I studied in London as an undergraduate and then moved to Cambridge to work on a PhD on popular recreations. Before joining UEA, I held a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, and a lectureship at Sheffield University. I held a Scouloudi fellowship in London and a Gilder-Lehrman fellowship in New York, and was a visiting maître de conférence at the Université de Paris VIII in 2004. In 2001, my Ph.D. was awarded the Prince Consort and Thirlwall Prize. My second book, Blood Sport, was awarded the Lord Aberdare Prize for Literary History in 2007.
My research to date has been on the social and economic history of Britain during the period 1700-1870, with a particular focus on popular recreation and the history of hunting. I’ve written a number of articles in journals and magazines on these themes, as well as three books:
A Short History of the British Industrial Revolution (Palgrave, 2010)
Blood Sport. A History of Hunting in Britain ((Yale University Press, 2007)
England’s Revelry: A History of Popular Sports and Pastimes, 1660-1800 (Oxford University Press, 2005).
I am now working on a history of working-class life during the industrial revolution, under contract with Yale University Press and provisionally titled: Sons of Freedom: Life, Work and Family during the Industrial Revolution. More detail on this and other current research projects may be found under the ‘Research’ tab.
I am currently involved with two national historical societies. I am the Honorary Director of Communications and a Council Member for the Royal Historical Society. I am also a joint-editor of History – the journal of the Historical Association.
Historical activities outside the university have included speaking on local radio, BBC World Service, and Radio 4 and appearing on television broadcasts on ITV3, BBC1 and BBC4. I have worked as a historical consultant for the Working Titles film production of Pride and Prejudice, and advised MPs and other interested parties about the history of foxhunting and blood sports. In 2010, I was a contributor to Melvin Bragg's In Our Time on Radio 4, discussing the consequences of the industrial revolution. The programme can be listened to here.
Key Research Interests
My major research interest in recent years has been the British industrial revolution. The first outcome of this research was a student textbook published by Palgrave which aimed to clarify exactly what the industrial revolution was and when and why it occurred. A draft chapter looking at the way in which ideas about ‘industrial revolution’ have changed over the last two hundred years may be found here: The 'industrial revolution': interpretations from 1830 to the present. A summary of some of my thoughts about the industrial revolution can also be found here: Victorian Industrialisation.
More recently, this project has evolved into a broader concern with the ways in which life changed for the working poor during this period. Throughout most of the twentieth century, historians have taken a very bleak view of the social consequences of the industrial revolution: they have argued that this period witnessed lower wages, longer working hours, more intensive and monotonous working patterns, an increase in child labour, and deteriorating housing conditions – on almost all measures, the consensus is that industrialisation had deleterious consequences for the labouring poor. I am revisiting these claims through an extensive analysis of working-class autobiography and life-writing. These sources provide eloquent testimony to the social misery that industrialisation sometimes wrought, but they also challenge the accepted narrative in complex ways. Looking at experiences of industrialisation through the prism of the family I argue that the benefits and costs of industrial progress were spread unevenly across husbands, wives and children. This book is under contract with Yale University Press with a provisional publication date of 2012.
I teach courses on the social and economic history of Britain, 1750-1900, with particular interests in gender history, the industrial revolution, and working-class life. I would welcome postgraduate students working on any aspect of cultural history from 1700 to 1900, and particularly those interested in popular culture, working-class history, animal cruelty and blood sports, hunting, and urban history.
- Director of Admissions, 2008-2009