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Claire Sewell


About My Research

I submitted my thesis entitled 'The Emergence of the Carer: Mental Health Care in the England and Wales, c. 1946-1999' in December 2014. The thesis was successfully examined in March 2015 by Dr Rhodri Hayward (QMUL) and Professor Hilary Marland (Warwick).

My doctoral research, supervised by Dr Mathew Thomson, examined the emergence of the family carer in English and Welsh mental health care, from the inception of the National Association for the Parents of Backwards Children in 1946 until the publication of the National Strategy for Carers in 1999. Rather than being primarily concerned with the day-to-day experiences of these family care-givers, the focus of the thesis, drawing upon Professor Ian Hacking’s theories as a starting point, was on the history of ideas and the emergence of the family carer as a category. With specific reference to familial care of relatives with a mental illness or a learning disability, I considered how and why the term ‘carer’ did not come into widespread usage until the 1980s. As the British government moved towards an explicit policy of deinstitutionalisation and community care in the 1960s, concern was raised that care in the community would in reality mean care by the family. For some this was a concern because they were worried about the well-being of the affected families, whilst for others they were concerned about the potential pathological impact of the family. Through this qualitative study of the family carer, I argued that whilst families have cared for relatives with mental illnesses and learning disabilities for centuries, during the post-war years this role was discussed, acknowledged, politicised, negotiated, and challenged to a much greater extent. Indeed, by 1999 family carers were recognised in their own right rather than exclusively in relation to the person they cared for. The story of the emergence of the family carer, told via my thesis, contributes to, and in some respects destabilises, current literature on the histories of mental health care, community care, the family, the psychosocial, the welfare state, and voluntary action.

You can find out more about my research here.

You can find out more about my personal development here.


2011 - 2015 PhD History, University of Warwick

2010 - 2011 MA History of Medicine (Distinction), University of Warwick

2005 - 2008 BA (Hons) History (1st Class), University of York

Grants and Awards

2010 - 2014 ESRC 1+3 Quota Award



Claire Sewell

For more information please contact me:

C dot S dot L dot Sewell at warwick dot ac dot uk

 Department of History University of Warwick, Coventry, CV4 7AL

drugs.jpg 'Drugs and the Mind', Bill McConkey (date unknown).