Epidemic Belfast

Stories of Belfast’s medical past from the 19th century to the present day. A Forgotten History of Disease, ‘Madness’ and Urban Life.

A podcast and website from Ulster University’s School of History that raises challenging and difficult questions about Northern Ireland’s medical history.

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Video of the Week

The Old Chemists (1965).

Charlie Witherspoon visits Maginnis’s Chemists, the oldest chemists in Derry and possibly in Ireland. Established by Sir John Maginnis who was also the Mayor of Derry, this chemist’s still makes pills and tonics the old way. He meets Mr Ferguson, the Managing Director, who shows him some wonderful old documents. 

Our video archive has been developed with Northern Ireland Screen (Digital Film Archive).

Image of the Week

Trauma during the Troubles 

In the early 1970s, American social psychologist Rona Fields visited Northern Ireland regularly, and argued that military activity was causing unprecedented levels of trauma. Her ideas were largely ignored until the post-conflict period.

One of the many items held at Linen Hall Library.

Episode of the Week


Thalidomide in Belfast

Find out more about the thalidomide tragedy, including an interview with survivor Jacqueline Fleming.


Featured In

NEW: Stories                

Explore Belfast’s medical history through images, podcast interviews, museum collections and more.

Latest News from Epidemic Belfast.

Coming Soon

  • Featured stories about Belfast’s medical history and heritage.
  • A self-directed medical history walking tour map.
  • Image galleries with our new heritage partners.
  • Weekly video updates from Belfast’s medical past.
  • A guide to medical history archives in Belfast and beyond.
  • Ships, dockyards, the Blitz, prisons, a mysterious medical chest and much, much more!

 In the meantime, check out our session at the Digital Festival for the History of Science on the origins and future developments of Epidemic Belfast:

Explore Medical Belfast

To use in Google maps, visit: tinyurl.com/2p98m8z3 

Images courtesy of National Museums NI.

Have an image to share or a place to add to the map? Contact us!

Or follow our self-directed walking tour

Epidemic Belfast Trail Map
Epidemic Belfast Trail Map

The Story Behind Epidemic Belfast.

Epidemic Belfast is a medical history learning resource developed by researchers from Ulster University’s School of History.

During the COVID pandemic, the team set out to uncover Belfast’s medical past, hoping to gain a better understanding of how disease (physical and mental) has been experienced and managed in the city since the 19th century.

Meet Your Hosts

What People Say

In my class “Great Cities: Belfast,” taught in Spring 2022 at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas, United States, my students listened to 8 different podcast episodes after listening to multiple lectures on the social and economic history of 19th century industrial Belfast. In pairs, they prepared presentations on their respective podcast episode topics and shared them with me and the class. The Epidemic Belfast Podcast was an invaluable resource for my students as they were able to learn a part of urban and economic history of which they had no prior knowledge. Additionally, many students drew connections between what they learned in the podcasts in terms of vaccinations, quarantines, and other public health measures to their own lived experiences as students during the COVID-19 Epidemic. Later in the semester, students listened to the episodes on polio and thalidomide. Hearing the actual voices of survivors made this history more real and more moving than any reading I could have assigned. I 100% will use Epidemic Belfast in my future classes and its creators and contributors should be congratulated for making such a resource available to researchers and educators around the world.

Daniella McCahey, Assistant Professor in Modern British History
Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Texas, United States

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