- Economic history
- Growth and development
- Labour markets
- Child labour in the British industrial revolution
- History of women’s work
- Relationship between the family and the economy
- Gender and economics
I am currently working on three different projects. The first extends my research using working-class autobiography to include narratives by women. I plan to set this material against a backdrop of economic and demographic change to understand how industrialization affected women's lives and gender relations.
The second (with Sara Horrell and Ken Sneath) responds to recent interest in the role of consumption in the process of industrialization. Economic historians have argued that acquisitiveness sharpened by the appearance of new goods prompted working people to work harder and longer: this 'industrious revolution' preceeding and in some ways conditioning the industrial revolution. However the chronology and causes of the upsurge in consumption remain debated. It is important to separate the effects of changes in tastes from more conventional causes of consumption such as falling prices and rising incomes. Tracing patterns in consumption and linking these to their underlying causes is complicated and requires new sources. This project uses criminal records, and specifically accounts of stolen property, to identify the status of owners of goods considered emblematic of the consumer revolution and traces trends in ownership over time conditional on parallel trends in prices and incomes.
The third project (with Jacob Weisdorf) aims to provide a long run (1260-1850) wage series for unskilled women workers. Drawing widely on primary resources the series can be compared with trends in the wages of male agricultural labourers and used in evaluating the evolution of women's welbeing over several centuries.
I have edited the Economic History Review and been President of the Economic History Society. I am currently the Vice President of the Economic History Association. I have written a large number of articles and papers and edited several collections and journal special issues. My paper 'Enclosures, Common Rights and Women: The Proletarianization of Families in late Eighteenth and early Nineteenth Century Britain', won the Arthur H. Cole Prize for the outstanding article published in the Journal of Economic History in 1990. My monograph, Childhood and Child Labour in the British Industrial Revolution, was awarded the Gyorgi Ranki Biennial Prize for an outstanding book in European Economic History by the Economic History Association in 2011. A documentary for BBC4, The Children who Built Victorian Britain, based on this research, which I presented and co-wrote won the award for the Best History Program at the International History Makers festival in New York in February 2012.