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School of History

Dr Elizabeth Hunter


Wellcome Trust Postdoctoral Research Fellow



I joined the Centre for the History of Emotions in 2015. Prior to that I studied at the University of Oxford, completing a B.A. in English Literature and History and an M.Sc. and Ph.D. in the History of Medicine. My current project is a monograph on sleep disorders and the history of magic in early modern England.

I am a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and Member of the American Association for the History of Medicine.


Research Interests:

My research integrates the study of medicine and emotions with the history of religion and magic in early modern England. I am currently writing a book, 'Sleep, Medicine and Magic in England: From the Renaissance to the Scientific Revolution', which highlights the contribution of medical ideas about sleep disorders to the witchcraft debates and the importance of the magical tradition in the development of sleep medicine.

I seek to integrate my study into the broader interests of sleep research. In 2017 I organised an interdisciplinary workshop on sleep, held at Queen Mary, University of London, bringing together researchers from philosophy, history, English literature and the performing arts. 'Unravelled, The History of Drugs and Sleep Disorders: An Interdisciplinary Workshop Examining Sleep, 1300 to the Present Day'.

The topic of my doctoral thesis was religious melancholy and the theology of double predestination in puritan writing: 'Melancholy and the doctrine of reprobation in English puritan culture, 1550-1640.' It examined the complex relationship between spiritual and medical approaches to emotions of terror and despair. It challenged to assumption that puritans always saw despair in spiritual terms, revealing the extend to which they were influenced by medical interpretations of fear and sorrow as diseases of the body.

Sleep studies
History of madness and melancholy
The English Reformation
Witchcraft and the supernatural
Food history and recipe books
Self-writing and biography
The history of death and dying



‘ “The black lines of damnation”: double predestination and the causes of despair in Timothy Bright’s A Treatise of Melancholie’, Melancholia(ae): the religious experience of the ‘disease of the soul’ and its definitions, Études Épistémè, 28 (Dec, 2015). 

‘ “Between the bridge and the brook”: suicide and salvation in Reformation England’, Reformation and Renaissance Review, Vol. 15 No. 3 (November 2013), pp. 237-257


‘ “That venerable, and princely custom of long-lying abed”: Sleep and Civility in Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century Urban Society’, in James Kennaway and Rina Knoeff (eds.), Lifestyle and Medicine in the Enlightenment: The Six Non-Naturals in the Long Eighteenth Century (forthcoming with Routledge, April 2020)

‘Damned Above Ground: Dreadful Despair in Elizabethan and Stuart Literature’, in D. McCann and C. McKechnie-Mason (eds.), Fear in the Medical and Literary Imagination, Medieval to Modern: Dreadful Passions (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018)

Sasha Handley, Sleep in Early Modern England (New Haven: Yale University Press), for Shakespeare Studies, 46 (Jan, 2018), pp. 275-278

‘Magical, but ordinary’
QMUL History Faculty blog ‘The Historian’, 17 June 2017