My main research interests are in the social, cultural and political history of the left in Britain and Western Europe. Beginning with a focus on the communist movement in Britain, this has extended through a series of collaborations to the comparative study of communist movements, particularly those of Britain, France and Germany.
Interest in the broader impact of the Russian revolution on movements and ideas of the left is reflected in my three-volume study Bolshevism and the British Left which deals extensively with currents like Fabianism, syndicalism and the mainstream British Labour tradition.
In all of my research I have had a particular interest in biographical and life-history methods. As well as publishing a number of full-length biographical studies, in 1999-2001 I was principal award-holder on the ESRC-funded CPGB Biographical Project, and have interviews or interview transcripts of around a hundred interviews deposited in the National Sound Archive and other repositories.
My principal current research project, ‘Communism and the cult of the leader 1917-64’ brings together a number of these themes in an international comparative study and is supported by an AHRC Fellowship. I am also working on two projects to be completed in the longer term: ‘Leadership in democracy? Thomas Carlyle and the British labour tradition’ and ‘Craft, conservatism and the Weir steel house: the politics of new technology in the British housing industry 1914-45’. Aspects of both these projects have appeared as articles, conference papers or book chapters but both are eventually envisaged as book-length projects.
Political ideas and ideologies, 20th-century British politics, European communism, labour movements and the radical left, political biography, interviewing and life-histories