Centre for Culture and the Arts

Forged by Fire: Burns injury and identity in Britain, c.1800-2000

‘Forged by Fire: Burns Injury and Identity in Britain, c.1800-2000’ is a four-year AHRC-funded project, which started in September 2016, bringing together urban and medical historians to research the relationship between fire, burns injuries and social identity in Britain.

Forged by Fire: Burns injury and identity in Britain, c.1800-2000

The challenge

What are the effects of burns and scalds on individual and collective identity in a variety of arenas, including the home, workplace and outside, and on various social groups, ranging from young children to the elderly?

The Approach 

Our three case study cities are Birmingham, Glasgow and London. We are investigating iconic fatal fires as well as smaller, everyday burning incidents. The project examines the history of burns and fire prevention and protection, which involves researching emergency services and burns treatment, as well as historic prevention campaigns.

Shane Ewen filming on location at Glasgow City Chambers for the Long View BBC Radio 4, with Jonathan Friedland, 2017.
Three members of the project team visiting the West Vancouver Fire Museum during the Canadian Society for the History of Medicine Conference in 2019.
Forge by Fire team on set
Forged by fire team in a jeep

The Impact 

Through our partnerships with burns charities and fire and rescue services, the team have raised historical awareness of burns injuries in a variety of domains, notably the home.

Through school workshops we have received pledges from students to test their smoke alarms at home and identify escape routes in the event of a domestic fire. Through our policy talks and papers, we have convinced civil servants and senior fire advisers of the merits of taking a historical approach towards addressing the urgent fire problems of today, including high-rise fire safety and the use of sprinklers.

Research outputs

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