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Lecturer in British & European History post 1850 , University of Southampton

Dr. Eve Colpus is a Lecturer in British & European History post 1850 at the University of Southampton.

I studied History at the University of Oxford, where I stayed on to complete a D.Phil. under the supervision of Dr. Jane Garnett. As a modern British historian, my research focuses on social activism, volunteerism and selfhood. I have a long-standing interest in women’s history and sit on the UK Women’s History Network steering committee.

My forthcoming book, Female Philanthropy in the Interwar World, which will be published by Bloomsbury, is about women, social activism and the shifting semblances of modern Britain. At its heart are the stories of four women: Evangeline Booth; Lettice Fisher; Emily Kinnaird; and Muriel Paget. These women began their philanthropic careers in Victorian Britain and continued them in the decades after the First World War, between them travelling and studying across continental, southern and eastern Europe, North America and South and East Asia. Following the women’s stories, I trace the developing significance of philanthropy in the unexpected contexts of celebrity, mass media and mass consumption as well as more familiar ones (in women’s lives) of the family, work and civil society. In doing so, the book moves between three interconnected histories: the significance of love, friendship and self-discovery to philanthropy; the impact of volunteerism and social activism upon societal structures; and the ways philanthropy shaped as much as was shaped by the cultural vehicles of modernity.

My new research explores social activism, social enquiry and everyday life in the late twentieth century. I am currently researching the wide-ranging and ongoing impact of the television programme That’s Life! (BBC1, 1973-1994) and the charity ChildLine (which the programme helped to launch) in a number of spheres, including children’s lives; consumers’ experiences; and social policy. In tracing this impact, my research seeks broader conclusions about the changing nature and ramifications of ‘need’ and how it has been identified and responded to culturally, politically, and socially in the recent past.

In future work, I’m interested in exploring where and how people in the past drew the boundary line of acceptable and unacceptable social intervention. I organised a conference at the University of Southampton in 2014 on Secrecy, Surveillance and Everyday Gatekeeping over the Past 100 Years. My longer-term project is a history of the idea of the ‘Busybody’ in twentieth-century Britain.


  • –present
    Lecturer in British & European History post 1850 , University of Southampton