University of Oxford (Faculty of History and Wellcome Centre for Ethics and Humanities)
History of medicine
Research: My research in the histories of infectious disease looks especially at issues arising from measures of vector control and the movement and management of human populations and vulnerable communities, particularly in times of war and conflict.
Two of my current projects have particular pertinence to the theme of how epidemics end.
The first is a study of a typhus epidemic in the Italian port city of Naples in 1943-44. Historians of epidemics and public health interventions typically present this outbreak as one that liberating Allied forces succeeded in controlling through the swift and pioneering application of louse-killing pesticides to the bodies of Naples’s two million inhabitants. Drawing on contemporary documentation, including comprehensive details of the control measures used and case records of the sick, my work challenges the grounds for the narrative of decisive triumph that suited Allied propagandists and later fuelled the worldwide take-up of DDT, an insecticide later proved to be responsible for widespread environmental harms.
The second project is a study of a typhoid epidemic in Palestine in 1948. My main interest here concerns the location of the epidemic in a time and place of extreme civil tension and a parallel absence of certainty about how the outbreak began: factors that help explain enduring claims that the epidemic resulted from a deliberate act of poisoning by water-contamination. My work draws on contemporary but hitherto-untapped epidemiological reporting, especially data relating to times of infection and incubation, to demonstrate how the beginning, course, and end of this particular epidemic are constructs of writers unfamiliar with key features of the disease and unskilled in handling available sources.
'Towards control? The prospects and challenges of conjugate typhoid vaccine introduction' in Clinical Infectious Diseases Vol. 69 Issue supplement No.5 (November 2019) pp.408-411 (co-authored with A. Bentsi-Enchill, M. Carey, Z. Diaz, H. Larson and M. Broadstock): https://academic.oup.com/cid/article/69/Supplement_5/S408/5587096\
'UK Biological Security Strategy'. Written evidence to the UK Government’s Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy, September 2019 (co-authored with Dr. Stephanie Johnson).