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Boyd Brogan

Wellcome Trust Research Fellow

Junior Research Fellow, Wolfson College

I research the early modern belief in sexual abstinence as a cause of illness. Often viewed as a precursor to the modern concept of hysteria, illnesses of this type were believed in the period to be widespread. They had important implications for marriage, sexuality and gender, and were also associated in complex ways with demonic possession.

As well as theoretical accounts in medical treatises, and cultural representations in works by Shakespeare, Milton and others, my research focusses primarily on records of cases of these diseases in early modern medical records. Much of this material has never previously been explored.

I came to this work from a background in literary scholarship. I completed my D.Phil. on theories of emotion in early modern pastoral romance in 2013 at Oxford, where I held two stipendiary lectureships in early modern literature before joining HPS as a research associate in 2014. I am interested in developing approaches to early modern literary works using theories of psychology and sexuality that were current in the period, rather than modern psychoanalytic ones. My 2014 article on Comus, which brings to light previously unnoticed medical records connected to Milton’s drama, represents a first attempt at this, and I am currently working on a similar approach to King Lear. Another article, on madness in early modern satire, is forthcoming in 2017.

I am affiliated to two collaborative projects at HPS: Casebooks, and Generation to Reproduction. I have contributed to the websites Notches: (re)marks on the history of sexuality, and The Casebooks Project (forthcoming). In 2015 I held a William Ringler visiting fellowship at the Huntington Library, California.

Research interests

Gender and sexuality; possession and witchcraft; history of diseases; medical casebooks; theory of the emotions; early modern literature (drama, pastoral, satire)


I supervise undergraduates for medieval and early modern medicine, and early modern literature. In 2013 I received the teaching qualification Fellow of the UK Higher Education Academy (FHEA).


'“Some Other Kind of Lore”: Satire and Self-Governance in Spenserian Poetry', Studies in Philology (forthcoming, 2017)

'The Masque and the Matrix: Alice Egerton, Richard Napier and Suffocation of the Mother', Milton Studies 55 (2014): 3–52

'Sex, Disease and Fertility in History' (conference review), Notches: (Re)Marks on the History of Sexuality

'Meet the Patients', The Casebooks Project (forthcoming, online)

Boyd Brogan

Browse and search Simon Forman's and Richard Napier's records of thousands of consultations.