Dr Rebecca Williams

Rebecca Williams joined the Department of History at Exeter as a Lecturer in Medical History in September 2014. Her main research interests are in the history of health and medicine, and the history of development, particularly issues relating to reproduction in modern South Asia.

Before joining Exeter, Rebecca completed a PhD at the University of Warwick in 2014, and held an Early Career Fellowship at the Institute of Advanced Studies, University of Warwick, in 2013-14. Rebecca is currently working on a book manuscript based on her doctoral research, which focuses on the establishment of population control in 1950s India. Through the story of the Khanna Study, a well-known population experiment conducted in 1950s Punjab, the book investigates why India was so central to international strategies of population control, and why population control was important to the newly-independent Government of India.

Rebecca’s current project, called ‘Population Control and the Emergency in India: The Shah Commission Regained’, focuses on the large number of sterilizations conducted in India during the ‘Emergency’ of 1975-77. Rebecca was granted an Academy of Medical Sciences ‘Springboard – Health of the Public 2040’ award in 2017 in support of this project, which aims to investigate this important event in modern Indian history, and to explore the ways in which such historical case studies can inform contemporary family planning policy and practice.