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Research in Modern History

Click on the titles to find out more:

Camila Gatica Mizala - Social Practices of Modernity: Cinema, architecture and sociability in Santiago and Buenos Aires, 1915-1945
Billy Coleman - Music and Political Culture in the United States from the Early Republic to the Civil War Era

James Dawkins - The Presence of the Dawkins Family in England and Jamaica, 1763-1833’

Kevin Guyan - Metropolitan Masculinities: Gender and Space in London in the Aftermath of War and Decolonisation, c. 1945-1965

Philipp Koniger - Challenging Order: The Iconography of Normlessness in the Revolutions of 1830 and 1848

Ben Mechen - Everyday sex in Seventies Britain

Julia Mitchell - Subterranean Bourgeois Blues: Folk Music Revivalism in England and the United States, 1945-1970

Takaki Nishiyama - The International Leviathan: The British Imperial Institution and the East Asian Ab-intra States System, 1842-1943

Lisa Plotkin - Gender and Curative Space in Britain and its Empire, 1870-1914

Hana Qugana - The Cultural Politics of Englishness: John Hargrave, the Kibbo Kift and Social Credit, 1920-1939

Mara Sankey - Promoting Democracy? The Role of US NGOs in Inter-American relations 1980 - 1993

Jack Saunders - Cultures of Labour Militancy in Britain 1960-79

Sarah Savage - Viral Insanity: The Medical Formation of Encephalitis Lethargica into an Epidemic, 1917-1930

Harry Stopes - Transnational centres of provincial modernity: Manchester and Lille 1860 - 1914 

Marjolein van Bavel - The experiences of British nude models from the 1960s until the early 2000s

  • Camila Gatica Mizala



Social Practices of Modernity: Cinema, architecture and sociability in Santiago and Buenos Aires, 1915-1945

Biography: I began my MPhil/PhD in History in 2011, moving to London from Santiago, Chile, city where I completed both my BA and MA (in the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile). I’m pretty much interested in anything cultural, and my main focus is on Latin American history. 

Thesis abstract: My work focuses on how social practices were transformed by the development of cinemas and mass culture in Santiago (Chile) and Buenos Aires (Argentina). I am very interested in the way architecture and social practices evolved in dialogue with each other, constructing discourses of representation of what it was perceived to be modern in both societies. My studies are funded by the Chilean government, through an initiative called Becas Chile .

Supervisor: Professor Nicola Miller

  • Billy Coleman



Music and Political Culture in the United States from the Early Republic to the Civil War Era

Brief Biography: Before coming to UCL I graduated from the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia with a BA(Hons) and the University Medal in history and politics. I then worked as a teaching assistant in world and environmental history at UNSW and as a research assistant at the University of Sydney. My previous research has been published in the Australasian Journal of American Studies and Communication, Politics and Culture. For my current project I have recently been awarded fellowships and grants from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Maryland Historical Society, the Royal Historical Society, and the Yale UCL Collaborative.

During the fall 2012 semester I am working as a teaching assistant on HIST6313: Building the American Nation, 1789-1920.

Thesis abstract: Music in nineteenth century American political culture is often understood simply as one of many devices for voicing partisan consensus and enthusiasm. However, the story of political music in the nineteenth century involves far more than elite-led innovations in political electioneering and their effect on the quantity and quality of political engagement. Music in nineteenth century America was also part of the broader contest to define the composition and agenda of the political nation – a struggle that took place both within and beyond the bounds of party politics. My thesis uses the evidence provided through the lens of music and its reception to better understand how early nineteenth century Americans engaged with their political world and participated in political life.

Primary Supervisor: Dr. Adam Smith

  • James Dawkins

James Dawkins


The Presence of the Dawkins Family in England and Jamaica, 1763-1833

Biography: I graduated from De Montfort University in 2003 with a BA in History & Politics and from Cardiff University in 2010 with an MSc in Social Science Research Methods & Education. Between these dates and after 2010 I was employed as a social researcher and statistician at several not-for-profit organisations including the British Youth Council, the Centre for Social and Economic Inclusion, and the Education and Employers Taskforce. My work focussed on investigating the barriers to volunteering confronting young people from hard-to-reach social groups across England; conducting interviews and focus groups with the co-ordinators of Local Education Authorities; and analysing survey data and writing reports for Cabinet Office and Treasury. I left the Taskforce in December 2012 to pursue the PhD that I am currently undertaking in history and economics.

Thesis Abstract:

1) ‘My study is titled ‘The Presence of the Dawkins Family in England and Jamaica, 1763-1833’, and forms part of the second phase of UCL’s broader 3-year ESRC funded project entitled the Legacies of British Slave-ownership.  This programme seeks to explore and understand the contribution of the transatlantic slave economy and its legacies to the social and industrial development of 18th and 19th century Britain.

My thesis explores the history of the Dawkins family from their settlement in Jamaica to the establishment of their major properties in the metropole.  The focus is on the period 1763 – 1833, from the high-point of the slavery business to its abolition.  Having built up substantial plantations in Jamaica and become part of the White elite, the family were able to use the wealth derived from the expropriation of enslaved African labour to establish themselves as members of English landed society.  The thesis will explore both the management of the plantations – and so far as possible the lives of the enslaved – and the family’s strategies to enter metropolitan society.  The primary sources comprise the rich public and private archives of the Dawkins family.  This case study of a key West Indian family will help to shed light on the transatlantic structure and significance of British slavery.

The three key research questions this study will address are:

· What was the significance of colonial slavery to the establishment of the Dawkins’ metropolitan power?

· To what extent does the absenteeism of the Dawkins family conform to existing historiographical orthodoxies?

· To what extent were the Dawkins’ able to shed their West Indian origins and become fully integrated members of English landed society?’

Primary Supervisor: Professor Catherine Hall

  • Kevin Guyan



Metropolitan Masculinities: Gender and Space in London in the Aftermath of War and Decolonisation, c. 1945-1965.

Biography: I graduated with an undergraduate MA Hons. degree in History and International Relations from the University of Aberdeen in 2011 and completed my MA degree in History at University College London in 2012.

Thesis abstract: This project will explore the relationship between masculinities and the urban environment of London in the postwar period (c. 1945-1965), exploring to what extent the design, style and layout of physical spaces and their associated rules, regulations and customs supported or challenged ideas of gender.  An examination of key sites within which masculinities are evident, for example the public house, the factory, the dance hall and the kitchen, will highlight the role of material spaces and their contingent objects in forming how a sense of one’s individual identity is formed.

My principal research focuses on how concepts of identity change across history and the impact of these developments on wider discourses of politics, society and culture. In particular, recent research has focussed on the role of non-marginal identities (masculinities, heterosexualities and whiteness) in shaping modern history.

Supervisor: Dr Michael Collins

  • Philipp Koniger



Challenging Order: The Iconography of Normlessness in the Revolutions of 1830 and 1848

Biography: Before beginning PhD studies at UCL I studied modern and medieval history, political science and law at the university of Heidelberg finishing with a Magister Artium in medieval and modern history. Having passionately flirted with the idea of becoming a lawyer I decided to continue my studies in the humanities and social sciences but would not wish to miss my stay at the faculty of law as it left me with a deep interest in the way normative systems structure society. My current research, funded by the Departmental Research Scholarship, aspires to provide a fresh view on the so called "Age of Revolution" by analysing visual discourses on order, legitimacy, anomy and anarchy related to the revolutions of 1830 and 1848. As indicated by my research I am very interested in interdisciplinary work especially concerning art history and visual culture, political theory and international relations.

Thesis abstract: The subject of my dissertation is a comparative analysis concerning representations of order as normative origin of legitimacy in the visual discourses during the revolutions of 1830 and 1848 in France and the German lands. Special interest will be given to the depiction of the inverse, the erosion or lack of order, and its role as visual tool in modern political conflict: Since the French revolution of 1789 political actors, aided by the parallel revolution in printing technology, resorted to wide dissemination of images imbued with political content in their struggle for legitimacy or power and one of the most potent accusations to wield against a contestant was the notion that the other constituted a harbinger of chaos and disorder.

This theme “normlessness” will be used to problematise three aspects in the history of revolutionary Europe: the methodological problem of applying artificial conceptual frames like “normlessness” to grasp complex discourses rather than distinct ideas in the field of intellectual history, the interdisciplinary problem of political iconography as belonging to the study of political history as well as to the history of art and the intradisciplinary debate about the national or transnational nature of the revolutions discussed.

Supervisor: Professor Axel Körner

  • Ben Mechen



Everyday sex in Seventies Britain

Biography: As undergraduate, MA student, employee and now research student, I am in my seventh year in the History Department at UCL. After a brief and apparently misguided flirtation with medieval history in the early months of my BA, my focus has edged gradually forward towards the present day. My BA thesis (sup. Keith McClelland) was called '"The Lustful Turk" and other stories', and explored Orientalist pornography in Victorian Britain. I graduated with a First Class Honours degree, Dean's List and the Faculty Medal. My MA thesis (sup. Bernhard Rieger) was called '"Two nations on the rack": the Red Army Faction and the politics of terrorism in 1970s Britain', and looked at readings of the Baader-Meinhof group and the punitive state reaction in a Britain suspicious as ever of "German violence" but nevertheless dealing with a very similar problem of domestic terrorism. I graduated with Distinction and the MA Prize. Since 2011, I have worked on sex in 1970s Britain under the supervision of Dr Bernhard Rieger. This combines the two interests of my earlier work - histories of sex, sexuality and gender (especially the history of "heterosexuality"), and contemporary British history. Between 2010 and 2012, I was also project administrator for the ESRC-funded Legacies of British Slave-ownership project led by Professor Catherine Hall.

Thesis abstract: My thesis focuses on heterosexuality in Britain in the 1970s, and asks to what extent the dramatic liberalization of sex central to Sixties counterculture was replicated in wider society. The thesis contends that the “sexual revolution” of the Sixties was in many ways an elite phenomenon, and that it was only in the following decade that the lived intimacies of ordinary Britons were significantly transformed, and the risks and possibilities of sex reimagined. The project pivots around four interrelated case studies, each revealing how sex became increasingly part of the discursive “mainstream” as the decade progressed. The first two, on the condom and the Pill, analyse the UK contraceptive business at a time of great debate and transition. The third looks at the growing market for sexual advice, from The Joy of Sex and the women's health movement to the problem pages of teen magazines. The final case study builds on the preceding three by establishing how and if the changes described transformed actual sexual experience, using interviews conducted by myself and the small corpus of behavioural and attitudinal surveys undertaken in the 1970s and after.

Supervisor: Dr Bernhard Rieger

  • Julia Mitchell



Subterranean Bourgeois Blues: Folk Music Revivalism in England and the United States, 1945-1970

Biography: I’ve been a PhD candidate in the history department at UCL since September, 2010. I am originally from Saskatchewan, Canada, where I completed my BA with a double major in History and English Literature at the University of Regina in 2007. I received an MA in History at Dalhousie University in 2009. My BA Honours thesis focused on the cultural significance of the Parisian arcades, and my MA was a study of the arcade’s most famous resident character, the flâneur (entitled “Painting Modern Life: A History of the Flâneur from Baudelaire to Bob Dylan”). My current research is both a continuation, and a significant departure, from my earlier work: it is a study of the folk song revivals occurring in Britain and the United States in the postwar period (1945-1970). Most of my work has been an attempt to find and make cultural connections across geographic and temporal boundaries, using a variety of media.

Abstract: Folk music has long been a part of our response to the surrounding world, and to an understanding of our place within it. The folk music ‘revivals’, occurring in both Britain and the United States following the Second World War, developed within a historical context of profound social change on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. From roughly 1945 to 1970, folk songs provided a trusted medium for the articulation of social and political anxieties, especially amongst young people – the ‘baby boomers’ who came of age during the same period. This precipitated a renewed popular interest in, and greater commercial success for, folk music in the ‘late capitalist’ period. My thesis contends that the flourishing of interest in folk music after the War indicated a deep-seated impulse to define new cultural identities in the wake of transformative change. It will examine the folk movements of the twentieth century through a comparative and transnational approach to questions of germination and development, as well as cultural and political influence, investigating how and why folk music experienced a revival in public interest concurrently in these two countries following the Second World War.

Supervisors: Axel Körner and Adam Smith

  • Takaki Nishiyama


The International Leviathan: The British Imperial Institution and the East Asian Ab-intra States System, 1842-1943
Biography: After the completion of my master degree at Kyoto University (Japan), I moved to UCL. I published the article, ‘An External Foundation of the Imperial Legal Institution: The construction of the British Commercial System in China, 1842-60’ in Shirin (the Journal of History) [Takaki Nishiyama, ‘An External Foundation of the Imperial Legal Institution: The construction of the British Commercial System in China, 1842-60, Shirin (the Journal of History), vol. 95 no. 2 (2012), pp. 70-107.].

Thesis Abstract: My PhD research, ‘The International Leviathan: The British Imperial Institution and the East Asian Ab-intra States System, 1842-1943’ is in the history of international law and international relations in East Asia from the mid nineteenth to mid twentieth century. The primary purpose of my research is to explore the function of international law and relevant legal instruments in the relationship between different world orders of East Asian and Euro-American countries. My research will show not only comparison or contrast between ‘civilisations’, but also their political, social and economic interaction through international law.

My research is interdisciplinary and relevant to British imperial history, East Asian international history and the history of international law. While the history of international law has previously been subordinated to the interests of international jurisprudence, this project will locate the development of international law in the historical context.

Particularly, my focus is on legal instruments in relation to the diplomatic and commercial transactions between the British Empire and East Asian countries. I will mainly use treatises on international law and official documents of the British, Chinese, Japanese, Korean governments.

Through this research, I intend to demonstrate a comprehensive view on the history of East Asian international law and relations. In turn, this project will indicate British imperial power in East Asia was based on international law and regulations, that is, the ‘formal’ foundation of ‘informal empire’.

Primary Supervisor: Vivienne Lo

  • Lisa Plotkin

Plotkin Lisa

Gender and Curative Space in Britain and its Empire, 1870-1914

Biography: I am interested mainly in exploring the ways in which female identity and medical discourse in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were mutually constituted within Britain and throughout its overseas empire. In this way, my work falls within the history of medicine, new imperial history, and feminist history. I hold a BA in History and Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies from American University in Washington, DC and an MA in European History from UCL where I won the Alumni Association Prize for best performance in the department. I currently hold the UCL Overseas Research Scholarship (ORS) as well as the UCL Graduate Research Scholarship (GRS).

I am also involved in an innovate new project based in the UCL Museums & Public Engagement unit, where I act as a student-engager in all three of UCL’s public museums, connecting my doctoral research with the over 80,000 objects in the UCL collections.

Thesis Abstract: My dissertation looks at how women patients and professional medicine, particularly gynecology, interacted with “curative space,” both as an imagined ideal and as a material force, from the mid-Victorian period to the advent of the First World War. “Curative space” is a term used by both physicians of the nineteenth century and geographers today to refer to the spaces or sites that the medical community deems to be salubrious or inducing of good health. In the mid-nineteenth century such spaces included, but were not limited to, sanatoriums, hospitals, asylums, and hydropathic clinics, all of which at this time witnessed an unprecedented surge in numbers within Britain and throughout its overseas Empire. Women fast became the majority occupants of many of those sites and by the mid- Victorian period it was commonplace for physicians to advise relocation to a curative space as a principal part of women’s healthcare. My project examines the medical rationale behind those spatial prescriptions and then looks at women’s uses, contestation, or co-option of them. By doing so, I seek to demonstrate that the medical knowledge produced from these spaces was not only intimately embedded within the concept and concrete reality of curative space, but was also the outcome of an uneasy interplay between established medicine and individual women.

Primary Supervisor: Dr. Helga Satzinger

  • Hana Qugana



The Cultural Politics of Englishness: John Hargrave, the Kibbo Kift and Social Credit, 1920-1939

Biography: I am a second-year Ph.D. student in modern British and European History, with a focus on intellectual history in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Much of my research investigates the interplay between various agents in the formation of national identities — transnational and domestic; cultural and political; intellectuals vis-à-vis ‘the masses.’ My current project explores a particularly evocative intimation of cosmopolitan Englishness between the World Wars and has been supported by funding from the UCL Graduate School, the UCL History Department, AHRC, NACBS and the Yale UCL Collaborative. I am also interested in the impacts of imperialism, modernism, the social dimensions of political economy, non-democratic movements in Britain and Europe, and cultural history (especially film and music).

Before UCL, I graduated cum laude in 2011 from Leiden University with a Research M.A. in History and held the Leiden University Excellence Scholarship (LExS) from 2009 to 2011. I completed my B.A. in 2009 at the University of Richmond, double-majoring in Music (Theory and Composition) with departmental honors and History. For more on my work and activities, please refer to my webpage at http://ucl.academia.edu/hq/About

Thesis Abstract:

The Kindred of the Kibbo Kift, an interwar organisation helmed by John Gordon Hargrave, has been discussed primarily as a subsidiary of the Social Credit, Woodcraft, Scouting, and European Youth movements. Existing scholarship moreover evinces a pervading ethos of idiosyncratic eclecticism, whereas the Kin’s alternative significance as ‘the only genuine English national movement of modern times’ has garnered considerably less attention. This study situates the movement within a historicised context of Englishness to assess the extent to which it intervened in key debates over national identity between the World Wars. It argues that the Kibbo Kift’s universalist notions and national preoccupations complemented each other to convey an evocative vision of British culture and society that was identifiably English in character. It manifested in a variety of guises throughout the 1920s and 1930s, such as the construction of an archaic English past empathetic with the ‘global primitive,’ domesticated modernism, the negotiation of gender roles, political economy, activism and life reform. The resonance of Hargrave’s writings and the Kindred’s outlook with certain German Youth factions precursory to the Hitler Youth strengthens the view that the Kin was not merely a degenerative, foreign form, but a dynamic national movement in its own right. Correspondingly this piece complicates perceptions of national movements encompassing conservative and socialist elements more generally and contributes to larger discussions on the invention of tradition, decline and declinism, and the new imperial history. It also provides insight into cosmopolitan nationalist alternatives in the wake of parliamentary devolution in the British Isles and continuing attempts to understand Britain and Europe’s imperial past.

Primary Supervisor: Dr Michael Collins

  • Mara Sankey


Promoting Democracy? The Role of US NGOs in Inter-American relations 1980 - 1993

Biography: Since completing my undergraduate degree in History at the University of Sussex, my research interests have moved towards contemporary Latin American history. Before beginning my MPhil/PhD in 2012, I completed my MA at UCL with a thesis entitled "Constitutionalism and Authoritarianism in the Chilean Armed Forces 1970 - 1973". My interests have since moved towards the study of the role of non-governmental organisations in international, diplomatic relations.

Thesis abstract: My thesis focuses on the activities of three US-based NGOs in Latin America and hopes to ascertain what role these organisations played and what effect they had on US-Latin American relations. This will be achieved by an investigation of the relationships these NGOs had with the US and Latin American governments, other US-based organisations and individuals and organisations on the ground. Furthermore, this work will provide a careful analysis of the programmes these organisations undertook in the region, their methods and strategies and the reception they received within Latin America.

Primary Supervisor: Prof. Nicola Miller. 

  • Jack Saunders

Jack Saunders


Cultures of Labour Militancy in Britain 1960-79

Brief Biography: After graduating from Warwick University in 2004, I've had a wayward route back to academia, finishing my MA at Manchester in 2006 and returning for a PhD in 2011. My interests in post-war labour militancy stems partially from an interest in pro-working class politics 

Thesis abstract: Although the high levels of strikes and industrial action during the 1960s and 1970s remain at the heart of British narratives of “decline”, research into the experiences of participating workers remains relatively undeveloped. My thesis aims to write a history “from below” of this period’s labour militancy, focusing on the perspectives, values and practices of active workers and the organisations that they created.

Primary Supervisor: Michael Collins.

  • Sarah Savage



Viral Insanity: The Medical Formation of Encephalitis Lethargica into an Epidemic, 1917-1930


After attending Louisiana School for Math, Science, and the Arts public boarding school for gifted and talented students, I earned my BA at Centenary College of Louisiana in History and began research on the 1918-19 Spanish Influenza pandemic my senior year. Fascinated by the pandemic, I continued to research Spanish Influenza during my MA at the University of Southern Mississippi where I studied History of Medicine and War & Society. My Master's thesis, 'Panic Behind the Mask: The Spanish Influenza Epidemic of 1918 in New Orleans', explored my home city's experience with disease. In addition to research, I taught as a Graduate Teaching Assistant. During my undergraduate and Masters programs, I studied abroad in Paris, Queen's University Belfast, and King's College London. My other interests include dance, photography, painting, traveling, sailing, and cooking.

Thesis Abstract:

My project investigates how physicians, neurologists, and infectious disease specialists in Europe and North America collectively and competitively transformed encephalitis lethargica into an epidemic. In this process World War I, the 1918-19 Spanish Influenza pandemic, infectious disease research, and the development of Neurology as a distinct field of medicine played crucial roles. I seek to demonstrate that the encephalitis lethargica “epidemic” was the product of professional competition between neurologists and infectious disease specialists in regards to diagnosis and classification of disease. My thesis will shed a new light on the medical formation of a disease by examining how encephalitis lethargica became the byproduct of medical discourse and competition.

Primary Supervisor: Dr. Helga Satzinger

  • Harry Stopes



Transnational centres of provincial modernity: Manchester and Lille 1860 - 1914

Biography: A born and raised Mancunian, I've spent most of the last seven years in London. I'm currently a second year research student in the Department of History, where I also completed my BA and MA. I've spent time away from study travelling in Africa and working in publishing. I am currently a Teaching Assistant for the undergraduate course on The European Revolutions of 1848.

Thesis abstract: My work, funded by a studentship from the Arts and Humanities Research Council, concerns the relationship between the local and the transnational in late nineteenth century ways of thinking about the city. In particular I am concerned with provincial industrial cities and the (apparent) paradox of provincial transnationality. Manchester and Lille are the case studies. 

Supervisor: Dr Axel Korner

  • Marjolein Van Bavel



The experiences of British nude models from the 1960s until the early 2000s

Biography: After completing a BA and MA degree in History at the University of Antwerp, I came to UCL to undertake the MA in Gender, Society and Representation (Research Pathway). My master theses in History and Gender Studies explored the experiences of women who modelled for the Dutch Playboy in the 1980s and 1990s. This research and my love for Gender History motivated me to undertake a research degree, thus beginning my MPhil/PhD in September 2013. I was awarded the UCL Gay Clifford Award for Outstanding Women Students and I currently hold the UCL Graduate Research Scholarship (GRS).

Thesis abstract: My research project studies the experiences and self-perceptions of British female and male models who posed for soft-core pornographic magazines between the 1960s and early 2000s, and their relationship to changing societal discourses about the body, femininity, masculinity and empowerment since the ‘sexual revolution’ of the 1960s. From the outset, both within and outside the academy, the common view of a continuous transition to a more liberal attitude towards issues of gender and sexuality has been criticized as triumphalist and inaccurate. Consequently, debates on pornography were polarized between those who saw its boom in the wake of the sexual revolution as a force of progress (i.e. sexual liberation) and those who understood it as a clear sign of women’s continued repression and exploitation. By making use of women and men’s individual testimonies, i.e. self-narratives, I explore if and how this supposed transition towards more liberal attitudes since the 1960s, the polarized discourses fuelled by it, and the emergence of the new discourse of active-sexualisation in the supposedly postfeminist and neoliberal context of the 1990s, were subjectively experienced by the nude models that stood at the heart of the controversy.

Primary supervisor: Helga Satzinger

Page last modified on 03 jul 14 11:32 by Joanna Fryer