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Sport and recreation in the history of mental health

Project Description

Project reference number: GSBS-2019-128

We invite proposals for PhD research around the topic of life in the asylum in 19th Century. We would welcome proposals which focus in particular on recreation, sport and leisure within the asylum context.
Sport, recreation and the creative arts are currently experiencing a resurgence of interest that is directly linked to the idea of participation being beneficial to well-being, mindfulness and positive mental health. There is however little scholarly work to date on the role that sport played in the nineteenth-century asylum, despite reminders of its importance in the surviving tennis courts, football pitches, and exercise yards of these institutions. Its frequent mention in inspectors’ reports, patient case notes, and asylum newsletters confirm the importance of sport in asylum life, but a great deal of work remains to be done in evaluating the importance of sports and recreations as a form of treatment, as a vehicle for social interactions, as an escape, and as a way of integrating the outside world. The topic offers a means of engaging with current approaches in mental health care that emphasise a holistic ‘wellness’ approach, and identify social isolation as a key factor in mental ill health. We are particularly interested in the borderline areas where the clinical treatments met the recreational habits of the patients and staff.

The student will be supervised by Prof Oonagh Walsh a gender and medical historan of 19th century Irish psychiatry, and Dr Fiona Skillen who is a sports and gender historian. Both Prof Walsh and Dr Skillen are members of the Centre For The Social History of Health And Healthcare. The CSHHH was established in 2005 as a collaboration between the University of Strathclyde and Glasgow Caledonian University. It is now Scotland’s leading centre for the history of health and medicine. The successful candidate would join the well-established postgraduate community within the centre.

Supervisor Research Profiles

Director of Studies: Prof Oonagh Walsh
GCU Research Online URL:

2nd Supervisor: Dr Fiona Skillen
GCU Research Online URL:

This project is available as a 3 years full-time PhD study programme with expected start date of 1 October 2019

Candidates are encouraged to contact the research supervisors for the project before applying.

How to Apply

To apply for this project, use the following link to access the online application form, as well as further information on how to apply:

Applicants shortlisted for the PhD project will be contacted for an interview within four weeks from the closing date.

Please send any other enquires regarding your application to:

Funding Notes

Exceptional candidates will be put forward for the scholarship competition. The Scholarship packages available include fully funded studentships and fees only scholarships. The fully funded studentships are worth £19,300 per year for 3 years, subject to satisfactory progress. They cover payment of tuition fees at the UK/EU rate and an annual stipend of £14,800.

For further details on funding see View Website

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