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School of History

Professor Thomas Dixon


Honorary Professor of History



I am a historian of philosophy, science, medicine, and religion, with particular expertise in the history of emotions, and in Victorian intellectual and cultural history.

I joined the School of History at Queen Mary in 2007 and since 2008 have been a member of the Queen Mary Centre for the History of the Emotions, and co-editor of the History of Emotions Blog.

My PhD (1996-2000) and British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship (2000-2003) at the University of Cambridge were followed by a period as a Lecturer in History at Lancaster.


Research Interests:

Much of my research and engagement work since 2015 has been connected to my role as Principal Investigator on a Wellcome Trust Collaborative Award grant (value £1.7m) entitled ‘Living With Feeling: Emotional Health in History, Philosophy, and Experience’ (2015-2022).
My current research interests are in the history of emotions (especially anger), emotional health, medicine and science, and in the cultural history of philosophy (including Stoicism and existentialism). Previous research projects have explored the histories of psychological categories, Victorian moral thought, relationships between science and religion, the history of weeping, and the British stiff upper lip. 
Key areas of research:
  • The science, philosophy, and experience of anger through history
  • The history and meanings of ‘passions’, ‘emotions’, ‘affections’ and related categories in science, medicine, philosophy and theology
  • The history of ‘altruism’ and Victorian theories of morality
  • The life and thought of the Scottish philosopher and physician Thomas Brown (1778-1820)
  • The relationship between science and religion
  • Moral and emotional aspects of education
  • Tears and weeping, especially in British history
  • The cultural history of philosophy


Editorial Positions


I welcome applications from candidates wishing to undertake doctoral research in the following areas:

  • History of passions, emotions, feelings and sensibility
  • Cultural and social history of philosophy and philosophers
  • History of science, medicine, psychiatry, and sexuality
  • Intellectual, cultural, and religious history of modern Britain since the eighteenth century

Former PhD Students

  • Richard Firth-Godbehere – European Philosophical and Medical Understandings of Aversion, Abomination and Disgust, 1517- 1764
  • Jane Mackelworth – Meanings of home, love, belonging and selfhood for women in relationships together, 1900-1960, with a key focus on Vera 'Jack' Holme and friends.
  • Rebecca O'Neal – Memory, Passions and the Cognitive Physiology of Thomas Willis
  • Evelien Lemmens - the history of emotions and digestion in 19th-century Britain 
  • Eleanor Betts - the medical and legal treatment of 19th-century children accused of killing
  • Åsa Jansson - 19th-century melancholia in medicine and culture
  • Jade Shepherd - criminal insanity and the Broadmoor asylum
  • Tiffany Watt-Smith the history of the flinch in science and performance

Public Engagement

Engagement and impact have been central to my work over the last ten years, especially through work for BBC radio, podcasts for the Centre for the History of the Emotions, and my work developing a programme of lessons about emotions to use in primary schools. Much of this public-facing work on the history of emotions is available, along with many contributions by other QMUL scholars, on The Emotions Lab website (link is external).







I first developed an interest in the ways that the history of emotions could be used in a primary school setting during an AHRC funded project in 2011, and wrote a report called 'Feeling Differently' (link is external). Since 2019, I have been working with the TKAT academy chain in schools across the South East of England to launch the 'Developing Emotions' programme of lessons aimed at children in year 3 and year 5 of UK primary schools. The first pilot versions were successfully completed in 2020. You can read more and listen to a podcast episode about the lessons via the History of Emotions blog (link is external).

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