Amelia Witt

Department of History

Research student


Thesis title: Melodrama, Missionaries and the ‘Cripple’: Writing Disability in the 19th Century British Empire




Thesis abstract:

My research will focus on how disability was understood and represented across the British Empire during the 19th century. Despite the vast historiography of Victorian Britain, Empire and the 1800’s in general, there is a significant lack of study into the lives of disabled people during this time. Second to this, there is little research which considers the contrasts between approaches to disability in 19th century Britain and in non-white, imperial colonies.

Using melodramatic Victorian literature and contemporary missionary magazines written abroad, I hope to delve deeper into how disability intersected with religion, imperialism and race. I look to understand further how the disabled body was an object,  to be utilised as both a cautionary tale and a justification of imperial ‘intervention’. 

My research is interdisciplinary: although it is based within historical study, I am also interested in examining disability through the lens of literature, sociology and biology.

  • PhD History, University of Sheffield, 2021 - present
  • MA Media Practice for Development and Social Change, University of Sussex, 2020
  • BA (Hons) History, Royal Holloway University of London, 2018