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Biography

Abigail Woods is a historian of science, technology and medicine. She trained in Cambridge and Manchester, and spent 8 years at Imperial College London before joining the department in 2013. Reflecting her earlier career as a veterinary surgeon, her research focuses on the history of animals, animal health and livestock agriculture in modern Britain, the evolution of veterinary medicine, and the history of animals within human medicine.

Research Interests and PhD supervision

  • Human health, animal health and their intersections in modern Britain
  • The history of livestock farming
  • The science, practice and policy of animal health and welfare
  • Animal History
  • Veterinary history

The linking theme of my research is the history of animal health, and its intersections with histories of human health and agricultural production. Focusing on Britain in the 19th and 20th centuries, I have explored how and why livestock disease patterns and perceptions changed over time, along with concepts of health, welfare and productivity. I have examined the evolution of animal health science and policy, and the roles, values and expertise of practising and state vets. I am particularly interested in the evolution of modern livestock systems, and their implications for livestock health and human-animal relationships.

Currently, I am leading a team of researchers drawn from 4 disciplines and 5 universities in a £1.5m Wellcome Trust-funded collaborative project, Farm-level Interdisciplinary Approaches to Endemic Livestock Disease (FIELD). We are working to improve understandings of the past, present and likely future impacts of endemic cattle and sheep diseases in the UK. You can find out more about this project here.

I supervise a cluster of PhD students working on different aspects of animal history and who have come together to form the Animal History Group. I welcome enquiries from prospective students interested in any aspects of modern medicine, farming and animals.

For more details, please see my full research profile.

Teaching

I teach modules on the history of modern medicine, science, and technology, and on the history of food from farm to fork.

Expertise and Public Engagement

I believe in using history to help us understand the present and potentially to guide the future. In recent years, I have written for the popular and academic veterinary press, and given talks on the history of animal health policy and practice to audiences of scientists, vets, policy makers and farmers in Britain and internationally. I have also appeared on radio and TV programmes. I am happy to speak to the media on issues relating to my research areas.