Adrian Wilson

Adrian Wilson


I am a historian of early-modern medicine, in which field my main area of research is the history of midwifery and childbirth (two monographs).

In addition, I am interested in the history of hospitals, of anatomy, of pathology, and of disease-concepts.

I also have a long-standing interest in historical epistemology, which has led me into literary theory.

Whle all these have continued, l have in recent years acquired four further interests: the history and theory of rhetoric; arising from that, the history of advertising; the history and historiography of the so-called “Scientific Revolution”; and last but not least, what Geoffrey Cantor called (back in 1982) the “eighteenth century problem” – that is, the question as to the sigificance of the eighteenth century in the long-term development of science – and how to solve that problem.

Selected Publications 

  • Ritual and Conflict: The Social Relations of Childbirth in Early Modern England (Routledge, 2013)
  • The Making of Man-Midwifery: Childbirth in England, 1660-1770 (London: UCL Press and Cambridge MA: Harvard Univ. Press, 1995, reprinted 2018)
  • (ed.) Rethinking Social History: English Society 1570-1930 and its Interpretation (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1993)
  • 'Midwifery in the "medical marketplace"', in Mark Jenner and Patrick Wallis eds., Medicine and the Market in Early Modern England (London, Palgrave Macmillan 2007), 153-74
  • 'Porter versus Foucault on the "birth of the clinic"', in Roberta Bivins and John Pickstone eds., Medicine, Madness and Social History: essays in honour of Roy Porter (London, Palgrave Macmillan 2007), 25-35
  • 'Foucault on the "Question of the Author": A Critical Exegesis', Modern Language Review 99 (2004), 339-63
  • 'The Birmingham General Hospital and its Public, 1765-79', in Medicine, Health and the Public Sphere in Britain, 1600-2000, ed. by Steve Sturdy (London: Routledge, 2002), 85-106
  • 'Collingwood's Forgotten Historiographic Revolution', Collingwood Studies, 8 (2001), 6-72
  • 'On the History of Disease Concepts: The Case of Pleurisy', History of Science 38 (2000), 271-319
  • 'Conflict, Consensus and Charity: Politics and the Provincial Voluntary Hospitals in the Eighteenth Century', English Historical Review 111 (1996), 599-619
  • 'A Memorial of Eleanor Willughby, a Seventeenth-Century Midwife', in Women, Science and Medicine 1500-1700: Mothers and Sisters of the Royal Society, ed. by Lynette Hunter and Sarah Hutton (Stroud: Sutton, 1997), 138-77
  • 'The Perils of Early-Modern Procreation: Childbirth With or Without Fear?', British Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies 16 (1993), 1-19
  • 'The Politics of Medical Improvement in Early Hanoverian London', in The Medical Enlightenment of the Eighteenth Century, ed. by A. Cunningham and R. French (Cambridge: CUP, 1990), 4-39

Downloadable versions of papers freely available via White Rose Research Online

Research interests

  • History of Childbirth
  • English Voluntary Hospitals 1750-1850
  • History of Conceptions of the Body
  • Historical Epistemology
  • Literary Theory
  • Rhetoric
  • Advertising
  • The “Scientific Revolution”
  • The sciences of the eighteenth century 
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Research groups and institutes

  • History and Philosophy of Science

Current postgraduate researchers

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