© Britain Yearly Meeting. ‘Images supplied courtesy of Library of the Society of Friends’. Box FAU/SYR A79. Middle East FM. Hadfield Spears Mobile Hospital [undated].

This project offers the first intimate history of international medical cooperation during the Second World War, through an examination of close bodily encounters between medical staff and patients in various sites across the world. It transcends institutional and state-centred approaches that currently dominate the historiography of Allied medicine and international health cooperation to assess how intimate care relations reshaped existing colonial and inter-allied relationships. The Second World War elicited important new physical, cultural and bodily encounters between individuals of diverse gender, ethnic, national, class, age, professional and religious backgrounds. These forms of interactions have yet to be addressed in a transnational context and on a grass-root level. This project interrogates how these intimate hospital encounters transformed individual and collective group identities, shaped international diplomatic and military cooperation and, in some cases, fuelled anti-colonial dynamics. Drawing on the methodologies associated with the global micro-history turn, we focus on different medical spaces of the French external Resistance in the Middle East, Africa and Europe. 

© Britain Yearly Meeting. ‘Images supplied courtesy of Library of the Society of Friends’. Box FAU/SYR A71. Middle East Hadfield Spears Mobile Hospital LR [undated].


  • How did patients and carers from various national, ethnic and religious backgrounds closely interact with each other in missionary dispensaries, international mobile surgical units, base and field hospitals in the Middle East, Africa and Europe on the ground? How did they handle linguistic, professional and cultural diversity? To what extent did these interactions change over time and differ according to geographical context?
  • In what ways did these interactions reinforce and/or challenge gendered, religious and colonial boundaries and imprint their marks on anti-colonial dynamics? How did they transform evolving forms of femininity and masculinity?
  • How did political, military and medical authorities and voluntary organisations politicize intimate care and draw moral and sexual boundaries between acceptable and unacceptable forms of corporeal intimacy?
  • Crucially, how far did these intimate encounters shape diplomatic and military cooperation, transform individual and group identities and fuel anti-colonial politics?
  • Finally, how far did the experiences of war and exile serve as a catalyst of changing practices about the delivery of emergency aid and transformed ideas about race, nationality, religion, sexuality, pain and the body?
  • © Britain Yearly Meeting. ‘Images supplied courtesy of Library of the Society of Friends’. Box FAU/SYR A76. Middle East Hadfield Spears Mobile Hospital LR [undated].


    We are using a range of different sources, including military documents, memoirs, diaries, missionary and field hospitals’ records from 19 archival repositories across the world.


    School Workshops in collaboration with East Manchester Academy and Cedar Mount Academy. (Click here to find out more about these workshops).

    Researching the History of Violence, Health and Care in Wartime, c. 1860-2000s. (Click here to view the programme).


    Researching the Impact of Attacks on Healthcare (RIAH).

    Consortium led by Dr Larissa Fast (HCRI, University of Manchester). RIAH consists of academics from HCRI, the University of Geneva (Centre for Education and Research in Humanitarian Action), the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and the University of California, Berkeley.

    Click here to learn more about this project and the work of Laure Humbert and Bertrand Taithe on historical perspectives on Attacks on Healthcare.

    The Modern Mind at Sea: Medical Care and Masculine Culture in the Royal Navy during the Second World War. Project led by Dr Frances Houghton, Simon Fellow, University of Manchester.