Erin Spinney

Assistant Professor

History and Politics, Department of

Hazen Hall 343

Saint John
1 506 638 2452

Erin Spinney is an Assistant Professor at the University of New Brunswick in Saint John. She teaches British and European History with a focus on the history of medicine, environmental history, gender, and imperialism. She also specializes in teaching the history of Canadian nursing and healthcare to health sciences students, and teaches HEAL 1001, the foundation course in the Bachelor of Health program.

Dr. Spinney received her BA (Hons) in History (2010) and her MA in History (2011) from the University of New Brunswick, Fredericton. Her PhD was awarded by the University of Saskatchewan in 2018. Her PhD dissertation, “Naval and Military Nursing c. 1763-1830,” which examines the work of women nurses in the Royal Navy and British Army, won the American Association for the History of Nursing (AAHN) Teresa Christy Research Award. From 2018-2019, Dr. Spinney held an AMS Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Wellcome Unit for the History of Medicine (now called the Centre for the History of Science, Medicine, and Technology) at the University of Oxford. Before coming to Saint John she worked as an Assistant Professor (term) in the History Department at Mount Allison University (2019-2020), and as a sessional lecturer in the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Lethbridge where she taught online from 2020-2021.

She is involved in the activities of several associations and societies. Dr. Spinney is currently a board member of the Canadian Association for the History of Nursing, the Canadian Society for the History of Medicine, and the American Association for the History of Nursing. She is also the Assistant Editor for the Nursing History Review, the journal of the AAHN.

Areas of supervision

Dr. Spinney would be happy to discuss supervising history honours and MA theses, and PhD dissertations, in the following areas:

  • History of Nursing
  • History of Medicine
  • Environmental History
  • Early Modern Britain
  • Social History of Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Royal Navy
  • Women’s Labour in the British Atlantic World

Bachelor of Health Honours:

  • Society and Health majors

Research projects

Carers for the Sick and Hurt: British Naval Nursing 1763-1830: Book manuscript project. This book examines the work of women nurses in naval hospitals and on-board hospital ships from the mid-eighteenth century until the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars in the early nineteenth century. It shows that nurses were crucial to providing medical care for sick and wounded sailors through their carework, ward management, and the creation of a healthy healing environment.

Co-Applicant on SSHRC-funded Partnership Development Grant Ecologies, knowledge, and power in the Gulf of St. Lawrence region c. 1500-present. "Ecologies, Knowledge, and Power" focuses on the Gulf as a region in its own right rather than as a space that is peripheral to other regions. The project's objectives include new scholarship, local workshops, and community outreach initiatives.

Nursing’s Ideals: Early Baccalaureate Nursing Education in New Brunswick research project examining the role of international funding, pedagogy, and the nursing profession in the UNB School (later Faculty) of Nursing 1959-1970.

Teaching Endometriosis: Medical Education and Gendered Perceptions of Pain research project examining how medical textbooks describe endometriosis and women’s pain from the mid-twentieth century to the present. How these textbooks contribute to women’s pelvic pain being ignored by medical professionals due to gendered assumptions of pain.

Invited talks

Dr. Spinney has given invited talks for the Royal College of Nursing, the University of Exeter, Birkbeck, University of Oxford, and the University of Virginia. Given the virtual nature of events during the Covid-19 pandemic some of these talks are available online:


Spinney, Erin. “’The Hardships he labours under for want of an Allowance of Fuel in that severe Climate’: Environment and Military and Naval Hospitals in Canada 1756-1814.” Papers in Canadian History and Environment no. 5 (March 2024): 1-45.

Spinney, Erin. “’Received into the Wards as Patients’: A Case Study of Sick and Injured Nurses at Haslar Naval Hospital, 1814-1815.” UK Association for the History of Nursing Bulletin 11 (2023).

Spinney, Erin. “Women’s Work: Nurses, Orderlies, and the Gendered Division of Care in Revolutionary and Napoleonic Era British Army Hospitals.” Nursing History Review 31 (2023): 127-149.

Spinney, Erin. “Ship Plans Primary Source Case Study.” In Research Methods and Primary Sources by Adam Matthew Digital. 2021.

Spinney, Erin. “Environment.” In A Cultural History of Medicine: In the Enlightenment, edited by Lisa Smith, 13-28. London and New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2021.

Spinney, Erin. "Servants to the hospital and the state: nurses in Plymouth and Haslar Naval Hospitals, 1775-1815." Journal for Maritime Research 20(1) (2018): 1-17.

Viktor Pál, Roberta Biasillo, Elena Kochetkova, Tayler Meredith, Simone Schleper, and Erin Spinney. “Emerging Scholars in the Age of Uncertainty: Goals and Plans of ESEH Next Generation Action Team in 2018-19. Environment and History 24 (2018): 579-581.

Web publications

Erin Spinney. “Where have all the books gone? Researching and Writing During Covid-19?” Active History (Oct. 26, 2021).

Erin Spinney. “Finding the Black Nurses of the Royal Navy.” Royal College of Nursing Bulletin. (Oct. 4, 2021).

Erin Spinney. “Black Before Florence: Black Nurses, Enslaved Labor, and the British Royal Navy, 1790-1820.” Nursing Clio (17 Dec. 2020). Peer reviewed.

Erin Spinney. “Ventilation, Ideas of Health, and 18th-Century British Military and Naval Hospitals.” Environmental History Now (4 Dec. 2020).

Erin Spinney. “Forgotten Carers: How digital methodology illuminates female nursing in 18th century British Naval Hospitals.” Unwritten Histories (14 August 2018).

Erin Spinney. “Proper Nurses: Regulating Nursing Care in the Royal Navy and the British Army in the 18th Century.” Nursing Clio (6 Sept. 2017). Peer reviewed.



  • Hist 1701: The Medical Experience
  • Hist 2701: Canadian Healthcare
  • Hist 3674: History of Nursing in Canada
  • Hist 3854: Women and War
  • Hist 3951: Digital History
  • Hist 3555: The Atlantic World
  • HEAL 1001: Current Issues and Future Trends in Health

Comprehensive fields:

  • Atlantic World
  • History of Medicine
  • Environmental History