For best experience please turn on javascript and use a modern browser!
You are using a browser that is no longer supported by Microsoft. Please upgrade your browser. The site may not present itself correctly if you continue browsing.

Dr. R.I. (Rebecca) Wynter

Researcher in Health Humanities
Faculty of Humanities

Visiting address
  • Kloveniersburgwal 48
Postal address
  • Postbus 1610
    1000 BP Amsterdam
  • Dr Rebecca Wynter FHEA FRHistS, is a historian of medicine and mental health, and of religion. She is Researcher in Health Humanities at the Universiteit van Amsterdam, and co-ordinator of the Pulse Network. Her research, publications and other activities have been supported by funding from, amongst others, the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC, UKRI), the British Academy, Central England Quakers, the University of Manchester and Queen Mary, University of London. Her work centres on the histories of psychiatry, mental health and neurosurgery, and of first responders, First World War medicine and disability. She has worked with museums, developing and curating exhibitions, and with community-based groups on public history projects.
  • Profile


    Dr Wynter’s work cuts across disciplines and between the academic and public space, attracting over £810,000 in funding and featuring in a variety of museums, publications and other outputs. She has a range of teaching experience and is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. She sits on the Executive Committee of the Society for the Social History of Medicine, and is the Roy Porter Prize Chair. She is Editor of the learned interdisciplinary journal, Quaker Studies. She is also a founder member of the Mental Health Humanities initiative at the University of Birmingham (UK).

    Rebecca arrived at UvA in 2023, after her project, ‘Policing Mental Disorder in London and Amsterdam, c.1945-2020’ was selected for its originality and potential to inform policy. Before UvA, she was Researcher at the University of Birmingham. Most recently she was entrusted to research historic incidents of ‘aversion therapy’ used for sexual reorientation (usually on men who had sex with men) by University of Birmingham psychology and psychiatry staff in the 1960s and 1970s. Prior to that, she co-designed and was named researcher on the AHRC-funded project, “Forged by Fire’: burns injury and identity in Britain, c.1800-2000’, a unique collaboration between medical historians at the University of Birmingham, urban historians at Leeds Beckett University, and freelance artists, writers, and teachers.

    Having also held research and visiting scholar positions at the Universities of Manchester and Strathclyde, and Worcestershire World War 100, since 2012 Rebecca has had a sustained connection with Woodbrooke Centre and Quakers in Britain. She continues to teach and supervise postgraduate Quaker Studies students.

  • Select Projects

    Policing Mental Disorder in London and Amsterdam since 1945, Universiteit van Amsterdam

    In the UK in 2018, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services declared that ‘too many aspects of the broader mental health system are broken; the police are left to pick up the pieces.’ In the Netherlands, too, policing has struggled to meet changing needs and circumstances. We do not know how this all happened culturally, nor how this heritage can be unpicked to enable new thinking and policy; there has never been a comprehensive historical investigation of policing and ‘mental disorder’, a term traditionally embracing mental illness and learning disabilities—this project is the first.

    Beginning in 1945, the research will transform the histories of psychiatry, mental health and learning disabilities, breaking them away from institutional and clinical contexts and towards everyday life in streets and homes. The two city case studies of London and Amsterdam will reveal these face-to-face encounters. Archival and newspaper sources will provide insights around how age, gender, race, class and experience produced local outcomes. Ascertaining these outcomes facilitates the comparative study of the two cities, and will show how culture and police involvement shaped modern mental healthcare in two nations. This is an urban history of medicine with significant potential to understand how cultural heritage in migrant and LGBTQ+ communities shapes contemporary attitudes, praxis, and openness to seek help.

    Research Questions

    • How and why have the police come to have a major role in mental healthcare, what they have done with their position historically, and have the practices of the different nations and cities been distinct?
    • What did face-to-face encounters between the police and people with mental disorder look like— how has identity and intersectionality played out on the streets of two capital cities and how have they been understood by police authorities, specific communities and the wider public?
    • What can the genealogies of policing ‘mental disorder’ tell us about the contemporary attitudes amongst certain groups towards accessing mental health services?


    2021-2022 History of Sexuality Project, University of Birmingham

    Research to ascertain what happened at the University of Birmingham in the 1960s and 1970s in relation to attempts by staff to effect sexual reorientation. The research revealed ‘aversion therapy’ was used by psychologists and psychiatrists to instill what they considered ‘regular heterosexual behaviour’, often on men who had sex with men, in a way that would now be considered a form of ‘conversion therapy’. The official report was published in June 2022. The report resulted in an institutional apology and is altering policy at the University, which has gained global press attention, such as the reports via these embedded links here, here and here.


    2016-2021 “Forged by Fire’: Burns Injury and Identity in Britain, c.1800-2000’, AHRC Funded

    Project that explored the role of burn injuries in developing and changing identities in Britain since 1800. Centring on three city case studies (Glasgow, Birmingham and London), this research considered how being burned or scalded impacted on individuals, communities and countries. As well as being responsible for Scottish research and that on ambulance, war, and psychological issues, I led on the exhibition and the accompanying public activity programme. First mounted physically at The Museum of the Order of St John, London, the online version of the exhibition, with new material, is available here. You can read more about the project on our blog.


    2015-2016 ‘Quakers & the First World War: Lives & Legacies’, AHRC Funded

    Working with volunteers, we co-produced four themed booklets (viewable via these embedded links): the Friends’ Ambulance Unit; Friends’ War Victims’ Relief Committee; Quakers on the Home Front; and Conscientious Objection and Conscription. We held at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery what, as far as we are aware, was the only prominent UK event to commemorate the centenary of conscription. We ran study days and supported skills-based development for volunteers. The booklets were sent to the 500+ Quaker Meeting Houses in the UK and prominent overseas sites linked with Friends, including Swarthmore and Earlham Colleges.


    2015 ‘Women Doctors and the First World War’, Worcestershire World War 100

    This research set out to discover more about the first woman doctor at Worcester Royal Infirmary, who was appointed during the First World War. The findings instead opened up the experience of Martha Jane Moody-Stewart and her fellow medical women in Ireland, England, Serbia and South Africa. The results were published in a booklet, viewable via the embedded link, and featured in a touring exhibition with The Infirmary and George Marshall Medical Museums.


    2013-2015 ‘Quakers & the First World War: Faith & Action’, Central England Quakers

    My research into the Friends’ Ambulance Unit began in preparation for the major six-month exhibition in 2015 at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. It was of central importance to Quakers in Britain and helped ensure that alternative voices were heard during the Centenary of the First World War. Reviews made clear its importance to Quakers and the public stories of the Centenary: it was deemed ‘outstanding’ (p.31) and ‘acclaimed for the high standard of its presentation … It deserves to be seen by as wide an audience as possible’ (Calon: Newsletter of the Meeting of Friends in Wales, 20, 2016, p.6). Indeed, so inspired were Quakers in Wales by the exhibition that the Welsh Centre for International Affairs and the Welsh Government board, Cymru’n Cofio Wales Remembers 1914-18, were involved in recreating the Birmingham exhibition’s success for the 2017 National Eisteddfod and nationwide tour.

  • Publications


    2023     Anniversaries, Memory and Mental Health in International Historical Perspective: Faith in Reform, co-edited and Chapter 1 with Rob Ellis and Jennifer Wallis (London: Palgrave Macmillan).

    2020     A Quaker Conscientious Objector: The prison letters of Wilfrid Littleboy, 1917-1919, edited and introduction with Pink Dandelion (Bath: Handheld Press).

    2015     Complaints, Controversies and Grievances in Medicine: Historical and Social Science Perspectives, edited and introduction with Jonathan Reinarz (London: Routledge).


    Journal Articles

    2024     "Almost nothing is firmly established’: A History of Heredity and Genetics in Mental Health Science', with Sarah Chaney and Sarah Marks, Wellcome Open Research

    2024     'Choreographing Urban Ambulance in Britain, c.1870-1920: Movement, Gender, Biological Time, and the City' (with Shane Ewen), Social History, 49(1), 78-105.

    2021     'Ambition, 'Failure' and the Laboratory: Birmingham as a Centre of Twentieth-Century British Scientific Psychiatry', British Journal for the History of Science, 54 (1), 19-40.

    2017     'Historical Contexts to Communicating Mental Health' (with Len Smith), Medical Humanities, 43 (2), 73-80.

    2016     'Conscription, Conscience and Controversy: the Friends’ Ambulance Unit and the ‘Middle Course’ in the First World War’, Quaker Studies, 21 (2), 213-33.

    2015     'Pictures of Peter Pan: Institutions, Local Definitions of 'Mental Deficiency', and the Filtering of Children in Early Twentieth-Century England', Family and Community History, 18 (2), 122-38.

    2011     "Good in all respects’: appearance and dress at Staffordshire County Lunatic Asylum, 1818-1854’, History of Psychiatry, 22 (1), 40-57.



    2024     'Law and Medicine: A History in Three Acts’ (with Jonathan Reinarz and Gayle Davis), Jean McHale and Atina Krajewska (eds), Reimagining Health Law: From Medical to Health and Social Care Law (Cheltenham: Edward Elgar), forthcoming.

    2024     'Photographic Memories: Historians, Family History, Mental Health and the Ethics of Sharing’, Anna Lavis and Karin Eli (eds), Exploring Mental Health through Material Objects: Transdisciplinary Perspectives (London: Routledge), forthcoming.

    2022     "Go anywhere, do anything’: The Friends Ambulance Unit, 1914–1959’, Rhiannon Grant and C. Wess Daniels (eds), The Quaker World (London: Routledge), 502-512.

    2021     'Mind/Brain’ (with Stephen Casper), in Jonathan Reinarz (ed.), A Cultural History of Medicine, Volume IV: The Age of Empire, 1800-1920 (London: Bloomsbury), 175-198.

    2015     'Horrible dens of deception’: Thomas Bakewell, Thomas Mulock, and Anti-Asylum Sentiments, c.1815-1858’, in Tom Knowles and Serena Trowbridge (eds), Insanity and the Lunatic Asylum in the Nineteenth Century (London: Pickering & Chatto), 11-28.

    2014     'The Spirit of Medicine: The use of alcohol in nineteenth-century medical practice’ (with Jonathan Reinarz), in Susanne Schmid and Barbara Schmidt-Haberkamp (eds), Drink in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries: Consumers, Cross-Currents, Conviviality (London: Pickering & Chatto), 121-41.


    Special Issues

    2017     'Communicating Mental Health’, Medical Humanities, 43 (2), edited with Leonard Smith.

    2016    'Quaker Responses to the First World War’, Quaker Studies, 21 (2), edited with Pink Dandelion.  


    Other Select Publications

    2020    'Body and Mind: Are we adequately prepared for the toll this pandemic will take on mental health?', with Rob Ellis and Rob Light, History Today (October 2020).

    2016    'What’s in a Name? Shifting Definitions of Epilepsy and its Care, c.1870-1914’, Wellcome History, 21-23.

  • Publications



    • Wynter, R., Ellis, R., & Wallis, J. (2023). Marking Time: Memory, Mental Health, and Making Minds. In R. Wynter, J. Wallis, & R. Ellis (Eds.), Memory, Anniversaries and Mental Health in International Historical Perspective: Faith in Reform (pp. 1-35). (Mental Health in Historical Perspective). Palgrave Macmillan.
    • Wynter, R., Wallis, J., & Ellis, R. (Eds.) (2023). Memory, Anniversaries and Mental Health in International Historical Perspective: Faith in Reform. (Mental Health in Historical Perspective). Palgrave Macmillan. [details]


    • Wynter, R. (2021). Ambition, ‘failure’ and the laboratory: Birmingham as a centre of twentieth-century British scientific psychiatry. The British Journal for the History of Science, 54(1), 19-40.
    • Wynter, R., & Casper, S. T. (2021). Mind/Brain. In J. Reinarz (Ed.), A cultural history of medicine in the age of empire (1800-1920) (1 ed., Vol. 5, pp. 177-200). (Cultural Histories). Bloomsbury Academic.


    • Wynter, R. (Ed.), Dandelion, P. (Ed.), & Littleboy, W. (2020). A Quaker Conscientious Objector: The prison letters of Wilfrid Littleboy, 1917-1919. (1 ed.).



    • Wynter, R. (2016). Conscription, conscience and controversy: the Friends’ Ambulance Unit and the ‘Middle Course’ in the First World War. Quaker Studies, 21(2), 213-233.


    • Wynter, R. (2015). Pictures of Peter Pan: institutions, local definitions of ‘mental deficiency’, and the filtering of children in early twentieth-century England. Family and Community History, 18(2), 122-138.


    • Reinarz, J., & Wynter, R. (2014). Complaints, Controversies and Grievances in Medicine: Historical and Social Science Perspectives. Routledge.
    • Wynter, R., & Reinarz, J. (2014). The Spirit of Medicine: The use of alcohol in nineteenth-century medical practice. In S. Schmid, & B. Schmidt-Haberkamp (Eds.), Drink in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries: Consumers, Cross-Currents, Conviviality (pp. 121-141). Pickering and Chatto.



    • Wynter, R. I. (2022). ‘Go Anywhere, Do Anything’: The Friends Ambulance Unit, 1914–1959. In C. W. Daniels, & R. Grant (Eds.), The Quaker World (pp. 502-513). Routledge.



    • Wynter, R. (2015). “Horrible dens of deception’: Thomas Bakewell, Thomas Mulock and Anti-Asylum Sentiments, c.1815-1858’. In S. Trowbridge, & T. Knowles (Eds.), Insanity and the Lunatic Asylum in the Nineteenth Century (pp. 11-28). Pickering and Chatto.
    This list of publications is extracted from the UvA-Current Research Information System. Questions? Ask the library or the Pure staff of your faculty / institute. Log in to Pure to edit your publications. Log in to Personal Page Publication Selection tool to manage the visibility of your publications on this list.
  • Ancillary activities
    No ancillary activities