Dr Catherine Beck
Profiles

Dr Catherine Beck

Associate Lecturer

School of Humanities and Performing Arts (Faculty of Arts and Humanities)

Role

Associate Lecturer in History

I have taught a variety of modules at the University of Plymouth since 2017 and I am currently teaching 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. 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).

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 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 will continue this research as a Caird short term fellow at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich in 2019/2020 with a project entitled 'Unserviceable, being insane: sailors' mental illness and disability outside the naval hospital 1793-1815'.


Qualifications

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

Professional membership

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

Teaching interests

Second Year:

HIST513: Royal Navy in the Age of Sail, 1545-1815

Research interests

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.

Other research

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.'