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School of Languages, Linguistics and Film

Dr Bonnie Evans


Senior Research Fellow



I am interested in the history of film and its relationship to scientific and artistic change in the twentieth and twenty-first century.   My work has explored the history of psychology and the way that psychological norms are established, and my current work focuses on the role of film in this process.

My 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. My expertise in this area has led me to take on the role of Senior Researcher in the collaborative Wellcome Trust project ‘Autism through Cinema’

I have a BA from Sussex University in the History of Art, an MSc in Economic and Social History from Oxford University, and a PhD from the Department of History and Philosophy of Science, Cambridge University.  I co-founded the interdisciplinary Health and Welfare Research Group at CRASSH, Cambridge. My work has always explored interdisciplinary themes, particularly exploring how different media can be employed in historical research.

I have lectured in the history of child sciences and eugenics, and have explored the role of documentary film within this.  In addition to my academic work, I have also worked as a policy and media advisor. I have spoken at the UK Department for Education and have advised at the Institute for Public Policy Research.  I have consulted for the BBC and other media outlets and have appeared on BBC television.


  • Developing People: The Sciences of Childhood in Twentieth and Twenty-First Century Britain (Currently under reconstruction)
  • HST5357 International Eugenics in Comparative Perspective (History)


Research Interests:

  • History of Psychology and Film
  • Film Representations of Typical and Atypical Development
  • History of Childhood and the Developmental Sciences
  • Documentary and Scientific Film History
  • Eugenics, Race and Genetics in the 20th and 21st Centuries
  • Visualisation within the Developmental Sciences
  • Normalising medical and psychological techniques of the 20th and 21st Centuries
  • History of Yoga, Pilates, Gymnastics and Body Reform
  • Neurotypicality and Neurodiversity
  • History of the Neurosciences

Examples of research funding:

  • 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)
  • Awarded Wellcome Trust funding for MSc research at Oxford University (2003)


Key publications

  • Bonnie Evans The Metamorphosis of Autism: A History of Child Development in Britain (Manchester University Press, 2017)
  • Bonnie Evans ‘Play, Dreams and Intelligence: Thinking about Development in Twentieth Century Britain’ Psychoanalysis and History [Forthcoming, 2018, proof available]
  • 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

Commissioned magazine articles

Short publications and reviews

  • Bonnie Evans ‘Historical Overview’ in François Boller, Dick Swaab, Michael Minoff (eds) Handbook of Clinical Neurology: Neurodevelopmental and Cognitive Disabilities (Forthcoming)
  • 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

  • Interview with Dr Ayesha Nathoo about my book, The Metamorphosis of Autism:
  • Newsnight 25th July 2018 - Discussing the history of child psychology in relation to recent new report
  • Consultant on the history of psychology for 4REAL film on the life of Richey Edwards of the Manic Street Preachers
  • 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. 
  • Twitter account: Bonnie Evans @Bonnie__Evans
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