lecturer
The Uses and Abuses of the History of Hyperactivity
Invited speaker

more professional activities


DSM-5 and the Future of Psychiatric Diagnosis
Smith, Matthew (Academic)
Period 06-Jul-2014 - 08-Jul-2014
An Ounce of Prevention: A History of Social Psychiatry, 1939-Present
Smith, Matthew (Fellow)
Period 01-Oct-2014 - 31-Jan-2017
One Person's Food is Another's Poison: Food Allergy in the Twentieth Century - Fellowship
Smith, Matthew (Principal Investigator)
Period 05-Jan-2011 - 04-Oct-2012
Out on the Pitch: Sexuality and Mental Health in Men?s and Women?s Sport, 1970-Present
Smith, Matthew (Principal Investigator)
Period 02-Oct-2017 - 31-Oct-2018
Pinkie Resilience Project
Smith, Matthew (Principal Investigator)
Period 01-Sep-2014
Doctor’s Orders’ – Type 1 Diabetes and the Consultative Relationship, 1970-present (Bradwel)
Smith, Matthew (Principal Investigator)
Period 01-Oct-2016 - 30-Sep-2019

more projects