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Emeritus Professor of Social and Historical Geography, Lancaster University

My research focuses on the social geography of Britain and continental Europe since the eighteenth century. Essentially, I seek to understand how and why society has changed, and the impacts of these changes on people and places. I am particularly interested in the ways in which past processes influence the present and connect to contemporary society and policy. Current and recent research focuses on aspects of migration, mobility and sustainable urban travel, while past projects have included the study of housing, health, crime, ethnicity and social change.

Colin Pooley has worked at Lancaster University since 1975 and has developed a broad research programme in the historical social sciences. With a background in human geography from the University of Liverpool much of his research is interdisciplinary with strong links to social history and sociology.

Current and recent research is focused on the following projects:

Migration patterns and processes in Britain and continental Europe (on-going). Following from his major project on longitudinal migration in Britain since the 18th century (see Pooley and Turnbull, 1998) he continues to research aspects of migration in the recent past. Current research is focused especially on understanding the process of moving utilising diaries and life histories, and on the visibility of migrants in the media in nineteenth-century Britain

Everyday mobility and social life in the past (on-going).
Following research on changes in everyday mobility in Britain in the twentieth century (see Pooley, Turnbull and Adams, 2005) he continues to investigate changes in everyday mobility in Britain and their connection to society and environment using mainly qualitative sources. Current research focuses on the use of diaries and life histories to examine everyday mobility.

Understanding walking and cycling (EPSRC-funded project 2008-11).
This project focuses on contemporary travel and examines the factors structuring short trips in urban areas. It focuses especially on issues of risk, household constraints and perceptions of normality and proposes key policy solutions. A summary report from the project can be found at: A book arising from the project (Promoting walking and cycling: new perspectives on sustainable transport) has been published by Policy Press (2013):

Colin is currently also acting as 'mentor' to the CycleBOOM project based at Oxford Brookes university. For details see:

Colin is currently chair of the Local Population Studies Society, an active participant in the European Social Science History Association (and previously co-chair of the migration and ethnicity network) and the American Social Science History Association, and a member of the Management Committee of the Centre for Mobilities Research at Lancaster University.


  • –present
    Emeritus Professor of Social and Historical Geography, Lancaster University