1 The British Monarchy in the Twentieth Century
Ordinary men and women remade the British monarchy across the twentieth century after European empires fell and publicity began to transform private life. Pressure from the working class, from soldiers and citizens in wartime, from women and media audiences modernized the monarchy, making it more accessible than its Victorian and Edwardian counterparts. This major book project will tell the story of royalty’s new role in an era of mass society and volatile news exposure. It reveals how constitutional monarchy was changed not just by political democracy but by a collective democracy of feeling, both in Britain and internationally.
This dynamic history of crown and people is set in the broadest context with a large cast of characters. Opening with the collapse of the old European order of kings and emperors in the turmoil of the Great War and ending with celebrity culture at the end of the century, it follows the royals as they responded to the challenges of socialism and republicanism, opposition to imperial rule, affluence, the impact of television, the permissive society and modern everyday life.
We are familiar with histories of the monarchy where kings and queens are the main actors. By contrast, the leading characters in this story are the crowds, listeners and viewers who met royalty in person or through the media. A succession of royal weddings, tours, jubilees and coronations loom large here, but so too do scandals that shook public opinion and threatened disaster for the crown. Ranging across Australia, Canada and India as well as Britain, the book draws on the widest range of sources, many of them seen for the first time. Letters and diaries from across the empire and Commonwealth, oral histories, social surveys, as well as revelations from the Royal Archives will bring to light the experience of monarchy ‘from below.’ Attitudes to the crown ranged from adulation, reverence and respect to envy and scorn. The project takes those conflicted feelings seriously, recognizing their importance in the history of cultural and emotional life across the twentieth century.
2 Capital Affairs
Capital Affairs: London and the Making of the Permissive Society (Yale University Press, 2010) asks the central question: how did sexuality transform postwar Britain? Countering the dominant historiography of the English sexual revolution, I show how a new phase of post-Victorian morality was forged out of the dramatic cultures of austerity and affluence that marked London life in the 1950s and 1960s. The metropolitan centred character of my research, together with its emphasis on long historical continuities as well as significant transformations, reflects both the spatial and environmental turn in modern cultural history and the active presence of nineteenth-century social morality into the postwar period. This major monograph was supported by a research grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (1999-2000), by a Benjamin Duke Fellowship at the National Humanities Center (2001-02), by a Fellowship at the Shelby Cullom Davis Center for Historical Studies (2004-05) and by the John Hinckley Visiting Research Professorship in the History Department at Johns Hopkins University (2008-9). For more about Capital Affairs see here.
3 The Cultures of Consumption
I have worked on various aspects of commercial and consumer cultures and traced their impact on social life and gendered identity in twentieth century Britain. In 1996 I published Cultures of Consumption: Masculinities and Social Space in Late Twentieth-Century Britain (Routledge, 1996) which has also been published in China (Nanjing University Press, 2000) funded by an initial grant from the Polytechnic Funding Council. The book explores how the world of goods occupied a privileged place in the fabric of British society during the 1980s and how the culture of the marketplace dramatised a series of pressing questions about popular sexual politics and the meaning of masculinity. I also co-edited Commercial Cultures: Economies, Practices and Spaces, with Peter Jackson, Michelle Lowe and Daniel Miller (Berg, 2000), a book series on Consumption and Space for University College London Press (1998-2003) and I served on the Commissioning and Advisory Panels of the ESRC’s Consumer Cultures research programme (2001-07).
4 Histories of Sexuality and Modernity
My first book, Dangerous Sexualities: Medico-Moral Politics in England since 1800 (Routledge, 1987, second revised edition 2000) analyses how historically specific discourses of heath and disease are linked to moral and immoral ideas about sexuality. Beginning in the 1830s, I trace the formation of medico-moral systems of knowledge and power and the way they have targeted sensitive groups, generated networks of resistance and moulded pleasures and desires. Sexuality has been shaped as a component of the social project of modernity and the problems and possibilities produced by this formation continue to shape contemporary sexual politics. For my more general reflections on the modernity of Britain in the post-1945 period, see my co-edited collection Moments of Modernity: Reconstructing Britain 1945-64 (Rivers Oram Press, 1999).