Professor Patience Schell

Professor Patience Schell

Chair in Hispanic Studies

Professor Patience Schell
Professor Patience Schell

Contact Details

work +44 (0)1224 272631
The University of Aberdeen Hispanic Studies School of Language, Literature, Music and Visual Culture Taylor Building University of Aberdeen AB24 3UB


I studied history at the University of California, Berkeley before completing my DPhil in history at St Antony’s College, Oxford University.  I then worked at Birkbeck College, University of London and the University of Manchester before starting at the University of Aberdeen in the autumn of 2012.


Research Interests

My research has focused on two Latin American countries in two different centuries: nineteenth-century Chile and twentieth-century Mexico (publications may be found under the 'further information' tab).

In my research on Mexico, I examined how the changes brought about by the Mexican Revolution (1910-1917) were experienced at the grassroots level.  Using Church and State educational programmes in Mexico City as my initial focus, I argued that students, both children and working adults, and teachers used the wide-ranging opportunities that the post-revolutionary era afforded them for their own ends – ends that ranged from skills training for upward mobility to enrolling in night school in order to find romance – amid the increasing tension between Church and State, both providers of free education.  This research produced a single-authored monograph (Arizona, 2003) and two co-edited volumes, The Women’s Revolution in Mexico (Rowman and Littlefield, 2007) and New Approaches to Resistance in Brazil and Mexico (Duke, 2012).

My Chilean research focuses on the history of science, museums and friendship in the nineteenth-century.  In The Sociable Sciences (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013) I argue that friendships has played a crucial role in the practice of the natural sciences; the transnational networks that this natural science community forged in and around Chile provided the mechanism through which a highly collaborative and sociable work dynamic emerged, in a period before naturalists had significant governmental or institutional support.Cover of The Sociable Sciences: Darwin and His Contemporaries in Chile

I am happy to supervise postgraduate research on topics concerned with the cultural and social history of Latin America, especially in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Of particular interest to me are topics related to themes of gender, including women’s history and masculinity; history of science, eugenics, exploration and museums; history of education (widely understood); and the history of friendship and other ties that bind.

Current Research

My current research builds on The Sociable Sciences to address the means through which natural history knowledge was created, adapted and transmitted in nineteenth-century Chile thanks to collaboration between career-minded naturalists, for whom Chile’s ‘unexplored’ status proved irresistible, and non-naturalist supporters, for whom fostering the natural sciences aided national progress. I am interested in the values of natural history work, as well as the means of dissemination of these values.

I am also working on a project on the Manual de urbanidad (1853) by Venezuelan Manuel Antonio Carreño.  Despite its venerable age, this etiquette guide remains relevant to Spanish American popular culture through updated editions, YouTube parodies and chatshow discussions. The prevalance of Carreño’s Manual, in popular culture and new versions, is because, in the Spanish-speaking world, this text was a nineteenth-century publishing and reading phenomenon. This guide was read by individuals, adopted by school systems and became the yardstick of appropriate social intercourse. Despite its impact, there is little scholarly research on the guide's reception, adoption and adaptation in Spanish America since its publication. British Academy and Santander funding have allowed me to begin research on this book in Mexico and Chile, as the starting point for a project about the text in Spanish America.

Finally, I am continuing my work on the links between Aberdeen, the university, the city and the shire, and Latin American using the university's collections. At the moment, my research focuses on two figures. James Trail was the university's professor of botany, from 1876, but previously spend 18 months as part of an Amazonian survey. I am investigating his time in the Amazon and his life.  I am also studying the life of John McPherson, an Aberdeen medical graduate, who emigrated to Mexico around 1903 and spend most of his life there, working as a doctor for the Compañía Mexicana de Petróleo El Águila (Mexican Eagle Petroleum Corporation) and later working privately. Both Trail and McPherson were donors to the university museums collections.

Research Grants

I have received funding from the British Academy, the AHRC and the Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland.


Teaching Responsibilities

(Level 1)

  • Encountering the Other in Iberia and the Americas

(Level 2)

  • Latin America: Texts and Contexts

(Honours courses)

  • Revolutionary Creativity and American Inspiration
  • Ploughing the Sea: Spain and Spain America, 1750-1990
  • Women Making History: Mexico and Chile in the Twentieth Century
  • Chronicles of Spanish America

Teaching Awards:

  • Principal’s Teaching Excellence Award, runner up, 2020
  • Undergraduate Nominee, Excellence in Teaching Award, 2016-2017
Further Info

External Responsibilities


Journal of Latin American Studies, co-editor

Society for Latin American Studies, President


External Examiner, University of Kent, Department of Hispanic Studies, Taught MA programmes

External Examiner, University of Lancaster, Department of European Languages and Cultures, BA and MA programmes (Spanish)

External Examiner, Institute for the Study of the Americas, MA programmes

Admin Responsibilities

School Impact lead; Spanish and Latin American Studies Erasmus Tutor

Selected Publications


The Sociable Sciences: Darwin and His Contemporaries in Chile (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013). 

Church and State Education in Revolutionary Mexico City. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2003.

Edited volumes

Understanding Field Science Institutions. Volume co-edited with Helena Ekerholm, Karl Grandin and Christer Nordlund. Science History Publications, in press.

New Approaches to Resistance in Brazil and Mexico. Volume co-edited with John Gledhill. Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2012.

The Women's Revolution in Mexico, 1910-1953. Volume co-edited with Stephanie Mitchell. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2007.


Articles, Book Chapters and REFERENCE WORK

‘Natural History, Exploration and Landscape in Nineteenth-Century Chile’. In Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Latin American History, Emily Wakild (ed.), Oxford University Press, forthcoming.

‘Natural History Values and Meanings in Nineteenth-Century Chile’. Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London, Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London, 73 (2019), doi 10.1098/rsnr.2017.0051.

‘James Trail and Nineteenth-Century Amazonian Field Science’. In Understanding Field Science Institutions, Helena Ekerholm, Karl Grandin, Christer Nordlund and Patience Schell (eds.). Sagamore Beach, MD: Science History Publications/USA, 2017.

‘El Cultivo de una cultura chilena de historia natural, siglo XIX’. In La movilidad del saber en América Latina: Objetos, prácticas e instituciones (siglos XVIII al XX), Carlos Sanhueza (ed.). Santiago: Editorial Universitaria, 2018.

‘Eugenics in the Americas’. In International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences, 2nd edition, Vol 8, James D. Wright (editor-in-chief). Oxford: Elsevier, 2015.

'Idols, Altars, Slippers, and Stockings: Heritage Debates and Displays in Nineteenth-Century Chile',
Past & Present 226:1 (2015): 326-348. doi: 10.1093/pastj/gtu029

'Gender, Resistance and Mexico’s Church-State Conflict'. In New Approaches to Resistance in Brazil and Mexico, John Gledhill and Patience A. Schell (eds.). Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2012.

'Eugenics Policy and Practice in Cuba, Puerto Rico and Mexico'. In The Oxford Handbook of the History of Eugenics, Alison Bashford and Philippa Levine (eds.). Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2010. (Volume Awarded the 2011 Cantemir Prize. Paperback edition, 2012)

'Beauty and Bounty in Che's Chile'. In Che's Travels: The Making of a Revolutionary in 1950s Latin America, Paulo Drinot (ed.). Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2010.Che's Travels

 'Museos, exposiciones y la muestra de lo chileno en el siglo XIX'. In Nación y nacionalismo en Chile. Siglo XIX, Gabriel Cid Rodríguez and Alejandro San Francisco (eds.). Santiago de Chile: Centro de Estudios Bicentenario, 2009. Nacion y nacionalismo en Chile

'Social Catholicism, Modern Consumption and the Culture Wars in Postrevolutionary Mexico City', History Compass 5 (July 2007).

'Gender and Anxiety at the Gabriela Mistral Vocational School, in Revolutionary Mexico City'. In Sex in Revolution: Gender, Politics, and Power in Modern Mexico, Jocelyn Olcott, Mary Kay Vaughan and Gabriela Cano (eds.). Durham: Duke University Press, 2006. (Volume translated as Género, poder y política en el México posrevolucionario. México, D.F.: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 2010).Sex in revolution

'Las mujeres del catolicismo social, 1912-1926'. In Catolicismo social en México, tomo II, Las instituciones del catolicismo social, Manuel Ceballos Ramírez and Alejandro Garza Rangel (eds.). Monterrey, México: La Academia de Investigación Humanística, 2005.

'Entre la libertad y el control: Política educativa mexicana y reacciones desde el Porfiriato hasta la Revolución'.  In Instituciones y formas de control social en América Latina, 1880-1940. Una revisión, Ernesto Bohoslavsky and María Silvia Di Liscia (eds.). Buenos Aires: Edulpam-Editorial de la UNGS, 2005.

'Nationalizing Children through Schools and Hygiene: Porfirian and Revolutionary Mexico City', The Americas 60:4 (April 2004): 559-87.

Public Engagement and Public Debate

Curator, ‘Sewing Resistance: Teaching through Chilean Textile Art’, Sir Duncan Rice   Library, October 2019 – November 2020. Featured in the Evening Express ( and

Co-Curator of the King's Museum (University Museums, University of Aberdeen) exhibition, 'Aberdonians in the Americas: Migrants and Adventurers from Mexico to Paraguay', 2017

Panelist at the 2015 'Festival of Politics' (Edinburgh), 'How Has Latin America Influenced the USA?', 16 August 2015

Guest on 'In Our Time', Radio 4 and BBC World Service, 'Frida Kahlo', 9 July 2015

Interviewed for 'Earthquakes, tusnamis and a naked tribe. It's Chile – and not just the Galápagos – that inspired Darwin' John Mulholland, The Observer Tech Monthly, 11 January, 2015.

Featured in 'New Year’s Resolutions  – for Others to Keep' Times Higher Education, 1 January 2015

Reviews in 'Times Higher Education’s Books of 2014', 18 December, 2014

'Mexico' in 'Around the World, A Global Eugenics Project'. This page is part of 'The Eugenics Archive: What Sorts of People Should There Be?'

'Clocking off', Times Higher Education, 7 August, 2014, No. 2,164 (available as 'Work Less, Do more, Live Better', featured in the Times Higher Education twenty most read articles of 2014)

Guest on 'Woman's Hour', Radio 4, 'Women in the Mexican Revolution', 11 February 2011

Guest on 'In Our Time', Radio 4 and BBC World Service, 'The Mexican Revolution of 1910', 20 January 2011

'The Mexican Revolution, 1910-2010: Historical and Cultural Perspectives' Symposium, the British Academy, London. Lecture, 'The Revolution and Women', 17 November 2010

Guest on BBC Radio Manchester 'Breakfast' programme, interviewed by Allan Beswick about Charles Darwin in Chile, 10 August 2010; also available through BBC America

'In Darwin's Footsteps' Exhibition, Manchester Museum. Exhibition talk, 20 January 2010

'Revolution on Paper' Exhibition, British Museum, London. Lunchtime lecture, 'Soldaderas, Modern Girls and Catholic Ladies: Mexican Women 1900–1950', 20 November 2009 'William Wilson: Life in a Botanical Community' and 'A Brief Biography of Philip Pearsall Carpenter: Shell Expert, Swimming Instructor and Social Reformer'.  Papers researched and written for the Warrington Museum and Art Gallery exhibition, 'Natural Curiosity' (2 December 2006–11 May 2007), held in collaboration with the Natural History Museum, London

PhD Topics Supervised

I am happy to supervise postgraduate research on topics concerned with the cultural and social history of Latin America, especially in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Of particular interest to me are topics related to themes of gender, including women’s history and masculinity; history of science, eugenics, exploration and museums; history of education (widely understood); and the history of friendship and other ties that bind.