I grew up in Newcastle-upon-Tyne where I was educated at a primary school boycotted by middle-class parents and a comprehensive eventually put in ‘special measures’ and forced to become an academy. Inspired by the great education I received at both – and by extracurricular activities including attending all the 1980s CND demos and the Poll Tax protest of 1990 – I have spent the past 20 years combining activism, research, writing, teaching and fun. My day job is Professor of Modern History at Oxford University.
My first book, Young Women, Work, and Family in England, 1918-1950 , won the Women’s History Network Book Prize. It is about young working-class women’s lives at a time of enormous social upheaval.
My second book, The People: the Rise and Fall of the Working Class, 1910-2010 was published by John Murray in 2014 and quickly became a bestseller. It is now in paperback.
Tastes of Honey, my biography of the playwright Shelagh Delaney, was published in 2019 – more details here – and is due out in paperback in autumn 2021.
Snakes and Ladders: the Great British Social Mobility Myth was published in 2021. It’s the story of social mobility since the late 19th century – who got on, who didn’t, and why equality is a better goal than meritocracy.
Liking the idea of a CV of failures as a riposte to workaholism, perfectionism and competitiveness I tried to post mine here – but it is way too long.