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Network: Writing Labour History in Brexit Britain

Convenors: Laura Schwartz, Reader in Modern British History, University of Warwick and Diarmaid Kelliher, British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Glasgow.

This network was formed out of a symposium held at the University of Warwick in July 2021, entitled '‘Ordinary’ Working-Class People? Brexit Britain and the New Labour History'. It brings together scholars whose work challenges contemporary invocations of ‘the British working class’ as white, male and socially conservative. Our research explores the history of a multi-racial working class, women workers, migrant workers and queer and cosmopolitan working-class cultures. We aim to engage with audiences beyond academia, and to produce research that is relevant within contemporary Britain.

Ongoing activities include:

If you think your research connects to our interests and would like to get involved, please email.


Somak Biswas is a Past and Present Fellow at the Institute of Historical Research, London. He works on the intersections of transnational immigration, race and gender in British and South Asian history.

Caroline Bressey is a Reader in Historical and Cultural Geography, in the Department of Geography at UCL. Her research focuses upon the black presence in Victorian Britain, especially London, alongside Victorian anti-racism communities and the links between contemporary identities and the diverse histories of London as represented in heritage sites in Britain. She has co-curated exhibitions with the National Portrait Gallery, the Museum of London Docklands and Tate Britain where she and her colleague Dr Gemma Romain co-curated ‘Spaces of Black Modernism’ an exploration of Black artist models in Interwar London. Her first monograph, Empire, Race and the Politics of Anti-Caste (Bloomsbury Academic, 2013) examined the anti-racist reading community established by the Somerset Quaker Catherine Impey in 1888. Her current research project is exploring the multi-ethnic working-class communities of Victorian England.

David Featherstone is Reader in Human Geography at the University of Glasgow. He is the author of Resistance, Space and Political Identiites: the Making of Counter-Global Networks (Wiley, 2008) and Solidarity: Hidden Histories and Geographies of Internationalism (Zed Books, 2012). He is currently working on a book with the draft title Politicising Race and Labour: Seafarers' Struggles for Equality and the Anti-Colonial Left, 1919-1953- and, together with Ben Gowland and Lazaros Karaliotas, a Leverhulme funded project on 'Trade Unions and Spaces of Democratization in Britain, the Caribbean and Greece'.

Ewan Gibbs is lecturer in global inequalities at the University of Glasgow. He is a historian of energy, industry, work and protest with established expertise in oral history methods and archival research. His interests include heritage and memorialisation and uses of history in emotive and politically charged contexts such as the current debate over how to build a fairer and greener economy.

Ryan Hanley is a Lecturer in Modern British History at the University of Exeter. He is interested in black British history, popular politics, radicalism, and working-class cultures of Empire in Britain from the late eighteenth to the early nineteenth centuries. His first monograph, Beyond Slavery and Abolition: Black British Writing, 1770-1830, was published by Cambridge University Press in 2019 and was awarded the Royal Historical Society Whitfield Prize. His current research focuses on the sometimes turbulent relationship between working-class politics and the antislavery movement in the period 1787-1838, examining how the emergence of both raced and classed identities in this period were intimately linked.

Diarmaid Kelliher is a British Academy postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Glasgow, in the school of Geographical and Earth Sciences. His current research focuses on the picket line in late twentieth century Britain. He has recently published a book for Routledge: Making Cultures of Solidarity: London and the 1984-5 Miners' Strike.

Julia Laite is a Reader in Modern History at the Department of History, Classics and Archaeology at Birkbeck, University of London. She researches and teaches on the history of women, crime, sexuality and migration in the nineteenth and twentieth century British world. She is the Birkbeck Director of the Raphael Samuel History Centre and an editor at History Workshop Journal, and maintains a strong interest in public history and historiography. Julia is the principle investigator on the AHRC-funded Trafficking Past project and is the author of Common Prostitutes and Ordinary Citizens: Commercial Sex in London (2012) and (with Samantha Caslin) Wolfenden’s Women: A Critical Sourcebook(2020). Her latest book, The Disappearance of Lydia Harvey: A True Story of Sex, Crime and the Meaning of Justice, was published with Profile Books in April, 2021.

Jonathan Moss is a senior lecturer in politics at the University of Sussex. He is a historian of modern Britain. His first book focused on the relationship between feminism, workplace activism, and trade unionism during the years 1968-1985. He is also co-author of The Good Politician: Folk Theories, Political Interaction, and the Rise of Anti-Politics which was published by Cambridge University Press in 2018. The book takes a longer view of contemporary concerns about political dissaffection by focusing on the voices of 'ordinary' citizens found in the Mass Observation Archive from the 1940s to the present. He is currently writing a book with Emily Robinson and Jake Watts about popular understandings of the role of emotion and feelings in political debates about Brexit.

Florence Sutcliffe-Braithwaite is Associate Professor of Twentieth Century British History at UCL and author of Class, Politics and the Decline of Deference in England, 1968-2000 (2018). She is currently working with Natalie Thomlinson on a monograph about women's experiences during the 1984 - 5 miners' strike.

Natalie Thomlinson is Associate Professor of Modern British Cultural History at the University of Reading, and is author of Race and Ethnicity in The Women’s Movement in England, 1968 - 1993 (2016). She is currently working with Florence Sutcliffe-Braithwaite on a monograph about women's experiences during the 1984-5 miners' strike.

Aditya Sarkar is Associate Professor of South Asian History, University of Warwick. He is a historian of labour and political movements in late-colonial and postcolonial India. He was initially trained as a historian at the University of Delhi and the Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi, and completed his doctorate from SOAS in 2009. He has been teaching history at Warwick University since 2013, prior to which he was a research fellow at the Centre for Modern Indian Studies at the University of Goettingen in Germany. His first book, Trouble At the Mill, deals with the connections between factory law and industrial conflict in late-nineteenth century Bombay. He has also published articles on the effects of the global bubonic plague pandemic on labour relations in Bombay around the turn of the twentieth century. He is currently working on two very different projects. The first is a long history of the struggles and conflicts which attended the elaboration of structures of wage-payment in organized Indian industry between the 1890s and 1970s, with a specific focus on the genealogy of the payment-form known as the 'annual bonus'. The second is a collection of essays combining political theory and history, which seeks to analyse the nature and dynamics of contemporary right-wing authoritarianism in India.

Jack Saunders is a Lecturer in Modern British History at University College London. His first monograph, Assembling Cultures, a history of workplace activism in the notoriously fractious British motor industry, was published by Manchester University Press last year. He has published widely on the history of work and workers in post-war Britain, most recently on race, gender and class formation in the National Health Service.

Laura Schwartz is a Reader in Modern British History at the University of Warwick. She works on the history of feminism, class and radical movements. Her most recent monograph is Feminism and the Servant Problem: Class and Domestic Labour in the British Women’s Suffrage Movement (Cambridge University Press, 2019).

George Stevenson is a researcher for Unite the union. Prior to this, he completed a PhD in modern British history at Durham University in which he examined the relationship between British second-wave feminism and class politics. An adapted version of this research, The Women's Liberation Movement and the Politics of Class, was published by Bloomsbury in 2019. He has also published in the Labour History Review and Women’s History Review, as well as on History Workshop Online. He is currently researching "popular" constructions of social class at the end of Thatcherism based on the Mass Observation Project archive.

Valerie Wright is a Research Associate at the University of Glasgow, and a historian of modern Scotland with particular expertise in gender, social and political history. She is currently a Research Associate in History at the University of Glasgow. She is the co-author of Glasgow: High-Rise Homes, Estates and Communities in the Post-War Period (Routledge: London, 2020) and Deindustrialisation and the Moral Economy in Scotland since 1955 (Edinburgh University Press: Edinburgh, 2021).