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Personal profile

Research interests

I am a social and cultural historian of modern Britain, and my research is concerned with communities and how they understand themselves. My current project, supported by an ESRC New Investigator award, uses co-production methods to conduct research with residents of the Seacroft suburban social housing estate in Leeds. We are analysing how attitudes towards mental health and expertise have shifted in post-war Britain, and investigating the changing role of friendship and local support networks in wellbeing. A previous local history project that I led captured the experience of moving to the Bettws suburban social housing estate in Newport, South Wales. We produced a touring exhibition, and stories and photographs gathered during the project are featured on our website: Moving to Bettws: Starting a New Life on a 1960s Estate.

I am also leading a creative research project on menopause experience, with artist Lisa Nash. The MenoMakers craft and discussion group aims to initiate and normalise menopause conversations, combat stigma and improve wellbeing, and we have explored the therapeutic potential of creativity. This work is documented on the MenoMakers project website and a blog post for the Brigstow Institute.

My previous public history work has included collaborating with archives and museums, community groups, creative practitioners, and the voluntary sector. This included curating an exhibition on Remembrance at Abbey House Museum, Leeds (2018-19), and collaborating with The Grief Series, a sequence of projects by Leeds-based artist Ellie Harrison. I reflected on the latter with Ellie and historian Laura King in an article, Art, Collaboration and Multi-Sensory Approaches in Public Microhistory: Journey with Absent Friends (2019).

I am committed to improving wellbeing for researchers and participants, and have collaborated with the School of Applied Mental Health to develop interventions in this field. Our Researcher Wellbeing: Guidelines for History Researchers were produced after a series of workshops with history ECRs, and these are accompanied by two online articles for History Workshop Online: Researcher Wellbeing and What We Can Learn from Mental Health Professionals; and Emotions, Vulnerabilities and Care in Sensitive Research. Following this work, I led a project which tested out peer-support as a first step in addressing researcher wellbeing. We wrote up our findings in a policy briefing with PolicyBristol, ‘Targeted support is needed to protect the wellbeing of researchers working with emotionally challenging material’, and a blog post discusses participant feedback in more depth. We are now completing generalised ground rules and therapeutic safeguards for discussing emotionally challenging material, for use in research, teaching and public engagement.

My previous research examined community and citizenship in Second World War Britain. My book, Creating the People’s War: Civil Defence Communities in Second World War Britain (MUP, 2022), explores how local communities of civil defence personnel co-developed narratives about the value of their work which challenged hierarchies of war service, and created national identity from the bottom up. I have recently extended this work with historian Henry Irving. Our article, ‘Renegotiating Citizenship through the Lens of the “People’s War” in Second World War Britain’, suggests new ways to think through the relationship between citizens and the state and vernacular understandings of citizenship, in wartime and beyond.

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