The History of Stress

Medical Research and Contested Knowledge in the Twentieth Century

The aim of this 4-year research programme is to develop a critical history of stress, which traces the emergence and proliferation of stress research from its origins in the early decades of the twentieth century through to the 1980s, by which time stress had become a recognised, albeit still contested, field of research. The research team will examine the history of laboratory and clinical studies of stress and the emergence of stress as an occupational disease, as well as popular understandings and experiences of stress.

The programme concentrates on British, American, and Canadian research, since studies in these countries largely dictated the direction of later work in the field. However, we also aim to examine the international transmission of ideas from both comparative and trans-national perspectives. The research will be directed largely to civilian literature on stress, since the related conditions of battle fatigue, post-traumatic stress disorder and shellshock have already received detailed attention. We propose to engage with scholars working in these areas of military and refugee trauma through seminars and conferences already planned at Exeter.

This research project is funded by a Wellcome Trust Programme Grant.

The project includes a series of public lectures on stress-related topics, with papers from a variety of speakers, including academics, clinicians and others. Some of the sessions take place on campus, and others at venues in the city centre.

Project staff and advisory board

Public events

National Stress Awareness Day