Professor Jonathan Barry

Research interests

My research examines the provincial society and culture of England from 1500 to 1840, with particular emphasis on Bristol and the South West, on towns, and on religious and medical history, including the history of witchcraft.

As part of my work as Director of the Centre for Medical History, I received a Wellcome Senior Investigator award (£923,000, 2012-17) for 'The Medical World in Early Modern England, Wales and Ireland c.1500-1715'. I am supported on this project by four Research Fellows, including Dr Peter Elmer as Senior Research Fellow. This will lead to a number of publications, including two monographs, one by myself on medical practice in Bristol c.1500-1800, and the other (with Dr Elmer), on the medical world of early modern Britain. We are also creating an online database of medical practitioners in England, Ireland and Wales c.1500-1715 and other resources for early modern medical history.

I continue to publish on the history of witchcraft and magic, following my two recent books on this subject, both published in the series Palgrave Historical Studies in Witchcraft and Magic, which I co-edit with Owen Davies and Willem de Blecourt. I am currently working on the occultist and polymath John Henderson (1757-88), with 2 essays planned on his career, one for a festschrift for the late Prof Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke.

I am co-editor of the Bristol Record Society (in 2012 I edited the Diary of William Dyer: Bristol in 1762 for the series) , and I am currently involved in supervising several volumes for publication and will be co-editor for volumes publishing the probate inventories for Bristol held in PCC.

I was also involved in a successful funding application to the EPSRC for 'The Exeter Science Exchange: Trading Ideas to Promote Multi-disciplinary Collaboration' (£600,000,2010-13) as co-investigator responsible for the 'Communications' strand.

Recent and upcoming conference/seminar papers

  • In April 2014 I gave a paper on 'Medical Practice in Bristol, c. 1500 - c. 1800' at the Landscape of Occupations workshop at Exeter and at the European Social Science History Conference in Vienna
  • In April 2013 I gave the Goodrick-Clarke Memorial Lecture at Exeter on John Beaumont and esotericism.
  • I will be giving papers in the coming year (2014-15) at the Intitutute of Historical Research (13 November, on John Henderson), the University of Cambridge (27 November, on Medical Practice in S-West England c.1500-1715), a Bristol conference on Romanticism and Revolution (28 February on More, Henderson and Romanticism in Bristol) and the Regional History Centre seminar series at the M-Shed Bristol (19 March, on my recent book, Raising Spirits), and attending a workshop in Malta on an AHRC-funded project on magic and the inquisition in early modern Malta (April).

I also co-organised the following conferences at Exeter:

  • The landscape of occupations (April 2014)
  • The importance of place in medical practice (September 2006)
  • Social Identity in early modern England (2003)


Research collaborations

Since 1985 I have worked closely with many bodies interested in south-western history, initially through the Centre for South-Western Historical Studies (1985-2000), and later through the HLF-funded VCH project (c.2001-10) as well as other collaborations. I currently co-supervise an AHRC-funded Collaborative Doctoral Award on Exeter's early modern cloth industry in partnership with Tuckers Hall Exeter (2011-14), and another doctoral student works at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum and is also working on early modern Exeter. I have been actively involved the Centre for Regional History at UWE since its start and assisted in the development of the new Bristol museum at M-Shed; I am also involved in Bristol history as co-editor of the Bristol Record Society.