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School of History

Dr Bonnie Evans


Wellcome Trust Postdoctoral Fellow



Dr Bonnie Evans is an honorary research fellow in the Department of History.  Her work explores the history of child psychology and the making of the modern self. She has an MSc in Economic and Social History from Oxford University and a PhD from the Department of History and Philosophy of Science, Cambridge University.  She co-founded the interdisciplinary Health and Welfare Research Group at CRASSH, Cambridge.  She then held a research fellowship at King’s College, London's Centre for Medical Humanities, where she studied ‘Cultural and Historical Influences on Psychiatric Diagnoses’. She has lectured in the international history of child sciences, psychology and eugenics.  In addition to her academic work, she has also worked as a policy and media advisor and has written for publications such as Aeon. She has spoken at the UK Department for Education and has advised at the Institute for Public Policy Research.  She has also consulted for the BBC and other media outlets and has appeared on BBC television.

Twitter Account: @Bonnie__Evans


Research Interests:

Her 2017 book The Metamorphosis of Autism: A History of Child Development in Britain  (Manchester University Press) explored how autism came to achieve such significance within the psychological sciences over the course of the twentieth century.  It considered how political changes drove new approaches to child development and why this led to a ‘metamorphosis’ in the meaning of autism in the 1960s and 1970s. She is currently editing a volume of the History of the Human Sciences on the history of film, observation and the psychological sciences. She is also embarking on a new project on the globalisation of child mental health and the limits of a universal psychology.

Research Interests:

  • History of psychology, psychiatry and psychoanalysis
  • History of the neurosciences
  • History of childhood and developmental sciences
  • The globalisation of child mental health diagnoses and treatments
  • Psychology, film and observational sciences
  • Eugenics, race and genetics in the 20th and 21st centuries
  • History of yoga, Pilates, gymnastics and body reform
  • Visual evidence within the developmental sciences
  • Normalising medical and psychological techniques of the 20th and 21st Centuries
  • ‘Neuro’ cultures of the late 20th and 21st Century

Examples of research funding and prizes:

  • Awarded Wellcome Trust Funding for conference The Globalisation of Autism: Historical, Anthropological and Psychological Reflections, QMUL, April 2017 
  • Awarded Wellcome Trust funding for project: Neuroscience, Psychology and Education: Autism in the UK 1959-2014 (2014-2017)
  • Awarded the International Society for the History of the Neurosciences 2012 award for Outstanding Student Essay in the History of the Neurosciences for my PhD thesis.
  • Awarded funding from the Centre for Arts Social Sciences and Humanities, Cambridge (CRASSH) to run the Health and Welfare Research Group 2007-2010.
  • Awarded Wellcome Trust funding for PhD research at Cambridge University, History and Philosophy of Science Department (2006-2010)





  • Bonnie Evans ‘The Origins of Film and the Neurosciences’ History of the Human Sciences (within a volume that I will be co-editing on Psychology and Film. Forthcoming)
  • Bonnie Evans & Janet Harbord ‘Film, Science, Observation and the Infant Mind’ History of the Human Sciences (within a volume that I will be co-editing on Psychology and Film. Forthcoming)
  • Bonnie Evans ‘How Cinema Shaped Psychiatric Epidemiology’ History of Psychiatry (within a Volume edited by Emmanuel Delille, Centre d'Archives en Philosophie, Histoire et Édition des Sciences, École Normale Supérieure, Paris.)


  • Bonnie Evans ‘Between Instincts and Intelligence: The Precarious Sciences of Child Identity in Twentieth-Century Britain’ Psychoanalysis and History 2019, 21(2) pp171-192
  • Bonnie Evans ‘The Foundations of Autism: The Law Concerning Psychotic, Schizophrenic and Autistic Children in 1950s and 1960s Britain’ Bulletin of the History of Medicine 2014: 88(2) pp253-285.
  • Bonnie Evans ‘How Autism Became Autism: The Radical Transformation of a Central Concept of Child Development in Britain’History of the Human Sciences 2013: 26(3) pp3–31
  • Bonnie Evans (first author) and Edgar Jones ‘Organ Extracts and the Development of Psychiatry: Hormonal Treatments at the Maudsley Hospital 1923-1938’ Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences 2012: 48(3) pp251-26
  • Bonnie Evans (first author), Shahina Rahman & Edgar Jones, ‘Managing the Unmanageable: Interwar Child Psychiatry at the Maudsley Hospital’ History of Psychiatry 2008: 19 pp454-475

 Medical Textbooks

Commissioned magazine articles

Book reviews

  • Bonnie Evans ‘Review of Kieran McNally’s A Critical History of SchizophreniaIsis March 2018 109(1) pp217-218
  • Bonnie Evans ‘Wing (née Tolchard), Lorna Gladys 1928-2014) Oxford Dictionary of National Biography Online publication 15th February 2018
  • Bonnie Evans ‘Review of Harry Hendrick’s Narcissistic Parenting in an Insecure World’ Twentieth Century British History Online Publication 27th September 2017
  • Bonnie Evans ‘John Forrester’s Thinking in CasesPsychoanalysis and History 2017: 19(2) Pp249-256
  • Bonnie Evans ‘Review of Stephen Casper’s The Neurologists: A History of a Medical Specialty in Modern BritainHistory of the Human Sciences Online Review 12th July 2016
  • Joseph Rey, Bonnie Evans et al. ‘History of Child Psychiatry’ in Rey JM (ed), IACAPAP e-Textbook of Child and Adolescent Mental Health(Geneva: International Association for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Allied Professions, 2015)
  • Bonnie Evans ‘Review of Mitzi Waltz’ Autism: A Social and Medical History’ History of Psychiatry 2014: 25 pp381-383
  • Bonnie Evans ‘Review of Matthew Smith’s Hyperactive: The Controversial History of ADHD’ History of the Human Sciences 2014: 27(2) pp. 136-141
  • Bonnie Evans ‘Review of Chloe Silverman’s Understanding AutismPsychoanalysis and History 2013: 15 pp116-119
  • Bonnie Evans ‘Review of Richard Frank and Sherry Glied’s Better but not Well: Mental Health Policy in the United States since 1950Journal of Mental Health April 2008: 17(2) pp225-227

Public Engagement

  • BBC TV Appearance: Interviewed with David Olusoga for ‘A House Through Time’ BBC 2 2021–
  • YouTube presentation for Wellcome Collection Film and Neurodiversity:
  • BBC Radio Appearance: Free Thinking BBC Radio 3 2021 Autism, Film and Patterns with Prof. Simon Baron Cohen and Prof. Andrew Roberts.
  • BBC TV Appearance: I appeared in a BBC Reel programmes on IQ Testing and Human Intelligence that were filmed in March 2020 and broadcast in May 2020 (67,000 views and 28,000 views respectively).
  • Film Screening Event: I helped organise a series of screenings and discussions at the Barbican on neurodiversity and film. As part of this, I conducted a filmed interview with Professor Temple Grandin, chaired a post-screening discussion, and was quoted in the Barbican ‘Guide’.
  • Public Workshop for Autistic Young Adults: I helped to organise a workshop engaging autistic people with historical film at Project Artworks in Hastings, 30th October to 1st November 2019
  • Press Feature: My work was reported in a Mail Online feature on IQ testing and eugenics.
  • BBC TV Appearance: I appeared in the BBC 4 documentary Eugenics: Science’s Greatest Scandal on 6th October 2019 to discuss my work on the history of IQ testing
  • BBC TV Appearance: I appeared on Newsnight 25th July 2018 to discuss the history of child psychology in relation to news report on Aston Hall Hospital (c.600,000 views).
  • Interview with Dr Ayesha Nathoo about my book, The Metamorphosis of Autism:
  • Presentation on ‘The Metamorphosis of Autism’ AHRC Being Human Festival, Royal College of Nursing 20th November 2017
  • Discussant on ‘Watch, Talk, Think Film’ panel at the V&A Museum of Childhood 26th October 2017
  • Blog post: Bonnie Evans ‘Autism, Neurodiversity, and the ‘Neurotypicals’ The History of Emotions Blog 2017
  • Consultant on project with the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) in conjunction with History and Policy (2016-2017). The project resulted in a report that recommended policy changes concerning early years childcare provision in London. The final report is here:
  • Presentation on ‘Autism, Neurodiversity and the “Neurotypicals”’ 24th November 2016 Museum of the Normal, Barts Pathology Museum (part of AHRC Being Human Festival)
  • Historical consultant for the BBC Radio 4 File on Four Programme ‘What Happened at Aston Hall Hospital’ Sunday, 24th July 2016
  • Discussant at Forum for European Philosophy – Autism and Minds Wired for Science Bonnie Evans, Simon Baron-Cohen and John Dupré. Chaired by Bhismadev Chakrabarti 8th February 2016  (250 attendees. Podcast downloaded c20,000 times) 
  • Blog Post: Bonnie Evans ‘Autism in History’ The Autism Anthropologist 2015
  • Discussant at Forum for European Philosophy – The Philosophy of Mental Illness Bonnie Evans, Tim Thornton and Matthew Broome. Chaired by Kristina Musholt 7th May 2013 (250 attendees)
  • Presentation of research to around 70 policy makers at the U.K. Department for Education in January 2013 in conjunction with the History and Policy group. 
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