History of Nursing PhD project (deadline 26th January)

Student applications open for a fully-funded History of Nursing PhD (deadline 26 January)

Intersection and Identity: Exploring the Professional and Personal Lives of Post-War Black Nurses in Britain
LAHP Collaborative Doctoral Award between Queen Mary University of London and Royal College of Nursing

In 1969, 19-year-old Neslyn Watson-Druée arrived in England from Jamaica to start her nurse training. She undertook fieldwork practice as a health visitor in Brixton, where she ‘came face to face with abject poverty’ for the first time and ‘face to face with being ashamed about being black’. ‘I didn’t understand history.’ She later reflected in an oral history in the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) collection. ‘I didn’t understand economics and I didn’t understand how society worked.’

An intersectional approach to caring – between race and class, between professional and personal identities, between healthcare, politics and society – will open up new angles on Black British history, the history of the welfare state, and of empire and decolonisation. How did nurses integrate the varied approaches to nursing that they brought to the profession? The archive for this project allows for a transnational examination of how nursing practices around the world interacted in Britain, through journals and professional organisations as sites of knowledge exchange, as well as more informal routes.

This project will draw on RCN collections including organisational history, personal papers of nurses, records of other nursing organisations, textbooks, journals, photos and oral histories with nurses. We expect the student to adopt an empirical approach through a close reading of these primary sources, alongside secondary literature on migration, Black British history, colonialism and the legacy of empire. They will carry out additional oral history interviews with nurses and support workers, to be deposited in the RCN archive. They will develop their research questions in a collaborative way, engaging nurses through the RCN Diversity Network and Library and Archive events, as well as sessions with community and special interest groups.

We particularly welcome applications from students who identify as People of Colour, BAME and/or part of Black and Global Majority racial and ethnic groups.

For queries specific to the project, please contact the project’s lead supervisor Leslie James.