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Professor of Economic and Social History, Nottingham Trent University

I am by training an historical demographer, with interests in disease, mortality and disability. Much of my research has focussed on how the poor contest the power of the state over their lives and welfare.In particular I am interested in how the accumulation of small acts of resistance and defiance allow the poorest and most marginal members of society to exercise agency. In my most recent book - Writing the Lives of the English Poor 1750s to 1830s (McGill-Queens University Press, 2019; winner of the 2019 British Academy Peter Townsend Prize) I use the words, rhetoric and strategy of the poor found in pauper letters written to parish authorities, to argue that state power was, was supposed to be and was supposed to be seen to be, malleable and negotiated. Nowhere was this more so than in arenas - such as smallpox vaccination - where the poor were legally compelled to give up control of their own bodies.


  • 2009–2020
    Professor of Economic and Social History, University of Leicester
  • 1997–2009
    Lecturer, Reader, Professor , Oxford Brookes University
  • 1993–1997
    Lecturer, University of Central Lancashire


The British Academy Peter Townsend Prize for Writing the Lives of the English Poor, 1750s-1830s (London, 2019) The Worshipful Society of Apothecaries Monckton Copeman Medal 2010 for my accumulated work in the history of medicine The Pasold Trust Prize (2002) for my article ‘Re-clothing the English poor 1750-1840’, Textile History, 27 (2002), 37-47