Professor 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 contributed to one edited volume: Proteins, Pathologies and Politics: Dietary Innovation and Disease from the Nineteenth Century (Bloomsbury, 2018, co-edited by David Gentilcore); and 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 given honourable mention in the Association of American Publishers' Prose Awards for 2016. 

I am currently working on a monograph project on the history of social psychiatry in the United States.  Funded by an AHRC Early Career Fellowship, this project investigates 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 resulted in a special issue of Palgrave Communications (co-edited with Lucas Richert) and two edited volumes, Deinstitutionalisation and After: Post-War Psychiatry in the Western World (2016) and Preventing Mental Illness: Past, Present and Future (2018), both co-edited by Despo Kritsotaki and Vicky Long, and published in the Palgrave series I co-edit with Catharine Coleborne: Mental Health in Historical Perspective.  

My social psychiatry project has spurred an interest in Universal Basic Income (UBI) as a preventive mental health policy.  I am currently co-leading (with Mike Danton) a Scottish Universities Insight Initiative project called Peace of Mind: Exploring Universal Basic Income's Potential to Improve Mental Health. 

In future, I would like to research the history of hydrotherapy in psychiatric practice.

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).

I previously served as Vice-Dean of Research for the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences (HaSS), following stints 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 have also served on the Executive Committee of the Society for the Social History of Medicine and the Royal Society of Edinburgh's Young Academy of Scotland.  I am a Fellow of the RSA and the Royal Historical Society.


Neurodevelopmental disorders
McClure Iain, Smith Matthew
An Introduction to Mental Health and Illness: Critical Perspectives (2020) (2020)
Out on the pitch : sport and mental health in LGBT people
Callwood Daniel, Smith Matthew
Lancet Vol 394, pp. 1704-1705 (2019)
Conducting sexualities research : an outline of emergent issues and case studies from ten Wellcome-funded projects
Kneale Dylan, French Robert, Spandler Helen, Young Ingrid, Purcell Carrie, Boden Zoë, Brown Steven D, Callwood Dan, Carr Sarah, Dymock Alex, Eastham Rachel, Gabb Jacqui, Henley Josie, Jones Charlotte, McDermott Elizabeth, Mkhwanazi Nolwazi, Ravenhill James, Reavey Paula, Scott Rachel, Smith Clarissa, Smith Matthew, Thomas James, Tingay Karen
Wellcome Open Research Vol 4, pp. 1-14 (2019)
Explaining the emergence of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder : children, childhood, and historical change
Smith Matthew
Movement and Nutrition in Health and Disease (2019)
"Snips and snails and puppy dog tails" : Boys and behaviour in the USA
Smith Matthew
Canadian Bulletin of Medical History Vol 36, pp. 51-79 (2019)
Smith Matthew, Gentilcore David
Proteins, Pathologies and Politics (2018) (2018)

More publications


I teach on a wide 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 variety of MSc, MRes 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)

Mary McGreechin (Animals and Allergy in Historical Perspective: Test Subjects, Pets and Patients, 1906-Present)

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 MRes at University of Edinburgh
External Examiner for PhD at University of Huddersfield
External Examiner for PhD viva at UCL
External Examiner
Palgrave Macmillan (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

More professional activities


A Just Disease?: The Social Archaeology of Insulin Therapy, 1922-present (Stuart Bradwel
Smith, Matthew (Principal Investigator)
19-Jan-2019 - 19-Jan-2020
Cold War Mentalities: Mental Health, Migration, Cultural Exchange and the Harvard Project on the Soviet Social System
Smith, Matthew (Co-investigator) Proctor, Hannah (Fellow)
01-Jan-2019 - 30-Jan-2022
Animals and Allergy in Historical Perspective: Test Subjects, Pets and Patients, 1900-Present ( Mary McGreechin)
Smith, Matthew (Principal Investigator)
01-Jan-2019 - 30-Jan-2022
Out on the Pitch: Sexuality and Mental Health in Men?s and Women?s Sport, 1970-Present
Smith, Matthew (Principal Investigator)
02-Jan-2017 - 31-Jan-2018
Doctor’s Orders’ – Type 1 Diabetes and the Consultative Relationship, 1970-present (Bradwel)
Smith, Matthew (Principal Investigator)
01-Jan-2016 - 30-Jan-2019
'A Spoonful of Sugar: Dietary Advice and Diabetes in Britain and the United States, 1945-2015'
Smith, Matthew (Principal Investigator)
01-Jan-2015 - 30-Jan-2018

More projects