Professor of Sociology, University of Essex

I teach and research across social history, social policy, socio-legal studies and criminology. I am chair of the Social History Society and also work as a policy consultant.

I am currently working on two new research projects. The first, After Care, (with crime historians Barry Godfrey, Heather Shore and Zoe Alker) investigates the long-term impact of 19th and early 20th century youth justice interventions. We use digital record linkage to establish 'what happened next' to a large cohort of delinquent, difficult and destitute children passing through England's early youth justice systems. We raise questions about the uses of historical evidence in contemporary evidence-based policy making. Our early findings (summarised here) generated much media coverage and our full findings will be published in a forthcoming book, Young Criminal Lives.

My second research project focuses on a pressing present-day challenge - that of recurrent care proceedings in the English child protection system. I am leading an interdisciplinary evaluation of two pioneering interventions (Positive Choices and Mpower) working with birth mothers at risk of losing further children to care. We will be sharing our latest findings with practitioners and researchers at an event at the University in Jan 2017. The project stems from my earlier involvement with the Suffolk Family Justice Council. I have written about this work in the Journal of Law and Society.

In 2014, I presented a BBC TWO series, Shopgirls: The True Story of Life Behind the Counter tracing the history of Britain's shopworkers and consumer cultures from 1860 to the present. I talk about the series in this podcast. I've also enjoyed writing an accompanying book, Shopgirls, co-authored with Annabel Hobley. The project was part-funded by the ESRC and inspired by my 2012 series, Servants: The True Story of Life Below Stairs, a history of domestic servants from the mid-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth centuries. This podcast has more on Servants and explains its links to my book, Bad Girls in Britain in which I explore the part played by domestic service training in the reform of delinquent, destitute and neglected girls.

I've recently been involved in a number of events to mark the 40th anniversary of the 1974 Working Women's Charter. My TEDx talk makes the case for this - namely that only 4 of the original 10 demands have been met in 40 years - and History & Policy hosts our new draft charter.

I am an external examiner at the University of Lancaster and a member of the editorial boards of two journals: Cultural and Social History and Contemporary British History. I served as Dean of the Graduate School here at Essex from 2009-13.

I have recently published articles in History Workshop Journal, the British Journal of Criminology and the Journal of Law and Society. My co-authored and co-edited books include Criminology: A Sociological Introduction (2014), Crime in Modern Britain (2002) and Becoming Delinquent: European Youth, 1650-1950 (2002).


  • –present
    Professor, Department of Sociology, University of Essex