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Lewis Smith


I am a second year PhD student at the University of Warwick, supervised by Professor Rebecca Earle. My research explores the role of food charity in the UK, from the late 18th century to the present day.

The aim of the project is twofold. Firstly, I want to gain a greater understanding of the longer-term history of food charity in Britain. By looking at a series of historical moments in which food banks, soup kitchens, breakfast clubs and other charitable food initiatives been prominent features of the public sphere, I want to learn about how these ventures have been part of efforts to manage, measure and alleviate hunger over time, and to see how they played a role in the development of new ideas and understandings of hunger, poverty, food, community, welfare support or the role of the state.

The second aim of my thesis is to use this broader history as a basis to re-consider the current 'foodbank dilemma' in Britain. Recent academic literature has generally examined food charity through the lens of its (in)ability to address poverty and as part of a neoliberal shift from welfare state to voluntarism. I want to look more closely at the aims, ambitions and impact of charitable food initiatives in Britain today and consider not only how food charity is contributing to the re-production of a particular social order, but also how it could be seen to be resisting and/or disrupting it.

My thesis is provisionally entitled "Leftovers, loss and redemption: charitable food aid in the UK, 1780 - present".


I first joined the University as an undergraduate student in 2010. During my time at Warwick I have been an active member of the student community, organising events such as Go Green Week and serving as a representative on the SSLC. I have also tried to contribute to the local community beyond the campus 'bubble'. In 2012, for example, I co-founded a 'Community Kitchen' in Leamington Spa, which offered free, hot meals using food from local retailers that would otherwise have been thrown away. I ran a monthly music and poetry event at a bookshop in Kenilworth for four years, and am currently the artistic director of Kenilworth Arts Festival - an annual, multi-genre festival, launched in 2016, which brings best-selling authors and award-winning musicians to the town for one-off events.

Finally, I have worked as an editor and project co-ordinator for Lacuna, an online magazine that tackles indifference to social injustice and promotes human rights. In 2016, I co-ordinated a special volume of the magazine on the theme of protest. In the same year, I co-organised 'Protest and Performance Week': a collaborative, interdisciplinary project that explored the topic of protest through a series of events, held on campus. The programme included comedy, film, a specially commissioned theatre piece, panel discussions and lectures.

More recently, I have overseen the food poverty content for Lacuna Magazine and have supported the publication of a number of pieces on this topic - including original work from Kayleigh Garthwaite, James Harrison and Andy Fisher. This work has been funded in part by an ESRC Impact Acceleration scholarship.

Research Priorities

Food studies; social and cultural history; neoliberalism; the politics of protest; socio-economic rights; poverty; political geography.


  • 2015 - 2019 - PhD, University of Warwick
  • 2014 - 2015 - MA in History, University of Warwick
  • 2010 - 2014 - BA (Hons) in History & Politics, University of Warwick (with year abroad at Sciences Po, Paris)

Papers & Publications

Conference Papers
  • 'Anything but indifferent': re-thinking the relationship between food charity and activism,' Food and Poverty Conference, King's College London, April 17th 2018.
  • Eating Indigène: Food, power, and the French colonial civilising mission,’ Postgraduate Conference University of Warwick, May 29th 2015.
  • ‘Eastern European Dissidents and Socioeconomic Rights in the 1970s', Workshop: “Writing the History of Socioeconomic Rights," University of Warwick, May 26th-27th 2015
Conference Reports
  • 'New Subjectivities, New Emotions, New Politics: Oppositional Politics and Counter Cultures Across the Iron Curtain During the Long 1970s' in H-Soz-Kult (09.01.2016): <>.


Teaching / Tutoring Roles



  • Seminar Tutor for Making of the Modern World, a core module for first year undergraduates in the history department
  • Lecturer for one week of Quantitative Research Skills, an MA History module.


Other Activities


Lewis dot Smith at warwick dot ac dot uk

History Department

University of Warwick


Supervisor: Professor Rebecca Earle