Professor Kate Fisher

Professor, Director of Centre of Medical History

Email:

Extension: 3293

Telephone: 01392 723293

I am a social and cultural historian, and I am especially interested in supervising students in the following areas:

  • History of Sex and Sexuality
  • Oral History
  • Medical Humanities
  • Uses of the Past, Reception and Historiography

My research focuses on the history of sexuality in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, mainly in Britain.

My first book, Birth Control, Sex and Marriage in Britain, 1918-1960, won the Royal Historical Society’s Whitfield Prize in 2007 and my second book, co-written with Professor Simon Szreter of the University of Cambridge, Sex Before the Sexual Revolution, was named Guardian Book of the Week in 2011. You can hear me discuss the book on Radio Four’s Thinking Allowed.

I am especially interested in how ideas drawn from past or other cultures shape sexual knowledge, politics and identities. I co-direct an interdisciplinary, collaborative project with Dr Rebecca Langlands(Department of Classics and Ancient History), Sexual Knowledge, Sexual History, which  explores issues such as why and how people throughout history have turned to the past in order to make sense of sexual experience, what kinds of authority the past has exercised in popular and scholarly debates about sexual practices, identities, civilization and morality, and how changing interpretations of past sexualities reflect historical shifts in the way sex is understood. As part of this project, I am writing a monograph on the ways in which turned towards history and anthropology to develop a global understanding of sexual behaviours and practices across different historical periods and cultural spaces.

I am developing a large interdisciplinary and collaborative research project in the Medical Humanities with Dr Jana Funke (English) and Dr Rebecca Langlands (Classics and Ancient History). The project is entitled The Medicalisation of Sex? Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Sexual Science and brings together researchers from the Humanities, Social Sciences and Health Sciences to address some of the challenges surrounding the medicalisation of sex in the past and present.

Rebecca Langlands and I also direct the Sex and History Project, an award-winning and innovative approach to improving young people’s well-being and sexual health. It uses objects from past cultures as a stimulus for discussing sex and relationships. Learning about what people from across time and place have thought about desire, arousal, intimacy, gender, body image, beauty, power and control provides both  an arresting focus for discussion, and a safe distance from sensitive issues, that can have a transformative effect. It empowers young people to make healthy choices about sex and relationships and provides a wider social and cultural framework for the assimilation of biological and practical information about sexual health.

The Sex and History Project has received positive media attention, it won an award for Outstanding Social and Cultural Impact at the Exeter University Impact Awards (2011) and was put forward for an EngageU award for European innovation in university public engagement.