Before joining Queen Mary University of London, Richard gained a BA in History and History of Ideas with first class honours from Goldsmiths, University of London during which time he won two Reverend Peter Galloway Awards for Academic Excellence. After this, he attended the University of Cambridge to read for an MPhil in early modern history, focusing particularly on aversion in medicine in 17th-century England. He is currently a Wellcome Trust-funded doctoral candidate in the medical humanities.
Richard’s interest in the effect of aversive emotions began as an undergraduate when he worked on the role disgust might have played in the early modern witch crazes. By combining cultural history with the history of ideas, he became particularly interested in two aspects; the interface between language and psychology in cultural and intellectual understandings of emotions, and whether or not disgust was, as suggested by psychologists such as Paul Ekman, universal, transcultural, and transhistorical. In researching his MPhil dissertation, the answer to the second of these questions became a resounding ‘no’, particularly in the area of medicine, where a passion known at the time as ‘aversion’ appeared to play a prominent role.
For Richard’s thesis – ‘Understanding the Opposites of Desire: The Prehistory of Disgust, c.1600-c.1760’ – he is attempting to work out how people tried to make varying sense of aversions as being ‘the opposite of desire’ across a time of huge intellectual, political, religious, social, and cultural change, finally resulting in something akin to the modern notion of ‘disgust’.