Dr Daisy Payling

Community Fellow
Department of History
Dr Daisy Payling



At the University of Birmingham I completed a BA in History and English Literature and an MA in Contemporary History, before going on to complete a PhD in Modern History. During my final year as an undergraduate I developed an interest in the history of the left and activism in Britain which I have carried through my work since. My PhD research was on grassroots activism and local government in 1980s Sheffield. It detailed how Sheffield City Council tried to fight Thatcherism at a local level and how activists involved in the labour and women’s movements, peace and environmentalism, anti-apartheid, anti-racism, Black community activism, and gay and lesbian politics engaged with one another and the local Council. It investigated tensions between movement activism and local government structures, between labour and so-called ‘identity’ politics, and explored the role of place, kinship and community in building a local, grassroots politics which was recognised nationally as a bastion of the left. After my PhD I took my interest in bottom-up history into a postdoctoral research fellowship at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. There I worked on a project called ‘Placing the Public in Public Health, 1948-2010’, exploring how health surveys were used as a tool to measure population health and to gather information on public opinion of health challenges and services. I looked at how surveyors imagined the public, but also explored how the public spoke back to public health through surveys and other means. I joined the University of Essex in 2018 and am currently working as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow on the Wellcome Trust-funded project ‘Body, Self and Family: Women’s Psychological, Emotional and Bodily Health in Britain, c. 1960-1990.’ This major project explores how social changes in postwar Britain influenced women’s understandings of their bodily and emotional wellbeing. It examines women’s experiences at different stages of the life cycle, their relationships to various sources of authority and expertise, and how the emergence of new reproductive and contraceptive technologies affected their lives. My strand of the project explores shifts in modes of public communication about health and illness by making use of diverse sources such as newspaper columns, women’s magazines, activist publications, and the archives of journalists and agony aunts. It asks how boundaries between expertise and authenticity were negotiated between medical practitioners, journalists, and readers – so-called ‘ordinary’ women – with regards to women’s health.


  • PhD History University of Birmingham, (2015)


Journal articles (7)

Loughran, T., Mahoney, K. and Payling, D., (2022). Women’s voices, emotion and empathy: engaging different publics with ‘everyday’ health histories. Medical Humanities. 48 (4), 394-403

Elizabeth, HJ. and Payling, D., (2022). From cohort to community: The emotional work of birthday cards in the Medical Research Council National Survey of Health and Development, 1946–2018. History of the Human Sciences. 35 (1), 158-188

Payling, D., (2022). Selling Shame: Feminine Hygiene Advertising and the Boundaries of Permissiveness in 1970s Britain. Gender and History

Payling, D. and Loughran, T., (2022). Nude Bodies in British Women’s Magazines at the Turn of the 1970s: Agency, Spectatorship, and the Sexual Revolution. Social History of Medicine. 35 (4), 1356-1385

Payling, D., (2020). 'The people who write to us are the people who don't like us:' Class, Gender and Citizenship in the Survey of Sickness, 1943-1952.. Journal of British Studies. 59 (2), 315-342

Payling, D., (2017). City limits: sexual politics and the new urban left in 1980s Sheffield. Contemporary British History. 31 (2), 256-273

Payling, D., (2014). 'Socialist Republic of South Yorkshire': Grassroots Activism and Left-Wing Solidarity in 1980s Sheffield. Twentieth Century British History. 25 (4), 602-627

Books (1)

Mold, A., Clark, P., Millward, G. and Payling, D., (2019). Placing the Public in Public Health in Post-War Britain, 1948–2012. Palgrave Pivot. 3030186857. 9783030186852

Book chapters (2)

Payling, D., (2018). ‘You have to start where you’re at’. In: Waiting for the revolution. Manchester University Press

Payling, D., (2017). 'You have to start where you’re at’: Politics and Reputation in 1980s Sheffield. In: Waiting for Revolution: The British Far Left from 1956. Editors: Smith, E. and Worley, M., . Manchester University Press. 978-1-5261-1365-8

Grants and funding


Made Up: Health and Beauty Past and Present

SOAS University of London



Colchester Campus

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