+44 (0)113 34 33183
Summary: Professor of Social History
Location: Michael Sadler Building, 3.09
Teaching Commitments: HIST1055 Historiography & Historical Skills; HIST2121 Fraternity, Skill & the Politics of Labour, 1660-1870; HIST3300 Chartism; HIST3470 Memories
I have two current research projects. I am beginning work on a full-length biography of Sir Francis Burdett (1770-1844). A critical study of his life and career has long been wanting. Burdett defies easy categorisation: an MP continuously from 1796 to 1844, contemporary descriptions of him ranged from an implicit follower of Robespierre to the greatest gentleman I ever knew (Disraelis assessment). E.P. Thompson asserted that the story of nineteenth-century radicalism commenced with him. Yet Burdett ended his days a shire Tory, his innate Toryism allegedly liberated by the Conservative Partys regeneration under Peel. My aim is to investigate the whole of his long and remarkable career, and reconcile its ostensible paradoxes.
I am also actively researching mid-Victorian popular self-improvement, particularly through the work of Robert Kemp Philp. A former Chartist, Philp was one of the eras most prolific authors of self-help books. However, as they were mostly published anonymously, his significance has not been fully appreciated. An article seeking to redress this is forthcoming in English Historical Review.
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 published in 2010.
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), republished in 2012.
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. For an extended review see the Reviews in History website. Recently I published a collection of essays, The Chartists: Perspectives and Legacies (Merlin Press, 2015).
Prior to that I returned to the latter part of the long eighteenth century to investigate political disorder and social stability during 1820 (a year of European revolution) for a book, 1820: disorder and stability in the United Kingdom (Manchester UP, 2013). A paperback edition was issued in 2015.