UCL English


Professor Alison Light


Email: a.light@ucl.ac.uk


Alison Light photograph

Education and Experience 

Alison Light is Honorary Professor of English at UCL.

Alison Light read English at Churchill College, Cambridge University and later gained an MA and D.Phil in English from Sussex University. From 1995 to 2003, she was a Postdoctoral Research Fellow and also lectured in the English Department at University College London. 

She has worked as a school teacher, as a studio manager at the BBC, and taught part-time in adult education. She has lectured in English at Brighton Polytechnic and at Royal Holloway College, was until 2014 Professor of Modern English Literature and Culture at Newcastle University.  She has also held a Visiting Professorship at Sheffield Hallam University where she helped set up a special collection of research materials: ‘Readerships and Literary Cultures 1900-1950’. She is currently an Honorary Professor at Edinburgh University and a non-stipendiary Senior Research Fellow of Pembroke College, Oxford.

As the widow of the historian, Raphael Samuel, Alison also spent several years helping to establish a History Centre and Archive in his name in London and edited two volumes of Samuel’s essays: Island Stories: Unravelling Britain (Verso 1997) and The Lost World of British Communism (Verso 2006). In 2003 she was given a Visiting Professorship at the University of East London and from 2006 to 2009 was appointed a Research Professor based in the School of Cultural and Media Studies. She is on the Advisory Board of the Centre.

Alison is a Fellow of the British Academy, of the Royal Society for Literature and of the Royal Historical Society.


Alison Light writes chiefly on issues to do with British cultural life and history, the subject of both Forever England: Literature, Femininity and Conservatism between the Wars (Routledge 1991) and Mrs Woolf and the Servants (Penguin 2007 and Bloomsbury USA 2009), runner-up for the Longman’s History Award. She also edited Virginia Woolf’s Flush for Penguin Classics (2000). Common People: the History of an English Family (Penguin 2014; Chicago University Press 2015), a mix of memoir, social history and reflection, was shortlisted for the 2014 Samuel Johnson Prize in Nonfiction.  Her most recent book, A Radical Romance: A Memoir of Love, Grief and Consolation (Penguin 2020) won the PEN Ackerley prize for literary autobiography. Inside History: From Popular Fiction to Life-Writing (Edinburgh University Press 2021) launches the essay series, The Feminist Library, of which she is also a co-editor.

Mrs Woolf Book Cover

Common People Book Cover

A Radical Romance Book Cover

Inside History Book Cover

Forever England Book Cover

Articles and Reviews

Aside from her academic articles, Alison has written for many newspapers and journals over the years, including The GuardianThe IndependentSight and SoundNew Statesman, and Spare Rib. She is a regular contributor to the London Review of Books and has frequently broadcast on the BBC.  For more details see her website: www.alisonlight.org