Skip to main content

Josh Patel

Research Overview

I am a first year PhD researcher at the University of Warwick. My research is supervised by Claudia Stein and Mathew Tompson, and kindly funded through History Departmental funding.

The thesis is currently proceeding under the working title: ‘‘All those who are qualified by ability and attainment’: Economics and Equality in Post-war British Higher Education, 1945-1970’.


The thesis investigates the economic theories that underpin the many debates about reforms in higher education in Britain from the end of the Second World War to the 1970s. The Treasury commissioned Robbins Report (1961-1963) is given special emphasis as the first major survey of higher education in Britain. The report urged the government to support further expansion of higher education, following higher education growth in 1950s and 1960s and its principles of equality and state welfare provision. The thesis argues that much of the economic thinking that underlay the subsequent direction of higher education, especially towards the notion of competition and education as a market after the 1990s, was already present prior to 1963. The dominant welfare rhetoric of the 1950s and 1960s was not contradictory to this economic theory; it was often complimentary. The Robbins Report was not just a ‘report complied in the spirit of social justice’, as one historical has praised it. It was emblematic of the share commitments between social democracy and the emergence of a new economics of education which would come to dominate education: the endorsement for the importance of the experience and subjectivity of the individual and their choice, opportunity and social equality, and a strong relationship between individuals, the state and personal prosperity.

Previous Research

My previous research has been historiographical and primarily concerned with what has been described as a ‘biological turn’ in history writing since the early 2000s. This research explored the attraction for many historians of the insights of biology, evolutionary psychology, and neurobiology, in addition to, or in place of, traditional written sources, and the consequences of such a move for history writing. I have argued that the ‘biological turn’ unreflexively reciprocates the privileged epistemological position of science in popular and wider culture, contrary to the understanding of science in contemporary history of science. More fundamentally however, the attraction of the sciences, both in the ‘biological turn’ and in contemporary orthodox ‘sociocultural’ history writing, lies in acknowledged and unacknowledged understandings and definitions of ‘truth’ embedded in history writing. These understandings can be traced back to early-twentieth century American pragmatism, which have been deployed in response to what is seen by some sociocultural historians as the threatening ‘relativism’ of the linguistic turn and poststructuralism since the 1990s.

Research interests

My general area of research interest focus on twentieth and twenty-first century British thought, and includes more specifically:

  • History of ideas/intellectual history/‘Historical epistemology’, (particuarly concerning 'human nature' and the 'self').
  • History of liberal governmentality and self-governmentality since 1945
  • Historiography of global history and environmental history.
  • History of science and history of popular science.
  • Pragmatism, Neopragmatism, and its history.
    Academic Background
    • 2017-2021: History PhD, University of Warwick..
      - Awarded full departmental studentship.
    • 2016-2017: MA Global and Comparative History (Distinction), University of Warwick.
      - Awarded 2016-17 Best MA Dissertation Prize.
      - Dissertation title: ‘Telling the ‘Truth’ about the ‘Biological Turn’? Sociocultural history and pragmatism.’ Supervised by Claudia Stein.
      - Awarded full departmental scholarship.
    • 2013-2016: BA History (First), University of Warwick.
      - Dissertation title: ‘The ‘Biological Turn’: politics and agency.’
      Publications and confrences
      • September 2018: 'An unlikely alliance? ‘Human Capital’ and Social Democracy in the Robbins Report (1963)', HEC Summer School, European University Insitute
      • May 2017: 'The ‘biological turn’ in history writing: what is man? And how do these assumptions drive history
        writing?', Department of History Postgraduate Conference, University of Warwick.
      • March 2017: ‘The ‘Biological Turn’ in History Writing’, Exchanges: The Warwick Research Journal, 4:2 (2017) pp. 280-297.
        - Some very early thoughts on the ‘biological turn’. Contains material initially submitted as part of my undergraduate dissertation.
        - In the same issue of Exchanges, credited as 'editorial assistant' in Michael Trevor Bycroft, 'Ideals and Practices of Rationality – An Interview with Lorraine Daston' Exchanges: The Warwick Research Journal, 4:2 (2017), pp. 173-188.
      October 2018

      Josh Patel