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Thomas Bray

I am now working as Medical Humanities Grants Adviser at the Wellcome Trust. If you have any questions about my research, my teaching, or my blogging, you can contact me on t dot bray at wellcome dot ac dot uk.

I recently completed an internship at Health Exchange, a social enterprise based in and around Birmingham. For more details, see here. For details of the event I organised around early intervention and Type 2 diabetes prevention, see here.

My research concerns the history of welfare in post-war England. My thesis, successfully defended in December 2015, was entitled In the Gaps and On the Margins: English Social Work, 1940-1970, and used social work as a case-study to discuss welfare, social change, the social and psychological sciences, and inter-professional work in post-war England. Arguing that social workers were conceived as 'translators' and 'interpreters', I discuss why such a role emerged in the welfare state, as well as the role of social work within the political climate and social scientific research culture of post-war Britain. In this way, I challenge existing orthodoxies of the welfare state as a series of comprehensive settlements, focusing instead on the existence of gaps in provision, understanding, and communication.

My broad research interests include:

~ the history of the post-war welfare state and twentieth-century social work in England, as well as historiographial issues in studying social work history

~ the changing language and narratives used to describe and discuss welfare provision and its limitations

~ perceptions of welfare professionals and welfare clients

~ the role of cooperation and coordination in welfare practice

~ the changing role of the psychological and social sciences in the post-war period

~ the future of the archive, and particularly the impact of digitisation and the 'infinite archive'

You can read more about my PhD project here.

My funding was generously supplied by the Economic and Social Research Council, as part of a 1+3 Award, and I was supervised by Professor Mathew Thomson.

About Me

I began my university career at Warwick with a BA (Hons.) in History and Culture and German. During this four year degree, I spent my second year at Queen's University in Canada, and my third year as an Erasmus student at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. At the end of my fourth year, during which I was introduced to the history of medicine and welfare, I was awarded the Roger Macgraw Prize for achieving the highest marks on any final-year joint-honours programme in the Department of History.

Afterwards, I stayed on at Warwick to complete a Master's in the History of Medicine. My dissertation, entitled The Pleasure Factory and Delights of the Game: The Intersections of Health, Leisure and Environment in Interwar England was supervised by Dr. Chris Pearson, and used case-studies of cycling and Blackpool in the interwar period to interrogate some of the connections between conceptions of health and environment and leisure culture in this period. This gave me an opportunity to use the National Cycling Archives at the Modern Records Centre, an archive based at the University of Warwick. In my dissertation, I argued that class remained as a decisive element in the practice and representation of cycling and holidaying in Blackpool, but that such differences in class often manifested themselves in small ways which were often only decipherable to the participants. For example, environmental appreciation and the pleasure of good company were emphasised as essential in the journals written by middle-class cyclists, while racing and competition were derided as working-class abuses of the pastime. Meanwhile at Blackpool, people across the class spectrum often engaged with the same surroundings, such as the sea, but in very different ways; nevertheless, the resort was represented in middle-class literature as a blot upon the landscape, a 'black-hole' of leisure culture. In fact, the ways in which class and class difference were articulated in discourses of health and environment had a significant impact on the nature of leisure in interwar England.

I then began my PhD in October 2011. I am a current member of the Steering Committee for the Social Work History Network. In previous years I have been a co-organiser of the History of Medicine Reading Lunch with Claire Sewell,I have previously acted as secretary of the Centre for the History of Medicine Liaison Committee, and in 2011-2012 I was co-chair of the Organising Committee for the Warwick History Postgraduate Conference, an annual two-day conference for postgraduate students at Warwick. I am also a writer for a number of blogs at the University, including the Study Blog, which I helped to establish, and the Wolfson Research Exchange's PhD Life blog (which has just been named one of the best hundred websites for postgraduate students).

Whilst at Warwick, I have also been involved in student radio, the campus newspaper, and student television. Since 2012 I have worked for the Warwick Welcome Service, and have thus been involved in Widening Participation work with local schools, as well as the organisation of Open Days and Warwick Visits.


2011 - PhD in History, University of Warwick

2010 - 2011 - MA in History of Medicine, University of Warwick

2006 - 2010 - BA (Hons.) in History and Culture and German (First Class)

2008 - 2009 - Erasmus student at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

2007 - 2008 - Exchange student at Queen's University, Canada

Grants and Awards

2012/2013 - selected for the AHRC-funded programme, Hidden Collections: From Archive to Asset, for which I worked with Cambridge University Press to investigate new ways of using the Cambridge English Corpus in materials for EFL teachers and learners.

2010 - 2014 - ESRC 1+3 Quota Award

2010 - Roger Macgraw Prize for Joint-Honours History

Conference Papers

July 2014, Warwick Oral History Network/History and Policy Parenting Forum July Seminar, University of Warwick - '"Becoming the Good Parent": The Role of Family in Social Work'

July 2014, Society for the Social History of Medicine Conference, Disease, Health and the State, University of Oxford - 'The Precursor to Radicalism: The Role of the Family in Social Work’s Encounters with the State from the mid-1960s to the late 1970s'

June 2013, Transnational Professional Relations in the Twentieth Century International Workshop, University of Leeds - 'Translation of Practice: Transnational Exchanges in Post-War Social Work'

June 2012, Space and Social Relations in Historical Perspective, University of Edinburgh - ‘“Many a dirty home is a happy one”: the Problem of Access in English Social Work, 1945-1970′

May 2012, History Postgraduate Conference, University of Warwick - '"Their Failings, their stupidities, their inadequate ways of meeting life": the ‘Client’ and their Context'

January 2012, Postgraduate Conference, British Society of the History of Science, University of Warwick -"The Rush Down Handcross Hill": The Transformation of Cycling in England, 1890-1939(Powerpoint Presentation)

June 2011, History Postgraduate Conference, University of Warwick - The Intersections Between Health, Leisure and Environment in Inter-War England

Outside Academia

When not reading and writing and generally doing history, I am a keen cyclist who enjoys exploring the Warwickshire countryside, chancing upon cream-teas in village halls and cricket matches. I also enjoy playing squash and tennis, at which I am learning some competence, and football, at which I am doomed to be eternally awful. As a former Deputy Head of Arts for the student radio station at Warwick, I still busy myself attending plays and exhibitions. When I am not doing any of these, I can usually be found curled up in a cafe reading a book. I am definitely a cat person.


t dot bray at warwick dot ac dot uk

All credit to colleague Claire Sewell for this image of me enjoying the perks of being a young researcher.