Dr Victoria L Bates

BA (Nott.), MA (Exon.), PhD (Exon.)

  • BS8 1TB

Personal profile

Research interests

In 2020, I won the 'leadership' category in the AHRC and Wellcome Trust 'Medical Humanities Awards' for my work in this interdisciplinary field. 


Current Research. 'Sensing Spaces of Healthcare: Rethinking the NHS Hospital'

This UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship (2020-27) asks how people have experienced hospitals through time, and the legacy of their perceptions in current hospital design.  It will create the first sensory history of hospitals in the 20th and 21st centuries, in order to understand the changing role of sensory interactions in the making of hospital environments.  Harnessing participatory practices, it will create a novel multidisciplinary methodology for eliciting memories and sensations of hospitals, which will encourage new ways of thinking and practices among researchers, architects, and designers.


I am also a collaborator or lead on a number of networks and research projects related to this UKRI  Future Leaders Fellowship. I recently managed two Wellcome-Trust funded research networks (2019-22): (1) I was PI on Senses and Modern Health/care Environments: Exploring interdisciplinary and international opportunities. This grant supported the expansion of a nascent UK-based network in the history of hospital senses, to be more international and more collaborative.  (2) I was Co-I of the 'MedEnv' network, which is exploring the intersections between medical and environmental humanities. I was the lead for its 'cities' strand, due to my interests in architecture, design and health. Though the funding has finished, the networks remain active. I was also on the steering group of the AHRC 'Unlocking Landscapes' network (2020-22), which focused on the senses, landscape and wellbeing. Finally, I am a collaborator on the SSHRC Insight Grant 'Explorations in Sensory Design' (2020-24) run out of the Centre for Sensory Studies at Concordia University, Montreal. I am on the advisory board of the project Senses-Based Learning, based at Maastricht University (2021-24).


I am currently writing a monograph called Feeling Blue: Colour and the modern British hospital (under contract to the SSHM book series with Manchester University Press, due 2024) and am co-editing (with Amber Abrams and Rocío Gomez) a Handbook of Health and Environmental Humanities (under contract to Routledge, due 2025).


I have led a number of smaller projects that also looked at health, the senses, design, and more-than-human approaches to 'wellbeing'. In 2017/18 the University of Bristol Strategic Research Fund funded the development of this sensory history, entitled 'Better by Design: Towards a Sensory History of the Modern Hospital’. In 2019 the University of Bristol International Strategic Fund supported my time as a visiting scholar at Concordia University, Montreal (Centre for Sensory Studies). The research also builds on my collaborative and public-facing work on the senses and health, including: 


Other Research Interests

I have particular research interests in the social history of medicine in modern British and Anglo-American contexts. My research interests fall into two broad categories: medico-legal history and the arts in medicine/healthcare. I have broad research interests in the interdisciplinary field of 'medical humanities'. I was selected for the New Generations Programme in Medical Humanities in 2014/15. From 2014-2020 I also ran a 'Regional Medical Humanities' network and newsletter for the South West and Wales.


Medico-Legal History

I have conducted extensive research on changes in the age of sexual consent in the late nineteenth century and on medical evidence in cases of sexual crime, with particular attention to medico-legal relationships and the value of using age as a category of analysis. This research forms the basis of a number of journal articles (see publications) and my monograph: Sexual Forensics in Victorian and Edwardian England (2016). Alongside this research I worked on the medico-legal relations of Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy (MSbP) and cultural representations of MSbP in the late twentieth century.


Arts and the 'Human' Aspects of Medical Care

Between 2010-13 I collaborated on an AHRC Beyond Text Student Led Initiative called '"From the Cradle to the Grave": Reciprocity and Exchange in the Making of Medicine and the Modern Arts', and on a seminar series and associated edited collection entitled Medicine, Health and the Arts in Post-War Britain. In 2014-16, with the support of the EBI / Wellcome Trust, I worked on a project entitled ‘The Art of Medicine: The "Humanisation" of Healthcare and Medical Education, 1910-1993’. This project explored historic concerns about the 'dehumanisation' of modern healthcare and different attempts to '(re)humanise' healthcare and medical education in the twentieth century. It resulted in publications on the histories of narrative medicine, medical communication, multidisciplinary medical education and the idea of 'humanistic' hospital design. The latter formed the basis of my current research on the sensory history of NHS hospitals (details above). 


Research supervision 

I would be interested in supervising projects that relate to the modern history of health and place, hospitals, sensory studies, medicine, forensics, sex/sexuality and the medical humanities. I am particularly keen to supervise PhD students or mentor ECRs working on projects related to my UKRI fellowship 'Sensing Spaces of Healthcare'.


My Teaching

nb. I am not teaching for the duration of my UKRI FLF, but I taught during the period 2013-20 at the University of Bristol as below. 

My teaching is research driven. My units utilise primary source material from archives that I have visited and engage with cultural sources as part of my interest in the medical humanities. Examples of units that I currently teach or have taught in recent years include:

  • Special Topic - Madness: A Modern History
  • Lecture Response Unit, Year 2 - 'Savages' or 'Innocents'? Childhood and the State, 1780-1914
  • Special Field - A Body of Evidence: Forensic Medicine in Britain, 1800-1939
  • Special Subject - Repressed or Risqué? Victorian Sex and Sexuality.
  • Lecture Response Unit, Year 3: Death, Doctors and Disease

I also teach on the 'Approaches to History' and 'Public Role of the Humanities' courses, as well as the Foundation Year. I am also a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.


Public Engagement

I have written for the Independent and for History & Policy, and I have been interviewed for Woman's Hour and Inside Out West. Since 2013 I have worked with the Watershed Cinema to organise academic speakers, including on history & film, for 'Conversations about Cinema'. I have led a number of medical history walks and given public talks on the history of hospital arts. I also have broad interests in collaborating with creative industries, and recently ran a workshop series on this topic. Please email if you would like to organise a relevant event, talk or interview on the above research.


Structured keywords and research groupings

  • Health and Wellbeing


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Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

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