Dr Gill Cookson


BA: Leeds 1982 (History); DPhil: York 1994 (Economics); FRHistS

Career in academic research includes County Editor, Victoria County History of Durham, 1999-2009; Leverhulme Research Fellow, University of Teesside, 1995-98

Research interests

Economic history, especially eighteenth- and nineteenth-century industrial history of northern England; history of mechanical engineering and textiles; industrial communities and business networks; landscape history and growth of towns.

The Age of Machinery, published in 2018, challenges traditional views of the dynamics of British industrialisation. Detailed analysis of machine-making and iron-working in northern England shows a new engineering emerging, built on metal-working skills and traditional workshop models. It reveals significant family networks and the importance of community.

Research continues, into the earlier origins of modern engineering in Yorkshire, and exploring the concept of ‘enlightened economy’ – the influence of Enlightenment science on eighteenth-century engineering.



The Age of Machinery: Engineering the Industrial Revolution, 1770-1850 (Boydell Press, for Economic History Society series People, Markets, Goods: 2018)

Victoria County History of County Durham, V, Sunderland (Boydell and Brewer, 2015).

Sunderland: Building a City  (VCH Studies series: Phillimore, 2010)

Victoria County History of County Durham, IV, Darlington (Boydell and Brewer, 2005)

The Townscape of Darlington (VCH Studies series: Boydell Press, 2003)

Henry Maudslay and the Pioneers of the Machine Age, co-edited with J. A. Cantrell (Tempus Publishing, 2003)

The Cable: the Wire that Changed the World (Tempus Publishing, 2003; new edition by The History Press, 2012)

A Victorian Scientist and Engineer: Fleeming Jenkin and the Birth of Electrical Engineering (with C.A. Hempstead: Ashgate, 2000)

Main articles and chapters

'A city in search of yarn: the journal of Edward Taylor of Norwich, 1817', Textile History, 37 (1) (2006), 38-51

'Quaker families and business networks in 19th century Darlington', Quaker Studies, 8 (2) (2004), 119-40

'Quaker networks and the industrial development of Darlington, 1780-1870', in Andrew Popp and J. F. Wilson (ed.), Industrial Clusters and Regional Business Networks in England, 1750-1970 (Ashgate, 2003)

'The Golden Age of Electricity' in I. Inkster et al (ed.), The Golden Age: Essays in British Social and Economic History, 1850-1870 (Ashgate, 2000)

'"Ruinous competition": the French Atlantic Telegraph of 1869', Entreprises et Histoire, 23 (1999), 1-16

'The mechanization of Yorkshire card-making', Textile History, 29 (1) (1998), 41-61

'Family firms and business networks: textile engineering in Yorkshire, 1780-1830', Business History, 39 (1) (1997), 1-20.

'Millwrights, clockmakers and the origins of textile machine-making in Yorkshire', Textile History, 27 (1) (1996), 43-57

'Innovation, diffusion and mechanical engineers in Britain, 1780-1850', Economic History Review, XLVII, 4 (1994), 749-53


<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="https://ahc.leeds.ac.uk/dir/research-projects">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>