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Department of History and Philosophy of Science


Wellcome Trust Postdoctoral Fellow

Dr Leah Astbury is a Wellcome Trust Postdoctoral Fellow at the Department of History and Philosophy of Science and a Junior Research Fellow at Darwin College. She joined the Department in 2012 as a PhD student as part of the Generation to Reproduction project. Her thesis, 'Breeding Women and Lusty Infants in Seventeenth-Century England', was awarded in 2016 and examined the experience of pregnancy, childbirth and afterbirth care. Since, she has held fellowships from the Society for Renaissance Studies, The Oxford Research Centre for the Humanities (TORCH) and was the 2017–18 Molina Fellow in History of Medicine and the Allied Sciences at the Huntington Library, San Marino.

Her current project examines marriage, health and compatibility in early modern England.

Leah is Library Fellow at Darwin College.

Leah is interested in supervising Part II, Part III and MPhil essays and dissertations on early modern medicine, health, childbirth, family and animals.

Twitter: @leahastbury


Research interests

Early modern medicine; history of reproduction; history of the body; domestic medicine; the family; gender; animal studies; public engagement



'When a Woman Hates Her Husband: Love, Sex and Fruitful Marriages in Early Modern England', Gender & History, Vol. 32, No. 3 (2020), 523-541.

With Elaine Leong, 'Medical Knowledge and Practice' in Amanda Capern (ed.), The Routledge History of Women in Early Modern Europe (Routledge, 2019), pp. 181–198.

'Bad Marriages', 'Can beget no child' and 'Childbirth and after', Lauren Kassell, Michael Hawkins, John Young, Joanne Edge, Janet Yvonne Martin-Portugues, and Natalie Kaoukji (eds.), The Casebooks of Simon Forman and Richard Napier, 1596–1634: A Digital Edition (2019).

'Being Well, Looking Ill: Childbirth and the Return to Health in Seventeenth-Century England', Social History of Medicine 30/1 (2017), 500–519.

'"Ordering the Infant": Caring for Newborns in Seventeenth-Century England', in Sandra Cavallo and Tessa Storey (eds.), Conserving Health in Early Modern Culture. Bodies and Environments in Italy and England (Manchester University Press, 2017).


Research activities

With Dr Carolin Schmitz, Re-examining the Medical Encounter in the Early Modern World, 1450–1750 Seminar Series, 31 March–12 May 2021.


Public engagement


'Fertility in the early modern household', The Recipes Project, 2019.

'Should women breastfeed each other's babies?', Huffington Post UK, 2016.

'Bawling babies and their baths in early modern England', Wellcome Library Blog, 2016.

'Buttering your baby: 17th century child-rearing tips revealed', featured in BBC History Magazine, June 2016.

'Should we be having babies at 20? Lessons from the past', Huffington Post UK, 2015.

'Much ado about babies', University of Cambridge Research, July 2013.


With Carolin Schmitz and Annie Thwaite, 'How should we deliver babies?', debate at the Cambridge Festival of Ideas, 21 October 2019, Pembroke College, Cambridge.

With Carolin Schmitz and Lauren Kassell, 'Does marriage make us healthier?', debate at Cambridge Festival of Ideas, 17 October 2018, Pembroke College, Cambridge.

BBC Cambridgeshire radio interview with Chris Mann about marriage and health in the past, 26 September 2018.

With Lauren Kassell, 'Should women breastfeed each other's babies?', Cambridge Festival of Ideas, 26 October 2016, Pembroke College, Cambridge.

With the artist Emma Smith, 'In Sickness and in Health: Recipes for Relationships', February to March 2016, as part of an AHRC Cultural Engagement Fellowship.

With Lauren Kassell, 'Should we be having babies at 20?', debate at Cambridge Festival of Ideas, 21 October 2015, Pembroke College, Cambridge.

With Lauren Kassell, 'Is menstruation healthy?', debate at Cambridge Festival of Ideas, 23 October 2014, Pembroke College, Cambridge.