Holly Smith

Holly’s doctoral research explores tenant activism on high-rise housing estates in late twentieth century Britain. This work is funded by a Wolfson Postgraduate Scholarship in the Humanities. 

Holly’s thesis is a socio-political history of high-rise living in post-war Britain, with a specific focus on community action by council tenants. This research draws together historical explorations of the post-war welfare state, social democracy, leftist politics, modernist architecture, and activist cultures. It seeks to examine the discourses, languages, and emotions which have animated narratives about high-rise architecture and the ‘inner city’ in Britain – with a perspective primarily from the grassroots.

Holly holds a BA in History (2016-2019) from the University of Cambridge, where her undergraduate dissertation explored community life on the Park Hill estate in Sheffield across the 1950s and 1960s. She then graduated with an MPhil in Modern British History (2019-2020), also from the University of Cambridge, where her thesis looked at the Ronan Point tower block collapse of 1968 and ensuing political scandal. 


Supervisor: Dr Florence Sutcliffe-Braithwaite 
Working title: ‘Tenant action on high-rise estates in post-war Britain, c.1960-’
Expected completion date: 2024

Papers and presentations

‘The Ronan Point scandal (1968), high-rise housing, and social democracy in post-war Britain’, Housing and Power in the Modern World Conference, November 2020.
‘The Ronan Point disaster: 50 years of negligence in high-rise council housing policy’, Grenfell Tower Enquiry Seminar Series, The Bartlett UCL, October 2020.
‘The Ronan Point disaster, 1968: a moment of ‘urban crisis’?’, IHR-SAHGB Architectural History Seminar, July 2020.