Professor Josie McLellan

B.A.(Sus.), M.St.(Oxon.), D.Phil.(Oxon.)

  • BS8 1TB

Personal profile

Research interests

Office: 1.26, 9 Woodland Rd

Phone: +44 (0)117 954 6817


I am a social and cultural historian, with particular research interests in public history and the co-production of research with people outside the university.

Although I began my career as a historian of East Germany, my recent projects have taken place closer to home, working with groups in Bristol and its surrounding areas. I've worked with Single Parent Action Network to put on an exhibition on the history of women in inner city East Bristol, with Outstories Bristol to produce a digital map of the South West's LGBT+ history, and with Openstorytellers to explore the history of learning disabilities through storytelling. These projects include non-academics as active participants and partners in the research process, giving us the chance to tap into non-academic forms of expertise, to see history in new ways, and to bring new and important voices into the discussion of the past. My latest project works with Barton Hill Settlement to produce a participatory history of Single Parent Action Network - full website coming soon. 

I'm also interested in ways that we might make studying at university fairer and more inclusive. For three years, I was one of Programme Directors of the Foundation Year in Arts and Humanities, a route into higher education for people without conventional educational qualifications. Drawing on that experience, I wrote a book with my colleagues Richard Pettigrew and Tom Sperlinger called Who Are Universities For? In it, we argue for a different sort of university system, where part time study is the norm, and where admission to university is no longer determined by A-Levels. You can watch two films about the Foundation Year here and here, and videos about my engaged research activities here, here, and here

I was co-investigator on the AHRC Research Grants,  ‘Dropping Out of Socialism: Alternative Lifestyles in the Eastern Bloc, c. 1960-1990’, and Know Your Bristol On The Move, and Principal Investigator on the AHRC-funded projects Mapping LGBT+ Bristol and Women, Work and Value in Europe, 1945-2015

From 2010-2014 I was co-editor of the journal Contemporary European History. I am also a member of the editorial collective of Gender & History. In spring 2014 I was a visiting professor at the Department of History, Sciences Po

Previous research

My book Love In The Time Of Communism (CUP, 2011), winner of the 2011 Fraenkel Prize in Contemporary History, focuses on everyday life under socialism. Under communism divorce rates soared, abortion become commonplace and the rate of births outside marriage was amongst the highest in Europe. Nudism went from ban to state-sponsored boom, and erotica became common currency in both the official economy and the black market. My research asks why this ‘sexual revolution’ took place, and explores the ways in which the state sought to limit the public discussion of sexuality.

My first book, Antifascism and Memory in East Germany (OUP, 2004), examined the commemoration of the International Brigades. A major part of the research was the reconstruction of narratives which opposed the communist party's attempted monopolisation of the Brigades, from veterans’ oral histories to articles in the underground press.


I teach at all levels of our programmes, from the Foundation Year in Arts and Humanities to the supervision of PhD students. My teaching includes units on women and work, post-apocalyptic literature, and the reasons soldiers fight. I was awarded a University Teaching and Learning Award in 2011.

Research supervision

Students that I have supervised have recently completed PhD and MPhil dissertations on rock music in the Soviet Union, building managers in wartime Budapest, rural life in postwar Germany, the history of diabestes in East Germany, and youth exchanges after the two World Wars. I welcome proposals from students working on twentieth century German history, particularly East Germany, the social and cultural history of post-war Germany, oral history and memory, visual culture, and the history of work, women, sexuality, gender and the family. I am particularly interested in working with students who wish to develop projects involving public history, engaged research and co-production. Please don't hesitate to get in touch if you would like to discuss your research plans.


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Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

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