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Dr Coreen McGuire

Lecturer (Twentieth-Century British History)

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Lecturer (Twentieth-Century British History) in the Department of History  
Associate Member in the Centre for Humanities Engaging Science and Society (CHESS)  


I am a historian of interwar Britain doing interdisciplinary research at the nexus between disability history, medicial history, and science and technology studies. I completed my PhD on the measurement of hearing loss in the British Telephone System at the University of Leeds in the Centre for History and Philosophy of Science. Following this, I took up a postdoctoral position at the University of Bristol, where I developed my research by exploring the historical measurement of respiratory disability as part of the Life of Breath project, a Wellcome funded project which was led jointly by Bristol and Durham.

My interests are focused on the tension and feedback-loops between measurement technologies and individual experiences of health. To understand the genesis of these discordances, I explore the development of categories used to organise data into groups, which demonstrates how standards of efficiency or nomalcy are aligned to the individual bodies that are part of these groups. My book, Measuring difference, numbering normal, traced how this kind of classification has been used to reveal or conceal the social and environmental determinants of health. My current long-term project extends my work on 'disability data gaps' to explore how specific diseases and conditions have been regulated to substantiate disability, for instance through standardised testing measures.

I am also working on a second monograph project on British scientist Dr Phyllis Kerridge (1901-1940). Kerridge was a British chemist and physiologist whose scientific research significantly transformed medical perceptions of disability. This book is under contract with Johns Hopkins Press and is joint-authored with my long-term collaborator Dr Jaipreet Virdi (University of Delaware).

I received the Scottish History Society Alasdair Ross Prize and recently won the Disability History Association prize for outstanding article for my 2019 article in History and Technology. I am interested in public engagement and investigating how history and historical objects can be used to facilitate improved communications between practitioners, patients, and academics.

Research groups


Authored book

  • (2020). Measuring difference, numbering normal: Setting the standards for disability in the intewar period.

Chapter in book

Journal Article