Dr Laura Tisdall

  • The history of childhood, youth and ageing
  • Oral history and self-narratives
  • The history of psychology and psycho-analysis

I am currently writing a monograph that considers two key historical questions. Firstly, what is meant by a ‘progressive’ education, and how did it influence practice in British schools? Secondly, how did childhood and adolescence change in Britain after the Second World War, and how did new ideas about education influence this shift? In this monograph, I will argue that children and adolescents were fundamentally redefined in this period as limited by their chronological age, marking a much sharper dividing line between childhood and adulthood. This research has raised two key questions: how did teenage pupils respond to this major shift in conceptions of adolescence, and how far did this rethinking of childhood and youth entail, or reflect, a reconceptualisation of adulthood? 

My two current research projects address these questions. The first is concerned with teachers’ ideas of age and ageing in England from c.1970 to the present day. While teachers themselves age, each year's new cohort of pupils will never grow old. This study will allow me to explore how ideas of what it is to be a ‘child’ or an ‘adult’ develop in relation to each other; as teachers move through the life-cycle, do their expectations of their pupils, and of themselves, change? I recently undertook an oral history study for this project, in which I interviewed teachers who started teaching in Oxfordshire in the 1970s. 

Conversely, my second project will consider how adolescents’ conceptions of adulthood have changed since the Second World War. It will explore the tension between the 'ideal adult' – the psychologically mature independent actor who can, for example, give informed consent to medical procedures – and the real adult who often doesn't live up to these prescriptions. It also responds to recent concerns in the history of childhood and youth about locating the child or adolescent voice by both identifying, and, via oral history interviews, creating, a series of major source sets where young people narrate an imagined adulthood. Overall, it will consider how both adolescence and adulthood were constructed in relation to each other in post-war Britain, and how this conditioned adolescents' own identities.

  • Children and youth during the Gilded Age and Progressive Era edited by James Martin with a foreword by Paula S. Fass

  • The psychologist, the psychoanalyst and the ‘extraordinary child’ in postwar British science fiction

  • Education, parenting and concepts of childhood in England, c. 1945 to c. 1979

  • Family Men: Fatherhood and Masculinity in Britain, c. 1914–1960

  • Inside the ‘blackboard jungle’

  • ‘ “Children” and the nanny state: shifting the boundaries of adolescence,’

  • 'That was what Life in Bridgeburn had Made Her': Reading the Autobiographies of Children in Institutional Care in England, 1918-46

  • 'Michael Gove's education policies would have looked old-fashioned in the 1950s,'

  • More

Current DPhil Students

  • Heather Mann (2016-): 'A Global Holocaust Education? The battle between global and national memory in Austrian, British and French education from 1980 to the present day', co-supervisor.
  • Vicki Woodman (2016-17): 'Speak for Themselves. The experiences of naval wives during the Falklands War (1982). More than an oral history', external co-supervisor for final year at the University of Portsmouth.

I would be willing to hear from potential DPhil students regarding Modern British social and cultural history: the history of education, childhood, youth, and ageing, and gender history. I am also especially interested in projects concerned with self-narratives and oral history.

I currently teach:


History of the British Isles VI: 1518-1924 History of the British Isles VI: 1815-1924
History of the British Isles VII: since 1900 History of the British Isles VII: since 1900
General History IV: 185-1914 Politics 202: British Politics and Government since 1900
Historiography Disciplines of History

Talking History: Story, Orality and Community, 2012-13, University of Cambridge: funded by an AHRC Collaborative Skills Award, student-led [lhttp://www.ahrc.ac.uk/funding/opportunities/casestudytalkinghistory/]

Making History: Telling Our Own Stories, 2016, TORCH/University of Oxford: funded by the Public Engagement with Research Seed Fund [http://torch.ox.ac.uk/making-history-telling-our-own-stories]


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