Summary: Interests in the history of health, gender, the family and the life cycle in everyday life in twentieth-century Britain
Location: Parkinson Building, Room 4.31b
Teaching Commitments: In 2017/18, I'm on research leave.
Research Interests and Projects
In twentieth-century Britain, dying was both extraordinary and an 'everyday' experience. Whilst the death of a loved one was a momentous emotional event for the family involved, within the wider community death occurred regularly. This research will explore the testimonies of individuals to think about how death and dying were perceived and experienced in modern Britain, and to consider how the relationship between living and dead family members changed in this period. The aim is to explore the place of death and dying within family life, including how loved ones who had died were remembered. The project is funded by an AHRC Leadership Fellowship, and involves partnerships with Leeds City Council Public Health team through the Dying Matters Partnership, Leeds Museums & Galleries, Thackray Medical Museum, Leeds Bereavement Forum, and the artist Ellie Harrison through her Grief Series project.
This project investigates men's reaction to and relationship with their partner's pregnancy, the birth of their baby, and the early infant care. I'm exploring the rapid shift in men's involvement with childbirth, from the post-Second World War period, a time when most midwives, men and women thought that the delivery room was no place for a man, through the relatively rapid shift to including husbands in the 1970s, to the present day in which fathers are considered to be an integral part of the birth experience. This shift relates to broader changes in romantic relationships between men and women, the balance between constructions of birth as a medical or life event, and the involvement of fathers in their children's lives. Sources include oral history interviews, medical literature, social research, and popular cultural texts.
This project examined how children have been instrumentalised to represent certain political futures. It explored the use of children as 'agents' of particular notions of the future, and the effects of it on their welfare, in three contexts: in British politics and culture during and after the Second World War; the instrumentalisation of children through material culture in Britain, c.1880-1914; and the political use of child evacuees in France during the Second World War. The project involved Dr Vicky Crewe and Dr Lindsey Dodd as Co-Investigators, and partnerships with History & Policy, Save the Children and War Child.
Many families possess a 'family archive'; documents, photographs, heirlooms, scrapbooks, recipes and a whole range of other items that reveal insights into past generations and preserve family stories for future ones. Through historical case studies and contemporary focus groups, this project explored the concept of the family archive through time, considering what, how and why families have archived personal items for private purposes. The other investigators were Vicky Crewe, Liz Gloyn and Anna Woodham, and partnered with the National Archives, Barnsley Museum, Your Back Yard, and Sampad South Asian Arts.
Fatherhood in Britain, c.1914-60
This project emerged from my thesis, and explored the roles, relationships, authority and identity associated with fatherhood in twentieth-century Britain. The research demonstrated that fathers were much more involved in family life in the past than we usually recognised; whilst men were unlikely to change nappies or spend as much time doing childcare or with their children as mothers, fathers' relationships with both sons and daughters were understood as significant. Men likewise invested in this experience, and it could often be an important part of their identity. The mid-twentieth century saw a new emotional emphasis on the importance of involved fatherhood. The principal output from this project is a book entitled Family Men: Fatherhood and Masculinity in Britain, c.1914-60, published in 2015 with Oxford University Press. The book has been reviewed by Dr Helen McCarthy on Reviews in History.