Dr Elsa Richardson

Dr Elsa Richardson is a cultural historian of health, medicine and psychology, with a particular interest in the history of vegetarianism and the science of nutrition.

Since being named one of BBC Radio 3’s New Generation Thinkers in 2018, her broadcast work has included discussion and festival appearances, essays and interviews. She has contributed to the public programming of institutions like the Wellcome Collection and has collaborated on a number of curatorial projects.

Having completed her PhD with the Centre for the History of Emotions at Queen Mary University of London, Elsa is now a Chancellor’s Fellow in the History of Health and Wellbeing at the University of Strathclyde.

BBC Radio 3 New Generation Thinker 2018

Links & Credits

How our private emotions are socially constructed, explained by an expert

Evening Standard

Go with your gut: All about the gut-brain connection

The Colin McEnroe Show, Connecticut Public Radio

Gut instinct

Free Thinking, BBC Radio 4


Rumbles: A Curious History of the Gut

Elsa Richardson

Rumbles Elsa Richardson front cover

A Financial Times most anticipated read for 2024

Have you ever had a gut feeling? Found something hard to stomach? Have you gone belly up under pressure? Did you pull yourself together and show some guts?

The growls and gurgles of our digestive system are a constant reminder of the physical work it does to keep our bodies running. But throughout history, humans have puzzled over how this rowdy organ might influence us in other ways, from our emotional states and mental well-being to the decisions we make and even our sense of self.

Through Ancient Greece and Victorian England, eighteenth-century France and contemporary America, cultural historian Elsa Richardson leads us on a lively tour of all the ways we’ve tried to make sense of this endlessly fascinating (and sometimes embarrassing) body part. From etiquette guides and diet advice to medieval alchemy and microbiology, she reveals that the gut-brain connection may be a modern obsession, but the question of whether we are ruled by our stomachs is as old as humanity itself.

‘A fascinating, erudite and entertaining journey through the gut-brain connection’

— Tiffany Watt Smith, author of The Book of Human Emotions

‘A thrilling and surprising journey into the science and culture of an organ that refuses to be civilised’

— Paul Carddock, author of Spare Parts

‘An extremely entertaining romp through the history of the gut and all its literary, biomedical, metaphorical, and political permutations… Rumbles will persuade you that to listen to the ‘rumbles’ of our gut is to immerse ourselves in an abiding historical legacy, for better or for worse’

— Professor Jean Walton, author of Dissident Gut