Finnian Gleeson

Finn’s AHRC-funded PhD traces the growth of the heritage industry in East London in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. It analyses the public historical narratives of six case-study chapters, covering both elite, professionally staffed museums and ‘community heritage’ projects, run by activists and local residents. 

Historians of Modern Britain have used the heritage industry to analyse the way specific forms of heritage popularised ideas about the past which are supportive of particular political projects. ‘Elite’, professional museums are often imagined as supporting a top-down, nationalist historical narrative, whereas ‘grassroots’ or ‘community heritage’ projects are seen as contesting the exclusion of those who are historically, and therefore politically, marginalised. East London was the site of the industrialised ‘First Port’ of the British Empire, and was as such an important site for the intersection of domestic histories of class-formation and demographic change, and global stories of industrial and geopolitical decline.  Whereas others have focused solely on one form of heritage, or insisted on the need to conceptually and politically separate them, this research considers them in conjunction. Thus, it offers a new methodological approach to heritage and in doing so, seeks to understand how memories of Empire’s relationship to the British interior developed over time, in relation to the political left, right and centre, in the decades after decolonization. 

Finn will be on research leave, undertaking an exchange scholarship at Yale University, from April-June 2022. 


Supervisors: Florence Sutcliffe-Braithwaite (UCL) and Nadia Valman (QMUL)
Working title: Heritage, Politics and Identity in East London: Towards a History of Imperial Memory, 1973-2008.


  • Stories from London’s Docklands: Heritage Encounters, Deindustrialization and the End of Empire’, Journal of British Studies, (Accepted, forthcoming)


  • 2021-2022: Thinking Postcolonially: Race and Empire in Twentieth century Britain
  • 2019-2020: Writing History

Conferences Papers

  • ‘Memory, Community, and the End of Empire on the Isle of Dogs, 1980-2004', Britain at Home and Abroad since c.1800, Institute for Historical Research research, 10th February, 2022. 
  • ‘Towards a New History of Generation in Contemporary Britain’ Britain and the World, 2021, 18th June, 2021.  
  • 'Nation, Generation and Memory in London's Docklands, c.1925-2010', at Dissonant Echoes of History: Contested and Divided Memory in 21st Century Europe, (Institute of European Studies, University of California, Berkeley), 11th March, 2021.
  • 'Nation, Generation and Anti-racist Practice in Postimperial London', at Anti-Racism in Britain: Histories and Trajectories, (University College London), 28th February, 2021.