All posts filed under: History

Activist Selly Oak: Public History and Community Activism in Birmingham

This article first appeared on History Workshop Online on 13/03/2019. It was commissioned by Dr. Rachel Moss during her History Workshop Online Editorial Fellowship. In January (2019’s) issue of Tribune the geographer David Harvey explores housing commodification’s corrosive impact upon society. Reflecting upon his childhood home in suburban Kent, he shows that his family’s “house was a use value — stolid in its ordinariness”. In political economy use value refers to an object or a structure’s practical value to the user, whilst exchange value refers to the object’s potential financial or barter value if it is sold or exchanged, meaning that when Harvey’s parents owned it, the house’s purpose was primarily to provide the family with shelter and somewhere to build their lives. Harvey contrasts this with the highly financialised place of housing in contemporary society, arguing that in “…the city of speculative gain: occupancy becomes unstable and ephemeral, social solidarities and neighbourhood commonalities disintegrate.” This trend has played out dramatically and with highly detrimental results in Birmingham’s Selly Oak area, as I discovered while working on a …


I was recently enthralled by the hashtag “Thanks for Typing”. In a nutshell #ThanksforTyping is a way for today’s intellectuals to share and shine a spotlight upon just how vital the (often unpaid) labour-both intellectual and emotional-of typists, proofreaders, research assistants and other (often unpaid) has been in the development of knowledge.

Writing and Editing for Different Audiences

For slightly over a year now, I’ve been working for the history journal Past & Present as their Digital Engagement Assistant. It’s one of those fabled jobs we hear much about and tell students they have to prepare for, a position that would have barely existed five years ago, and been inconceivable going back ten. In practice it means that I spend the equivalent of roughly an afternoon a week, maintaining the journal’s website, managing their social media accounts and editing their blog.

Image of the cover of the "Janet Mandelsohn: Varna Road" exhibition catelogue (2016) image shows black and white close up portrait of "Kathleen" in shadow

Photographing ‘vice’ on the Varna Road

It’s every historian’s dream to track down an untouched archive. That is exactly what Kieran Connell – a researcher at the University of Birmingham – experienced in 2014 when, after months of searching, he received an email from a photographer: ‘I would love it if you could take over the collection of all my images about Balsall Heath’.