Laura Harrison

Laura Harrison

PhD Student and Postgraduate Tutor

Summary: Young people, leisure, courtship and urban space in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century

My Research

Negotiating the meanings of space: leisure, courtship and the young working class of York c.1880-1920

My research seeks to explore how through their leisure and courtship activities, young working-class men and women both shaped and responded to their environment in a detailed study of York in the forty year period 1880 – 1920. 

In the neighbourhoods and public spaces of the city, young people walked out together, congregated in the streets and paraded up and down Coney Street on the ‘monkey run’. While recently published material highlights the importance of both leisure and courtship as distinctive features of youth, and the significance of both in the formation of working –class identities, my research advances our understanding to consider how through these leisure and courtship activities young wage earners challenged and changed the meaning of their environment. This exploration of the connections between space, leisure and courtship in York contributes to a wider understanding of working-class youth culture at a time when young people experienced increasing opportunities for leisure and sociability.

Supervisor: Professor Malcolm Chase

About Me

After graduating from the University of Glasgow in July 2008, I spent the summer working for the Glasgow Women’s Library ‘Find a Solution’ Project, funded by the University of Glasgow Settlement. After a competitive selection process I was required to act as a consultant and researcher for the Library, advising them on the feasibility of recording historical resources and archives on women in Scotland. I began a taught MA in History and Politics at the University of York in 2009, for which I received a distinction. My dissertation explored courtship and prostitution in late nineteenth century York, providing the starting point for my current research which I started here at the University of Leeds in 2011, after a year spent living and teaching in Thailand. 

Following the completion of my thesis in April 2015, for the 2015-16 academic year I will teach modern British History at Westminster College, Fulton, Missouri as the Robertson Visiting Professor in British History on a Fulbright scholarship. During my time at Westminster I will also prepare my first monograph based on my doctoral research. 


I currently teach on the module HIST1055 - Historiography and Historical Skills. This course is designed to introduce students to the study of history at university, including the role of historiography within the discipline and the basic academic skills required of historians. My teaching stream focuses on the proliferation of discourses about sex and sexuality in the nineteenth century, and critically examines the history of sexuality.

I also teach on the first year module HIST1300 Primary Sources for the Historian, which introduces students to the skills and critical awareness involved in interpreting and evaluating primary historical evidence. My teaching stream uses B. Seebohm Rowntree’s Poverty: A Study of Town Life (1901) to consider social investigation at the turn of the twentieth century and beyond. 

I have previously taught on HIST1210: The Modern World, 1750-2000, and acted as a mentor on HIST2500: Students as Scholars and for the undergraduate dissertation mentoring scheme.

Conference Papers


‘Regulating behaviour in the public spaces of York, c.1880-1920’, White Rose Doctoral Training Centre and Leeds Social Science Institute Seminar Series, University of Leeds, March 2014.

‘Negotiating the meanings of public space: the Coney Street ‘monkey run’ and the young working classes of York, c.1880-1920’, Social History Society Conference, University of Northumbria, April 2014.

‘“Chaff, chatter and something worse”: leisure, courtship and young working-class women in York, c.1880-1920, Gender Through the Ages: growing up and growing old, University of Nottingham, May 2014.

‘“He should have to put the whole force on duty there”: the Coney Street ‘monkey run’ and the young working classes of York, c.1890-1920’, Crime and Deviance in Twentieth Century Britain, University of Lincoln and the Institute for Historical Research, June 2014.

‘“The worst town in England”? The young working class and contested constructions of space, c.1880-1920', Politics beyond Parliament: protest and dissent in historical perspective, Teesside University Postgraduate Symposium, September 2014.


Laura Harrison, 'Creating the slum: representations of poverty in the Hungate and Walmgate districts of York, 1875-1914', Ex Historia, 7 (2015), pp.61-89.

Academic Related Activities

For 2014-15 I have been selected as one of the researchers involved in ‘Creating our future histories’, the AHRC Collaborative Skills Training Programme (Public Engagement and Partnership Building) at the Institute of Humanities and Social Science Research (IHSSR), Manchester Metropolitan University. The programme is a combination of practice-led workshops and research partnership experience regarding the collaborative excavation, representation and recording of community-based local histories. I am working with Moss Side Millennium Powerhouse on the 'Moss Side Teenager' project. More information about the project and 'Creating our future histories' can be found here. In 2015 I was also involved with the Leeds Creative Labs ‘Hepworth Edition’, working collaboratively with academics and creative technologists on a project to 'Remix the Gallery'. 


I am a postgraduate member of the Social History Society.


I have completed the following University of Leeds training courses; Starting your Research Degree; Preparing for your Transfer; Induction for Postgraduate Tutors; Digital Humanities Training for Historians and Impact and Engagement for Historians. 


2005: David Kerr Thom Endowed Prize for the best modern history student, University of Glasgow.

2015: Fulbright Scholar Award