Dr Laura King
- Position: Associate Professor in Modern British History
- Areas of expertise: The history of families, emotional relationships, gender, the life cycle and everyday life in twentieth-century Britain; public history and collaborative methodologies in research.
- Email: L.King@leeds.ac.uk
- Phone: +44(0)113 343 6745
- Location: 4.31b Parkinson Building
- Website: Twitter
Having completed a BA in Modern History and Politics and MA in Twentieth-Century History at the University of Sheffield, I started a PhD entitled 'Fatherhood and Masculinity in Britain, c.1918-1960'. This was supported by an AHRC Doctoral Award, and awarded in 2011. Following this, I took up a position as Postdoctoral Fellow at the Centre for the History of Medicine, University of Warwick, where I ran a public engagement project, 'Hiding in the Pub to Cutting the Cord? Fatherhood and Childbirth in Britain from the 1950s to the Present'.
I moved to Leeds in 2012, to take up a position as Arts Engaged Fellow (2012-15), reflecting my growing interest in collaboration with partners and audiences beyond the campus. In September 2015, I took up the position of University Academic Fellow in the History of Health, Family and the Everyday, and in May 2017 became Associate Professor in Modern British History. I'm a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, and a member of the Social History Society, Women's History Network and Oral History Society. I am also Deputy Director of History & Policy.
My research focuses on the social and cultural history of everyday family life, emotional relationships, health and gender in modern Britain.
‘Family History Collaborators in Conversation’, International Public History 2:2 (2020) (co-authored with Ashley Barnwell)
‘Art, Collaboration and Multi-Sensory Approaches in Public Microhistory: Journey with Absent Friends’, History Workshop Journal 89 (2020), pp.246-269 (co-authored with Jessica Hammett and Ellie Harrison)
‘How Men Valued Women’s Work: Labour In and Outside the Home in Post-War Britain’, Contemporary European History 28:4 (2019), pp.454-468
'Gendered Perspectives on Men's Changing Familial Roles in Postwar England, c.1950-1990', Gender and History 30:1 (2018), pp.70-92 (co-authored with Angela Davis)
'Ties That Bind: Materiality, Identity, and the Life Course in the "Things" Families Keep', Journal of Family History 43:2 (2018), pp.157-176 (co-authored with Liz Gloyn, Vicky Crewe and Anna Woodham)
'We Are What We Keep: The "Family Archive", Identity, and Public/Private Heritage', Heritage and Society 10:3 (2017), pp.203-220 (co-authored with Anna Woodham, Fiona Blair, Vicky Crewe, and Liz Gloyn)
‘Hiding in the Pub to Cutting the Cord? Men’s presence at childbirth in Britain c.1940s-2000s’, Social History of Medicine 30:2 (2017), pp.389-407
'Experiencing the Digital World: The Cultural Value of Digital Engagement with Heritage', Heritage and Society 9 (2016), pp.76-101 (co-authored with Paul Cooke and James Stark)
'Future Citizens: Cultural and Political Conceptions of Children in Britain, 1930s-1950s', Twentieth Century British History 27:3 (2016), pp.389-411
‘Engaging People in Making History: impact, public engagement and the world beyond the campus’, History Workshop Journal 80:1 (2015), pp.218-233 (co-written with Gary Rivett)
'The Perfect Man: Fatherhood, masculinity and romance in popular culture in mid-twentieth-century Britain', in A. Harris and T. Jones (eds), Love and Romance in Britain, 1918-1970 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014), pp.41-60
‘‘Now you see a great many men pushing their pram proudly’: Family-orientated masculinity represented and experienced in mid-twentieth-century Britain’, Cultural and Social History 10:4 (November 2013), pp.599-617
‘Hidden Fathers? The Significance of Fatherhood in Mid-Twentieth-Century Britain’, Contemporary British History 26:1 (March 2012), pp.25-46
In twentieth-century Britain, dying was both extraordinary and an 'everyday' experience. Whilst the death of a loved one was a momentous emotional event for the family involved, within the wider community death occurred regularly. This research will explore the testimonies of individuals to think about how death and dying were perceived and experienced in modern Britain, and to consider how the relationship between living and dead family members changed in this period. The aim is to explore the place of death and dying within family life, including how loved ones who had died were remembered. The project is funded by an AHRC Leadership Fellowship, and involves partnerships with Leeds City Council Public Health team through the Dying Matters Partnership , Leeds Museums & Galleries , Thackray Medical Museum , Leeds Bereavement Forum , and the artist Ellie Harrison through her Grief Series project.
This project investigates men's reaction to and relationship with their partner's pregnancy, the birth of their baby, and the early infant care. I'm exploring the rapid shift in men's involvement with childbirth, from the post-Second World War period, a time when most midwives, men and women thought that the delivery room was no place for a man, through the relatively rapid shift to including husbands in the 1970s, to the present day in which fathers are considered to be an integral part of the birth experience. This shift relates to broader changes in romantic relationships between men and women, the balance between constructions of birth as a medical or life event, and the involvement of fathers in their children's lives. Sources include oral history interviews, medical literature, social research, and popular cultural texts. Emergin from this, we ran the Thackray Birth Stories project in colalboration with Thackray Medical Museum and Bahar AFG to explore experiences of childbirth with women from Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq.
Agents of Future Promise: the ideological use of children in culture and politics (Britain and France, c.1880-c.1950)
This project examined how children have been instrumentalised to represent certain political futures. It explored the use of children as 'agents' of particular notions of the future, and the effects of it on their welfare, in three contexts: in British politics and culture during and after the Second World War; the instrumentalisation of children through material culture in Britain, c.1880-1914; and the political use of child evacuees in France during the Second World War. The project involved Dr Vicky Crewe and Dr Lindsey Dodd as Co-Investigators, and partnerships with History & Policy , Save the Children and War Child .
The Family Archive: Exploring Family Identities, Memories and Stories Through Curated Personal Possessions
Many families possess a 'family archive'; documents, photographs, heirlooms, scrapbooks, recipes and a whole range of other items that reveal insights into past generations and preserve family stories for future ones. Through historical case studies and contemporary focus groups, this project explored the concept of the family archive through time, considering what, how and why families have archived personal items for private purposes. The other investigators were Vicky Crewe, Liz Gloyn and Anna Woodham , and partnered with the National Archives , Barnsley Museum , Your Back Yard , and Sampad South Asian Arts .
This project emerged from my thesis, and explored the roles, relationships, authority and identity associated with fatherhood in twentieth-century Britain. The research demonstrated that fathers were much more involved in family life in the past than we usually recognised; whilst men were unlikely to change nappies or spend as much time doing childcare or with their children as mothers, fathers' relationships with both sons and daughters were understood as significant. Men likewise invested in this experience, and it could often be an important part of their identity. The mid-twentieth century saw a new emotional emphasis on the importance of involved fatherhood. The principal output from this project is a book entitled Family Men: Fatherhood and Masculinity in Britain, c.1914-60 , published in 2015 with Oxford University Press . The book has been reviewed by Dr Helen McCarthy on Reviews in History .
Collaboration and Engagement
Throughout my academic career, I have sought to work in collaboration with partners and publics outside higher education. Through my current project, Living with Dying, I am working with a number of different partners to consider how the history of death, dying and the dead might be used today. This has involved working on an artistic project with the Grief Series and co-curating an exhibition on Remembrance with Abbey House Museum.
I have been involved with and run a number of other projects, including:
- collaboration with the Thackray Medical Museum to co-produce with local parents an online exhibition about the history of childbirth;
- co-founder and co-director of the History & Policy Forum on Parenting;
- 'We are what we keep' series of public activities exploring family archives, as part of the 2015 Being Human festival;
- collaboration with West Yorkshire Probation Services to examine the impact of becoming a father on male service users, and produce resources;
- collaboration with heritage organisations to analyse how the digital influences the value of users' engagement with history and heritage;
- working with the Tetley and a number of volunteers to explore the history of the Brewery in the First World War;
- a partnership with Babakas, a theatre company, in production of their theatre piece, Our Fathers;
- collaborating with Nine Arches Press and a number of fathers to publish a collection of poetry.
I'm always looking for new ways to collaborate with different partners and members of the public - please do get in touch if you think we could work together.
I teach on various aspects of modern British history, and on modules which encourage students to work with external partners and engage with public audiences.
I am able to supervise MA and PhD students focusing on the social and cultural history of twentieth-century Britain, particularly those with interests in gender, family, health and the life course. I welcome all enquiries - please do get in touch.
Charlotte Tomlinson: A Million Forgotten Women: Propaganda and the Women’s Voluntary Services in Britain during the Second World War
Lauren Wells: Meanings and Representations of male to female cross-dressing in Britain, c.1870 to 1945
Judy Cox: Female chartists: Political auxilaries or glorious agents?
Miriam White: Rudies and Rastafari: Investigating the significance of reggae and ska in Britain (1975-1981)
Kelsie Root: Stillbirth in England in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries
Eleanor Murray: Learning Parenthood: Family, Schooling and Childhood, 1930-1980
Research groups and institutes
- Health, Medicine and Society
- Medical Humanities Research Group