School of History, Classics and Archaeology

Labour and Society

Labour and Society


This theme is concerned with new research into the histories of labour: oral and written, in cultural representation and collective memory.

The Labour and Society Strand defines its research agenda in an inclusive and dynamic way. It is concerned with new as well as more established directions into the histories of labour:

  • oral and written;
  • labour subjectivities (the senses, emotions, cognition and memory);
  • place, the state and transnationalism;
  • ideas (socialism, nationalism, politics, religion);
  • labour institutions (press, trade union, parties and cooperatives);
  • labour and the everyday (class, gender, death, work and leisure);
  • labour and social theory;
  • and the contentious politics of labour (biographical and mobilisation approaches).

The strand has an outward-facing orientation, encouraging inter- and multidisciplinary collaborations. It draws together researchers across HCA, and has strong links with Schools in the HaSS Faculty through the Labour and Society Research Group (LSRG). It has led to major collaborative publications with special issues of the Labour History Review on unemployment (2007) and bombing (2011).

Research-informed teaching: These research strengths are reflected in UG teaching. The themes of Labour and Society are an integral part of all stages of the degree.

Stage 1 - Evidence and Argument; Aspects of British History; Varieties of History; Themes in European History

Stage 2 - Oral History and Memory; Twentieth Century France; A History of Contemporary Britain; Twentieth Century Spain; History and Memory in the United States; The Soviet Experiment 1917-1991; Colonialism and Post-colonialism in Egypt and Sudan

Stage 3 - Jarrow Crusade; May 68; Northern Ireland Since 1969; Civil Rights in America 1948-1975; Fascism in Italy; The Nazi New Order in Europe; Reconstruction and the New South; The Spanish Second Republic and Civil War; Popular Politics and Reform in Britain, 1811-1850; An oral history of health and medicine in Britain, c.1948-2000; Dissertation; History and Society

They feed through into the PG taught provision on MA British History (on modules Pathways in British History, Reform and Resistance in British History) and MA European History (on modules Conflict in European History).

Postgraduate Training and Research Culture: The research strand has helped to generate a significant cluster of PhD students who play an active role in steering the strand, organising events and in the LS PG writing group. We have strong research ties with colleagues at our Northern Bridge partner institution, QUB, which has led to successful NB applications and joint supervisions.

We have good links with Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums, Northern Stage, the Tyneside Irish Centre and South Tyneside Council.

We network with professional associations: the Society for the Study of Labour History, International Conference of Labour and Social History, the Società Italiana di Storia del Lavoro, the European Labour History Network (ELHN), Irish Centre for the History of Labour and Class (ICHLC), Chartism Annual Conference.

Labour and Society in Newcastle: Newcastle University is one of the top places to research labour history in the country. It fits with the university’s commitment to social justice and to global challenges. Labour history is a connecting thread through the UG and PG provision. The recent appointment of a chair in Oral History, Professor Graham Smith, significantly enhances this research area. Labour history is an area of distinctive provision and research excellence.


Find out which members of staff are involved in this research theme.

Dr Joan Allen
Visiting Fellow

Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 6701

Dr Alison Atkinson-Phillips
Lecturer in Public History

Telephone: 01912084601

Dr Bruce Baker
Reader in American History

Telephone: 0191 208 3636

Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 5755

Professor Jeremy Boulton
Professor of Urban History

Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 6492

Dr Sarah Campbell
Lecturer in British/Irish History

Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 7842

Dr Francesco Carrer
NU Academic Track Fellow (NUAcT)

Telephone: +44 (0)191 208 4455

Dr Andy Clark
Research Associate in Oral History

Telephone: 0191 208 4602

Dr Robert Dale
Lecturer in Russian History


Dr Martin Farr
Senior Lecturer in Contemporary British History

Telephone: office (+44) (0) 191 208 5077; mobile (+44) (0) 7939 227 631

Dr Benjamin Houston
Senior Lecturer, Modern US History

Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 7919

Professor Tim Kirk
Professor of European History

Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 5078

Dr Joseph Lawson
Lecturer in Modern Chinese History

Telephone: 0191 208 7848

Dr Matt Perry
Reader in Labour History

Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 7977

Dr Felix Schulz
Head of History & Senior Lecturer in Modern European History

Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 6466

Dr Samiksha Sehrawat
Senior Lecturer in South Asian History

Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 8262

Professor Daniel Siemens
Professor of European History

Telephone: +44 191 208 6493

Professor Graham Smith
Professor of Oral History

Key staff and interests

Dr Joan Allen

Dr Joan Allen’s research interests coalesce around 19th century British radicalism, Irish nationalism and the popular press. She is a former Vice President of the Society for the Study of Labour History and an editor of Labour History ReviewHer most recent work is a contribution to Laurence Marley (ed.) 'The British Labour Party and Twentieth-Century Ireland' (MUP, 2015) and a study of Mazzini and print culture in Nick Carter (ed.) 'Britain, Ireland and the Risorgimento' (Palgrave, 2015).

Dr Sarah Campbell

Dr Sarah Campbell’s work focusses on 20th century Ireland, the Northern Ireland conflict, social movements, memory, oral history, and protest. Her latest book is 'Gerry Fitt and the SDLP: "In a minority of one"' (2015). She is currently working on two projects: the civil rights movement and student protest in Northern Ireland in the late 1960s; and working men's clubs in North-East England since 1945.

Dr Robert Dale

Dr Robert Dale is a Lecturer in Russian History. His research focuses on the late Stalinist period (1945-1953) and the social, economic and cultural impact of the Great Patriotic War on Soviet society. His broad interests include the role of voluntary, paid and forced labour in postwar reconstruction, the changing nature of labour and the workplace under late Stalinism, and labour mobility during and after the Great Patriotic War.

Dr Martin Farr

Dr Martin Farr’s current labour-related research includes three articles:

  • James Callaghan, Michael Foot, and Neil Kinnock for a book entitled 'Labour and the Left in the 1980s'
  • the effects of the Representation of the People Act 1918 on the House of Commons for a special edition of 'Parliamentary History'
  • a comparative study of the deaths of Hugh Gaitskell and John Smith

Relevant recent publications include articles on the 1918 general election, and on the Labour Party and strategic bombing in the Second World War.

Professor Tim Kirk

Professor Tim Kirk is a Professor of European History at Newcastle University. He studied modern languages and history at Manchester University. He's published a number of works on working-class history, organised labour, fascism and cultural history, including:

  • 'Nazism and the Working Class in Austria' (CUP, 1996, 2003)
  • 'Opposing Fascism' (edited with McElligott, CUP, 1999)
  • 'Working towards the Führer' (ed)
  • essays on the history of Austrian social democracy, workers culture in imperial Vienna

He is currently writing a book on fascism and the Nazi ‘new order’ in Europe. He is a fellow of the Royal Historical Society, of the European Academy of Arts and Sciences and the German history society, which holds its annual conference in Newcastle in 2016. He is a member of the Newcastle-based Research Group in European Urban culture.

Dr Matt Perry

Dr Matt Perry has published widely on aspects of 20th-century labour history in Britain and France with interests in social memory, transnationalism and protest. His books include 'The Jarrow Crusade: Protest and Legend', and 'Prisoners of Want: the Experience and Protests of the French Unemployed 1921-45'. His latest book is '"Red Ellen" Wilkinson: Her Ideas, Movements and World' (2014), which examines the life of the Minister of Education of the 1945 Labour government. He is currently researching the mutinies of French sailors in 1919.



Impact Case Studies

Matt Perry: The Jarrow Crusade and Ellen Wilkinson

Permanent display of Jarrow Crusade Artefacts at Jarrow Town Hall, opened 31 May 2016.

Marching into History exhibition at South Shields Museum and Art Gallery, 1 October 2016 to 25 February 2017.

Dr Matt Perry acted as guest curator for the exhibition, designing the layout and contents, identifying artefacts and drafting text. 12,222 visitors attended. The exhibition sought to make the Crusade relevant today through the themes of austerity, migration, health and wealth inequalities. It showed newsreels, had a range of artefacts not assembled together up to that point, it elicited loaned items from Crusader families and interviewed families about how they felt to be from families of men who marched. Perry also conducted two guided tours for crusader relatives of the exhibition. He also participated in the educational offer that the Museum put together, which three local schools (St Josephs, Jarrow Cross and St Bedes).

Who Were the Marchers? Film (2016)

Matt Perry participated in the conceptualisation and making of the film Who Were the Marchers? that was produced by local filmmaker Gary Wilkinson.

Public Lectures

Perry has conducted public talks on both Ellen Wilkinson and the Jarrow Crusade and their contemporary relevance (inviting organisation, date and attendance): Jarrow Library (1 June 2016, 42); Literary and Philosophical Society (Lit and Phil, 3 October 2016, 45); Jarrow Town Hall (reception event of invited guests for crusader families and local school children and their parents, 5 October 2016: c. 200), Newcastle University (Insights Public Lecture, 20 October 2016, 330), South Shields Art Gallery and Museum (1 December 2016, 30), Low Light Museum (4 March 2017, 40), St Matthews Church Hall, Jarrow (Jarrow Women’s Institute, 14 February 2017, 150), Influence Church, Richmond (Richmond and District Civic Society, 9 February 2017, 100).

Media appearances and consultancy

Radio Newcastle interviews (29 September 2016), Tyne Tees, Look North, for an Italian documentary on Brexit, for an Arte documentary The History of Britain – from Above. Perry spoke in Jarrow Town Hall to relatives of Crusaders, councillors and local school children, at the Lit and Phil, and in the Newcastle University Insights Lecture series.

Educational Project: Who Were the Marchers? Jarrow Library sessions

Four sessions took place in Jarrow Library with two primary schools, St Bede’s and Jarrow Cross. Each session last an hour and a half. Catrin Galt of South Tyneside Library Service, Matt Perry and Tom Kelly, playwright participated in the sessions. The project combined library resources, primary materials, re-enactment activities, and creative writing drawing on the skills and expertise of the three project leaders.


Jeremy Corbyn, Leader of the Labour Party, quoted from speech at Monkton Stadium, Jarrow, 1 October 2016, commemorating the 80th anniversary of the Jarrow Crusade.

The most famous MP that Jarrow had was Ellen Wilkinson […] and I’ve just been reading Red Ellen Wilkinson by Matt Perry of Newcastle, it is an amazing book.

Read Testimonials ‌from Helen Ford (Correspondent and presenter for ITV Tyne Tees and Border); Stuart Maconie (BBC radio broadcaster); Lucy Lunt (Producer: Ramblings. BBC Radio 4); Colin Grant (Lecture Program Coordinator, The Richmond and District Civic Society); Kitty Walker (researcher for Paul Unwin, playwright, writing a West End play about the 1945 Labour Government); Dr Mikhail Karikis (Artist, Senior Lecturer & Associate Research Fellow, University of Brighton).

Ben Houston: Not As It Is Written - Black Pittsburgh in Voice and Image

Inspired by Newcastle’s connection to Dr Martin Luther King Jr. - which will be celebrated by the university and city during Freedom City 2017 - this exhibition offers the chance to contemplate the black freedom struggle in one American city in a compelling multi-sensory way. The focus is on Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, famed for its central role in the US steel industry and one of the many cities where African Americans flocked to find better opportunities during the Great Migration, which they found alongside new forms of segregation.

The project is coordinated by Dr Ben Houston, who directed the Remembering African American Pittsburgh (RAP) oral history project before he came to Newcastle. The exhibit matches digital audio clips from selected interviews with historic photos taken by the renowned Charles ‘Teenie’ Harris, a long-time resident whose archive of over 80,000 images constitutes one of the finest photographic archives of black urban life in the world. Taken together, the combination of spoken memories and the visual imagery serves as an example of how African Americans experienced and fought against racism. As part of this event, a companion app - meant to include members of the public in connecting the themes of the exhibit to their daily lives today - will be available, featuring a virtual version of the exhibit alongside the chance for user reflection and feedback.

The exhibition Not As It Is Written: Black Pittsburgh in Voice and Image will run at the Great North Museum: Hancock during Freedom City. A similar version will feature at the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh (home of the Teenie Harris archive) from 28 July 2017 to 21 January 2018.