An Historian

historical stuff by Gareth Millward


Me elsewhere

Occasionally I write and say stuff in other places where people might actually read or hear it…

Blog Posts


The University of Warwick has an excellent website on the Cultural History of the NHS project. As part of this they have asked historians to write blog posts covering various aspects of the NHS. My contribution is on vaccines.

I have also written posts for the Placing the Public in Public Health website, which also has all the details for the project I currently work on.


In June 2013, I wrote a piece for the blog Left Foot Forward which explored the claim that social security spending exploded under the Labour government, leading to the Great Recession. Spoiler: it didn’t. This followed some of the statistical work I had done as part of the PhD project.

Web Archives

I have done some research for the British Library and Insitute of Historical Research on how web archives might be used today and in the future for historical research.

My final report was published by the University of London’s School of Advanced Studies: “Digital barriers and the accessible web: disabled people, information and the internet“.

As a result of this, I wrote a piece for the Washington Post.

I was also interviewed for (and appear VERY briefly in) the New Yorker.


During the course of my PhD research, Lord Ashley of Stoke sadly passed away. He was an important figure in the disability movement during the time period of my study (1965 – 1995). This was a post written for Disability Rights UK, a major British disability organisation who themselves have been central to my research and very kindly gave me access to their historical material.

During my PhD studentship, I wrote a number of blog posts for the Voluntary Action History Society on disability topics.

1-10-2013: Here is a feature article based on a paper I gave at the VAHS conference in Huddersfield in 2013. The Influence of Disability Organisations.

27-2-2012 : I have written about disability and voluntarism in policy-making, including an account of the way in which the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill 1994 was wrecked by the Conservative government.

10-10-2011 : Another post is more on methodology, recalling my experiences using informal archives as part of my PhD research.


Seminar Papers

11-11-2015 : Did the government lack ‘common sense’? Coventry’s 1957 Polio Epidemic – Given at the Centre for History in Public Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London. This was part of the research for an article on polio and as part of my work on the history of post-war vaccination. The slides to this presentation are here.

4-11-2014 : Interrogating the archived UK web: Historians and Social Scientists Research Experiences – As part of my research on internet archives, I gave a series of talks on the progress of the project and the methodological challenges it posed. This is the only recorded version, and forms part of a panel with Richard Deswarte (UEA) and Peter Webster (independent researcher). There is video, but the slides are available here.

19-9-2014 : The Civilian Disabled: War and its role in the disability rights movement – For the centenary of the First World War, the Centre for History in Public Health gave a number of talks in conjunction with the LSHTM Archives. I gave one on the ways in which war drove changes in disability legislation and policy. The audio is on this site, as are the slides.

30-12-2012 : Disability and Voluntarism in British Policy Making – The VAHS record their seminar papers which are given on selected Monday evenings during the academic year at the Institute of Historical Research, London. This paper was given during the third year of my PhD. The Powerpoint slides for the presentation are available here.


Historyish Podcast – Over 2011/12 I made a series of podcasts with Harriet Palfreyman, Martin Moore, Linda Briggs and others. Each episode puts the historical events of the week of recording into context before profiling an important historian or historical figure. The quality of the content (and recording) is definitely better in the later episodes. As of August 2012 the series is “postponed” rather than cancelled.

The Historyish podcast team. (Left to right: Martin Moore, me, Dr. Harriet Palfreyman and Linda Briggs).

Seminar/Conference Papers

Most of these aren’t available on the internet, but I have made the slides available here. As always, please contact me if you would like to discuss.


April 2017: Stories from the past: How the MMR and pertussis crises were used by British Public health – Congrès de la Société française d’histoire des sciences et des techniques, University of Strasbourg

As part of an international panel on vaccination policy and practice in Europe, I presented my work on public health’s response to the MMR and the DTP crises.


July 2016 : “She might want to be a nurse or an air hostess”: Communicating with the Public about Smallpox Vaccination in Post-War Britain – Society for the Social History of Medicine Conference, University of Kent

This paper was part of a panel session with other members of the Placing the Public in Public Health project at LSHTM. It used some of the material from the January 2016 paper at the University of Birmingham, but focused more on the use of posters and other campaigns to communicate with the public.

January 2016 : Why don’t we vaccinate against smallpox any more? The post-war decline of routine smallpox vaccination in Britain – University of Birmingham Medical School.

A 45-minute paper on the how the smallpox programme was dismantled in Britain, looking at how the public’s attitudes towards the disease changed in the post-war era.


November 2015 : Did the government lack ‘common sense’? Coventry’s 1957 Polio Epidemic – Centre for History in Public Health Seminar, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

This paper examined the 1957 polio epidemic in Coventry and its place within a much larger national crisis in the polio vaccination programme at the time. The audio to this is available here.

A shorter version was given at a Vaccination Symposium organised at LSTHM, also in November 2015. This also included more material on the aftermath of the epidemic.

September 2015 : Payments’ not ‘Compensation’: The Collective and Individual Costs of the British Pertussis Vaccine Scare, c. 1974-1980 – European Association for the History of Medicine and Health Annual Conference, University of Cologne

A paper built on research from my PhD thesis and Placing the Public. The material also formed part of a 2016 article for Social History of Medicine. This paper focused on the ways in which “compensation” was framed in the crisis. Meanwhile…

July 2015 : Who decides how ‘safe’ is ‘safe’? The pertussis vaccine scare and the Vaccine Damage Payments Act 1979 – Modern British Studies Conference, University of Birmingham

… this paper analysed the concepts of “safety” and “risk” with regard to vaccinations in the 1970s.

June 2015 : Naïve researchers do bad history – Lessons from failure with the UK web archive – Web Archives as Scholarly Sources: Issues, Practices and Perspectives, University of Aarhus.

Various versions of my work on internet archives were given as the research progressed. This one in Denmark represents the culmination in that work. A previous version is available as part of a panel seminar given in November 2014 at the Institute of Historical Research.


November 2014 – The Civilian Disabled: War and its role in the disability rights movement

For the centenary of the First World War, the Centre for History in Public Health gave a number of talks in conjunction with the LSHTM Archives. I gave one on the ways in which war drove changes in disability legislation and policy.


November 2013 : ‘Not the Official Survey’ – disability organisations’ attempts to inform policy makers, 1965-2013 – Social Science History Association Annual Conference, University of Chicago.

A version of a paper also given in April 2013 at the Voluntary Action History Society Conference at the University of Huddersfield, where it won the New Researchers’ Prize. It focuses on how voluntary organisations used various forms of “evidence” to further their political campaigns for reform of government policy.


September 2012 : Working in Parliament – Centre for History in Public Health, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

A short paper given to the history group at my university on the work done at the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology. Outlines what historians can learn from current policy and what policy makers can learn from history.

April 2012 : Disability and Voluntarism, 1965-95 – An effective force in policy making? – Social History Society Conference, University of Brighton

A 20-minute paper given at the Social History Society conference. This version of the talk focused more on examples from primary sources.

February 2012 : 50 years of defining disability – Social Security 1965 – 2015 – Royal Holloway University of London

A 20-minute paper given to the post-graduate seminar series at RHUL. This was the result partly of my PhD research and partly of work I did during my fellowship at the Houses of Parliament. It traces the history of disability benefits from their introduction in the 1970s through to the welfare reforms of the coalition government.


December 2011 : Disability and Voluntarism, 1965-95 – An effective force in policy making? – Voluntary Action History Society, Institute of Historical Research

Various version of this paper have been given, varying in length. There is an audio version of the seminar in its longest version (45 minutes) which I gave at the VAHS. A shorter version was given at the University of Manchester in January 2012.