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Fay Bound Alberti
Professor of Modern History



BA (Wales), MA (York), DPhil (York)

Fay Bound Alberti works on the history of medicine, gender, emotion and the body. Her books include Matters of the Heart: History, Medicine and Emotion (2010), which was shortlisted for the Longman/History Today prize and This Mortal Coil: The Human Body in History and Culture (2016), which was shortlisted for the British Association for the History of Science Hughes Prize (formerly the Dingle Prize). Her book on the history of loneliness - A Biography of Loneliness: The History of an Emotion (2019) has been translated into six languages. Fay is the recipient of a UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship for her work on the emotional and cultural history of face transplants and is currently writing a book about the history of the human face.



Fay is a cultural historian with specialisms in the histories of gender, emotion, medicine, science and the body. She is interested in the ways beliefs and ideas about the body and the mind/body relationship help produce and uphold theories of gender, ethnicity and difference. Her work is interdisciplinary and uses skills from literary theory, anthropology and sociology to explore the ways meaning is produced in different contexts. Fay's work has focused on the UK and Europe (and between the seventeenth and twenty-first centuries), though her current research involves international collaboration with surgeons and ethicists in the USA, the UK, Spain, China, Finland, Poland, Italy, France and Canada. For more information about Fay and her work, see:


Fay’s book, Matters of the Heart: History, Medicine and Emotion (2010) explores the complex, evolving relationships between heart as concept and symbol and heart as organ. It traces the emergence of the modern heart as an object of science from the eighteenth century, though one that still retains earlier, humoral ideas about the heart as the centre of the soul, emotions and the self. These concepts continue in the heartfelt, heart-warming languages of feeling. 

This Mortal Coil: The Human Body in History and Culture (2016) examines the meaning of the body in all its parts. Tracing the history of particular organs - from the brain to the gut, from the breasts to the tongue - it shows how some organs might be more emotional than others, but all are permeated by beliefs about gender, ethnicity and difference.

Fay’s most recent book, A Biography of Loneliness: The History of an Emotion (2019) explores the relatively recent origins of a language of loneliness. Using a series of case studies from the seventeenth to the twenty-first century, it rejects the idea that loneliness is a universal mental affliction (and necessarily bad) and draws attention to its historical causes and ‘pinch-points’ that include socioeconomic status, gender, age, ethnicity and religious beliefs. Asserting the importance of bodily feeling, and the difference between loneliness and social isolation, A Biography of Loneliness challenges the political treatment of loneliness as a twenty-first century ‘epidemic’.

Fay's current project, AboutFace, which is funded by a UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship, traces the emotional and cultural histories of facial reconstruction and transplantation between the 1950s and the present. Building on Fay’s research on the histories of the body and cosmetic surgery, heart transplantation and bodily identity, this project brings an interdisciplinary lens to the recent emergence of face transplants as a viable form of surgical innovation. 

About Face connects to Fay’s wider interests in identity, gender, technology and ‘looks', especially in the digital age, and the links between appearance matters, emotional health and wellbeing. For more information about this work, see:



Fay is currently not teaching as she is engaged full-time on her UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship. She is interested in hearing from students wishing to pursue doctoral research into the histories of emotion, the body, gender, loneliness and medicine between the eighteenth century and the present. Comparative and international dimensions especially welcome. 

External activities


Fay is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. 

Fay has worked at a senior level for funding organisations (including Head of Philanthropy for the Arcadia Fund and Head of Medical Humanities Grants for the Wellcome Trust).

Fay is a peer reviewer for funding organisations, including the AHRC, ESRC, ERC, UKRI and the Wellcome Trust, and is a member of the University of York’s Peer Review College. She is a panel member of Portugal’s Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (FCT) the national funding agency that supports science, technology and innovation, in all scientific domains.

Contact details

Professor Fay Bound-Alberti
Vanbrugh College V/119
Department of History
University of York
YO10 5DD

Tel: Internal 6426, External (01904) 326426