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Summary: Radical and labour movements in Britain (late 18th & 19th century); Agrarianism and land reform (late 18th to 20th century); The history of environmentalism.
Teaching Commitments: I am on research leave during the 2014-15 academic year.
I graduated in History from the University of York in 1978, and then from Sussex University (MA in Modern European Social History, 1979, and DPhil, 1984). I joined the University of Leeds in 1983, working at an adult education centre the University ran in Middlesbrough. In 1994 I transferred to the University's main campus, but continued to specialise in adult education as a member of the School of Continuing Education (where, among other things, I was the Chair, 2002-05).
I joined the School of History in 2005. It is a great place for a specialist in British social, and local and regional, history. The Brotherton Library is one of the very best in the UK for these fields, and elsewhere in Leeds and Yorkshire there are many major resources for historical research.
I am a fellow of the Royal Historical Society.
My longest-established research interest is in radical agrarianism (i.e. ideas about the distribution of landed property and proposals for its redistribution) in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Britain. I continue occasionally to publish in this field but my main interests are now in the labour movement and radical politics generally during the same period. I am particularly interested in protest movements and parliamentary reform, especially Chartist movement. Adjunct interests are in the history of environmentalism in Britain, and Yorkshire local and regional history.
'Paine, Spence, Chartism and "The Real Rights of Man"', in Thomas Spence: The Poor Man's Revolutionary. Editors: Bonnett, A, Armstrong, K. (Breviary, 2014)
Le chartisme. Aux origines du mouvement ouvrier britannique (1838-1858) Paris: Publications de la Sorbonne, 2013, 470pp - a French translation of Chartism: A New History (2007)
1820: disorder and stability in the United Kingdom ( Manchester University Press, 2013)
‘The “local state” in Regency Britain’, The Local Historian 43:4 (October 2013)
'Le tournant biographique de l’histoire ouvrière et sociale', Matériaux pour l'histoire de notre temps 104-5 (2012)
'Exporting the Owenite Utopia: Thomas Powell and the Tropical Emigration Society', in Robert Owen and His Legacy. Editors: Williams C, Thompson N. (University of Wales Press, 2011)
'Twentieth-century labour histories', in New Directions in Local History since Hoskins. Editors: Dyer C, Hopper A, Lord E, Tringham N. (University of Hertfordshire Press, 2011)
'Rethinking Welsh Chartism’, Llafur: journal of Welsh people's history 10:3 (2011)
'The Chartist movement and 1848', in John Saville: Commitment and History: Themes from the Life and Work of a Socialist Historian. Editors: Howell, Kirby, Morgan. (Lawrence & Wishart, 2010)
'"Resolved in defiance of fool and of knave"?: Chartism, children and conflict', in Conflict and Difference in Nineteenth-Century Literature. Editors: Birch D, Llewellyn M. (Palgrave, 2010)
[jointly with Joan Allen], 'Great Britain, 1750-1900', in Histories of Labour: National and Transnational Perspectives. Editors: Allen J, Campbell A, McIlroy J. (Merlin Press, 2010)
'Unemployment without protest: the ironstone mining communities of East Cleveland in the inter-war period', in Unemployment and Protest: New Perspectives on Two Centuries of Contention. Editors: Reiss M, Perry M. (OUP 2010)
Current Research Project
Self improvement, popular reform and the public good, c. 1848-1884
Popular self-improvement was integral to the increasing class conciliation that underpinned parliamentary reform from 1867. So too was widening participation in local electoral politics. Both were fields where the residual influence of Chartism was paramount. This project will therefore appraise currents of reform in relation to Chartism’s democratisation of culture. This process crucially included the emergence of a popular market for non-fiction (particularly among women) which powerfully shaped ideas about gender roles, public good and private virtue. This project will offer a significant re-evaluation of factors shaping politics, culture and class relations in mid-Victorian Britain, centred upon the 1867 Reform Act.
Other forthcoming publications include several essays (on popular politics and the theatre in 1820, on William Cobbett and Chartism, and on the historians Asa Briggs and Eric Hobsbawm) and an article for Northern History ('Caroline fever, Robert Chaloner and the North Riding Whigs'). A collection of essays, The Chartists: Perspectives and Legacies, will be published by Merlin Press in 2015.
My first book, The People's Farm: English Radical Agrarianism, 1775-1840 (Oxford UP, 1988) is a study of the political thought and influence of the agrarian reformer Thomas Spence (1750-1814). An updated paperback edition of this book was recently issued by Breviary.
Believing agrarianism to be significant means that I am sceptical about conventional approaches to labour history that see the labour movement mainly as part of a narrative of modernisation, through its response to 'the industrial revolution'. Ideas about land reform were a vital part of the British labour movement well into the twentieth century. Similarly, the mentality of early British trade unions owed a great deal to forms of workers' association and ideas about skill that significantly pre-dated the eighteenth century. This was one of the arguments of my second book, Early Trade Unionism: Fraternity, Skill and the Politics of Labour (Ashgate, 2000), also recently republished by Breviary.
My best known book is Chartism: A New History (Manchester UP, 2007), a French translation of which was published in 2013. The Chartist movement has long been, and remains, one of my central interests. See also http://www.history.ac.uk/reviews/review/699.
Most recently I have returned to the latter part of the ‘long eighteenth century’ to investigate political disorder and social stability during 1820 (a year of European revolution) in a new book, 1820: disorder and stability in the United Kingdom (Manchester UP, 2013).
- Past Chair of the Social History Society
- Vice-President of the Society for the Study of Labour History
Member of the Editorial Board of Cultural & Social History
Member of the Editorial Board of Llafur: the Journal of Welsh People’s History
- Formerly Editor of Labour History Review
- Formerly Honorary Editor for the Cleveland & Teesside Local History Society
Member of the judging panel for the Yorkshire History Prize
I am also the archivist for the York Musical Society (http://www.yorkmusicalsociety.org.uk/), one of the oldest choral societies in England
I welcome enquiries from potential postgraduate students in appropriate areas of modern social history, especially nineteenth century popular politics; radicalism, and northern history.
Current research students
- Josie Freear - How and why did the British diet change in the twentieth century and what was the role of M&S within this? (joint supervisor with Professor Richard Whiting)
- John Shaw - Demographic change in a West Yorkshire settlement during the Nineteenth Century, based upon the analysis of Census Returns between 1840 and 1901 (joint supervisor with Professor Simon Green)
- Laura Harrison - Courtship, leisure and space in York, c. 1880-1920
Priscilla Truss - Primitive Methodism on the Yorkshire Wolds (joint supervisor with Professor Simon Green)
James Dean - The 1842 'general strike' in Yorkshire
Graham Rawson - The outdoor-poor of Leeds, 1829-1851
Nathan Bend - Foundations of radicalism in Pennine textiles communities, c. 1816-1837
Simon Clark - Power and the pint: the political influence of pub landlords in Victorian Middlesbrough c.1829 - 1900
Charlotte Thomason - Chartist autobiographers (joint supervisor with Dr Richard Salmon, School of English)
Past research students
- David Bentley: Capital Punishment in Northern England 1750-1870 (MA by research, 2008).
- Mike Brennan - Civic and municipal leadership: a study of three northern towns, 1837-67 (PhD, 2013)
- Angharad Houlden - Education as a site of tension between parents and the State, 1870-1914 (MA by Research, 2010 - jointly supervised with Professor Katrina Honeyman)
- Janette Martin - Popular Political Oratory and Itinerant lecturing in Yorkshire and the North-East in the age of Chartism (c.1837-60) (PhD, 2010 - White Rose Graduate Studentship - jointly supervised with Professors Miles Taylor [Institute of Historical Research] and Colin Divall [University of York])
- Simon Walker - ‘Sadlerian Tories’? Christianity, constitutionalism, paternalism and protectionism in the factory reform and anti-poor law movements, c. 1830-1847 (MA by Research, 2013)
Outreach / Wider Community
- The People’s Charter of 1838: the Chartist legacy for parliamentary democracy: lecture at the Houses of Parliament for the All Party Parliamentary Group on History & Archives – during 2013 I worked closely with the Group on the commemoration of Chartism within Parliament. See the House of Commons Early Day Motion on Chartism and Parliament’s on-line exhibition ; also my article ‘History matters: recognising the Chartists’, History Today 63:11 (November 2013).
‘The “local state” in Regency Britain’: The Annual Lecture of the British Association for Local History (June 2013)
- Chartism in Barnsley: Barnsley UCU Branch Annual Public Lecture (January 2013)
Talk to mark the 200th anniversary of the Luddite executions at York Castle: York's Alternative History http://yorkalternativehistory.wordpress.com/ (January 2013)
Chartism and Huddersfield: Huddersfield Local History Society http://huddersfieldhistory.wordpress.com/events-2/(December 2012)
Exhibition opening: Salem Chapel and Chartist Exhibition Centre, Nantyglo and Blaina Charter Group http://www.chartistvisitorcentre.org.uk/ (November 2012)
Keynote lecture: 5th Newport Chartist Convention, http://chartist-ancestors.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/commemorating-chartism-events-in-south.html (November 2012)
'A social perspective': The North Riding in an age of Transition (1750-1820), British Association for Local History and Northallerton & District Local History Society (September 2012)
'Foul and malignant conspiracy': Northallerton & District Local History Society (May 2012)
Cleveland & Teesside Local History Society (2012)
Chartism in Essex: Essex Labour History Forum (2011)
Luddism: Huddersfield Local History Society (2011)
Printing and publishing in 1820: York Bibliographical Society (2011)
- 'Revising Chartism', Historical Association Nottingham branch (2011)
- 'Our brothers in the holy cause of freedom: British radical reactions to the Canadian Rebellions of 1837-8. Ian Dyck Memorial Lecture at Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, Canada (2010)
I often contribute to broadcasts on aspects of Chartism and other radical movements, including recently
- 'The Real Mill with Tony Robinson' for More4 (2014)
- ITV1’s 2013 series Britain’s Secret Houses on the Chartist Land Plan
- BBC Radio 4 broadcasts, on William Cuffay (2010), Guerilla Gardeners (2010), the Diggers (2014) and Thomas Spence (2014)
- Australian Broadcasting Company’s Isle of Denial (2011) on William Cuffay. Cuffay was a London trade unionist and Chartist, of West Indian slave descent, who was transported to Australia in 1849.