Dr Catherine Beck
School of Society and Culture (Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Business)
Associate Lecturer in History
I have taught a variety of modules at the University of Plymouth since 2017, including MAHI728 Maritime Exploration and Encounters and HIST513 Royal Navy in the Age of Sail with Dr Elaine Murphy.
I am a social historian of medicine and the maritime world in the long eighteenth-century. My current research focuses on mental disorder, difference and disability in the maritime world of the long eighteenth century. I explore how the ocean environment, the space of the ship and global mobility fundamentally shaped the way that mental disorder was both experienced and understood at sea and in coastal communities.
In the past, I've worked on social networks and patronage in the Royal Navy at the end of the eighteenth century, which was the topic of my Ph.D undertaken at University College London and the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich (2013-2017).
I recently held a one-year post as Pearsall Fellow in Naval and Maritime History at the Institute of Historical Research, University of London. My project 'Disordered Minds and Nervous Bodies: Insanity in the Royal Navy 1740-1820' drew together material from surgeons' logs, courts martial, admiralty papers and hospital registers to examine the incidence of and attitudes towards mental disorder in the navy. My key findings reveal that a culture of practical tolerance towards a wide spectrum of mental conditions existed in the eighteenth-century navy, challenging the view that the dangers and priorities of sea-service encouraged stigma of mental illness in seafaring communities and occupations.
I continued this research as a Caird short term fellow at the National Maritime Museum in January 2020 with a project entitled 'Unserviceable, being insane: sailors' mental illness and disability outside the naval hospital 1793-1815'.
Ph.D 2017 University College London & National Maritime Museum, Greenwich
Dissertation: Patronage and the Royal Navy 1775-1815
M.A. 2013 University of Aberdeen
Dissertation: ‘Not to be abandoned by the powers of medicine’: The Curability of Insanity in the Royal Navy c.1792-c.1847
Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (HEA)
Member of the Society for the Social History of Medicine
Member of the Social History Society
Member of the Navy Records Society
Roles on external bodies
Council Member of Navy Records Society 2019-23
HIST513: Royal Navy in the Age of Sail, 1545-1815
MAHI728: Maritime Explorations and Encounters
Maritime and naval history
History of Medicine
History of Science & Technology
My current research focuses on mental disorder, difference and disability in the maritime world of the long eighteenth century. I explore how the ocean environment, the space of the ship and global mobility fundamentally shaped the way that mental disorder was both experienced and understood at sea and in coastal communities.
I am also establishing a network of scholars who work on the historical relationship between the marine environment and science, medicine and technology.
'Shaped by the Sea: Ocean histories of science, medicine and technology.'
Catherine Beck 'Patronage and insanity: tolerance, reputation and mental disorder in the British navy 1740–1820' Historical Research, Volume 94, Issue 263, February 2021, Pages 73–95 https://doi.org/10.1093/hisres/htaa038