My research focuses largely on the late Georgian period and the early industrial revolution in Britain, and on the north of England in particular. However, an interest in local and community history means that I am also active in research on twentieth-century Britain. Some of my early publications were on print culture, popular politics and public opinion and examined the relationship between press and public, and specifically the degree to which social elites could control print and direct the nature of public debate.
More recent research has concentrated on issues of gender, work, family and religious faith in towns. I have assessed the impact of industrialisation on women's employment, and specifically the degree to which the advent of modern capitalism marginalised women workers in my book The Business of Women (2007). My most recent monograph, Family and Business During the Industrial Revolution (2017) builds upon this intervention and examines the concept of 'family strategy' in terms of small family businesses. Family and Business won the Social History Society Book of the Year for 2019. You can find more details of this project as well as an online searchable project website for family and local historians here.
I have recently completed a project on banknote forgery and retailers in London with Sarah Green, and you can find our Open Acess article in the Journal of British Studies. I am currently working on a monograph with Kate Gibson, Jeremy Gregory and Carys Brown on religion in northern English towns, 1740-1830. The research for this book was funded by the AHRC and you can find further details here. I am also involved in a multi-disciplinary AHRC project on the Mary Hamilton papers with David Denison, Nuria Yáñez-Bouza, Sophie Coulombeau, Cassie Upph, Tino Oudesluijs and Christine Wallis, and am part of a team working on the AHRC-funded 'Our Heritage, Our Stories: Linking and searching community-generated digital content to develop the people's national collection’ based at The National Archives and the Universities of Glasgow and Manchester.
Recent research grants
- AHRC Towards a National Collection grant to fund ‘Our Heritage, Our Stories: Linking and searching community-generated digital content to develop the people's national collection’. CI in collaboration with colleagues at the University of Glasgow, The National Archives and Computer Science at the University of Manchester (2021-4), £3.63m.
- AHRC Capabilities of Collections grant to fund ‘Increasing capability for collections research at the University of Manchester' (2021), £778,351.
- AHRC standard grant for ‘Unlocking the Mary Hamilton papers’ (2019-2022), £996,330.
- AHRC standard grant to fund ‘Faith in the town: lay religion, urbanization and industrialization in northern England, 1740-1830’ (2018-21), £588,000.
- AHRC KTP grant on academic research and the National Trust (2017-19), £140,000.
- ESRC IAA grant for 'The Quarry Bank Project' (2016-17), £19, 275.
- ESRC IAA grant for 'Making Histories Public' (2015-16), £15,570.
- ESRC project grant for 'Family and Business in North-West England, 1760-1820' (2008-10), £228,296.