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Samir Hamdoud

I am a 4th year PhD student in the Department of History, funded by a Wellcome Trust Doctoral Studentship. My project is entitled 'Young People and Disability: Medical Science, Education and Care at the Royal Albert Asylum, 1870 - 1920'.

The Royal Albert Asylum was one of the largest institutions in the UK devoted to the care and treatment of children deemed ‘idiots’ and ‘imbeciles’ or in other ways 'mentally deficient'. At its height in 1911, the institution accommodated over 750 children. Set within grandiose buildings in a secluded area of Lancashire, at least 4,000 young people had been confined there for a period of their lives by the outbreak of the First World War. It evolved into a vast, complex enterprise that drew in children and their families from across northern England. The institution existed in multiple social, medical, and educational spaces. It was at once a institutional setting of care, a place of special education, a quasi-laboratory of medical science, and a charitable organisation with deep social and financial links to local communities in the north of England.

My thesis is chiefly concerned with how young people became scientific and educational embodiments of a medico-legal concept called ‘mental deficiency’ at the Royal Albert. It examines how the idea of the 'mentally deficient child' was operationalised – or bought into being - at the institution through the material culture of asylum medicine and a form of educational classification based on the routine observation, examination and manipulation of young people’s bodies. It argues that conceptions of human difference and pathology at the Royal Albert evolved as an effect of powerful administrative, educational and scientific practices and as a historically and culturally specific modality of care towards children that emphasised their classification and institutionalisation. These targeted children’s bodies and perceptions of their mental capacity to actualise the ‘mentally deficient child’ as a visible yet nonetheless contested medio-legal reality.

My research project is jointly supervised by Professor Hilary Marland and Dr Claire Shaw.

Conference Papers and Research Seminars:

  • June 2022 - 'Moralising Young People’s Bodies: Ability and Disability at the Royal Albert Asylum, 1870 – 1920', Children's History Society and the Society for the History of Children and Youth, Online Workshop
  • May 2022, 'Young People, Disease and Medical Care at the Royal Albert Asylum, 1870 - 1920', Post-Graduate History Conference, University of Warwick
  • March 2022 - 'Reflecting on an emotional experience of researching young people’s bodily encounters with asylum medicine and education in the archives of the Royal Albert Institution, 1870 – 1920', Centre for the History of Childhood Seminar, University of Oxford
  • July 2021 - 'Embodying Emotions, Visualising Minds: Children, Medicine and Care at the Royal Albert', The Social History Society Annual Conference, Lancaster University (virtual due to COVID 19)
  • June 2021 - 'Children at The Royal Albert: Care, Life and Death in Victorian and Edwardian Britain', Children and Youth Speaking Up, Children's History Society Annual Conference, Manchester Metropolitan University (virtual due to COVID 19). Paper also read at the online conference of the Society for the History of Children and Youth, University of Ireland, Galway.
  • May 2021 - 'Care, Life and Death at the Royal Albert, 1870-1920', Post-Graduate History Conference, University of Warwick (virtual)
  • May 2021 - 'Transforming Children's Bodies: Anatomical Science and Physiological Education at the Royal Albert Institution, 1870 - 1920', Remains of the Body Conference, University of Warwick (virtual due to COVID 19)
  • March 2021 - 'Creating Biologically Responsible Parents of the Future: Eugenics, Sex and Education in Twentieth Century Britain', 23rd Conference of the Southern Association for the History of Medicine and Science, Emory University (virtual due to COVID 19)
  • March 2021 - '"Discovering" the Mentally Deficient Child: Practices of Science at the Royal Albert Institution in Late Victorian Britain', Nineteenth Century Studies Association Conference (virtual due to COVID 19)
  • December 2020 - 'Dr George E. Shuttleworth and the Imagining of Childhood Idiocy in Victorian and Edwardian Britain', American Association for the History of Medicine Annual Conference, Ann Arbor University of Michigan (virtual due to COVID 19)
  • April 2020 - 'Dr George E. Shuttleworth's Expert "Persona" and the Representation of Childhood Idiocy', Nineteenth Century Seminar Series, University of Edinburgh (cancelled due to COVID 19)
  • February 2020 - 'Post-Mortems, Anatomical Science and Young People at the Royal Albert, 1871 - 1890', Centre for the History of Medicine, University of Warwick.
  • November 2019 - 'Education for Parenthood and the Rational Reproduction of Eugenic Feminism in Early Twentieth Century Britain', Education and the Life Course: History of Education Annual Conference, UCL.

Awards and Funding

Wellcome Trust Humanities Doctoral Studentship, University of Warwick

MSc Dissertation Prize, Imperial College London

Hans Rausing Scholarship, Imperial College London

Award for 1st Class Honours, Wadham College, University of Oxford


  • 2018 - 2022, PhD History, University of Warwick
  • 2014 - 2016, MSc Social Work: Research, Policy and Practice, University of Bedfordshire (Frontline Programme), Commendation
  • 2012 - 2013, MSc History of Science, Medicine and Technology, Imperial College London, Distinction
  • 2008 - 2011, BA History, University of Oxford, 1st Class

Other Experience

  • Research Fellow, Parliamentary Office for Science and Technology
  • Social Worker, London Boroughs of Tower Hamlets and Southwark
  • Senior Social Worker, London Borough of Lambeth
  • Education Graduate Worker, IntoUniversity

Research Interests

  • Contemporary child protection practices and theories, including Signs of Safety
  • Age assessments in asylum policy (UK and internationally)
  • History of medical education
  • Eugenics in Britain, including ideas of rational reproduction
  • The history of marginalised experiences of childhood
  • Mental and physical disabilities
  • The social epistemology of scientific knowledge and representation in scientific practice
  • Medical ethics and participatory forms of political and social action as these intersect with activities of the state (including child welfare policies and education).

Samir Hamdoud