My research interests are in the history of work and occupational health where I’ve played a significant role over the past two decades in applying an oral history methodology. My work thus lies at the intersection of the sub-disciplines of labour and medical history. My recent publications reflect this, including a co-authored book, Miners’ Lung (Ashgate, 2007), my monograph Working Lives: Work in Britain since 1945 (Palgrave 2013) and the co-authored book Men in Reserve: British Civilian Masculinity in the Second World War (Manchester University Press, 2017). Generous financial support from external funders has contributed to these research outputs, including the AHRC, the Wellcome Trust, the Nuffield Foundation and the Hudson Trust. I am currently working on projects on the transnational gendered health impacts of industrialisation and deindustrialisation (as Co-investigator in a major Canadian SSHRC research project: Deindustrialization and the Politics of our Time, 2021-27); 'The Lost Villages: Deindustrialisation in East Ayrshire' (Principal Investigator: Externally funded £143,000, 2021-23); working lives in the Scottish and Irish whisky industry (funded by Diageo, Irish Distillers and Chivas; since 2015); and the oral history of occupational health.
I am currently writing a book, Jobs and Bodies: An Oral History of Health and Safety at Work in Post-War Britain (under contract with Bloomsbury Press for delivery 1 Oct 2022).
In my role as Director (since 2005) of the Scottish Oral History Centre (SOHC) I have overseen its development into an internationally renowned interdisciplinary research and knowledge exchange centre for oral history. I am passionate about oral history and have played a leading role in getting oral history situated as one of the four research strengths of the History subject area at the University of Strathclyde, in teaching through our undergraduate and postgraduate oral history pathways, in providing advanced oral history training through the SGSAH/SS and in supervising dissertation, Masters and PhD theses deploying oral history methodologies.
I strongly believe that academic research should have a significant public impact and that there should be deep engagement with the public and wider stakeholders. I have tried to do this in my own research where my oral history approach to occupational respiratory disease and disability has had a significant effect on understanding the diverse and complex impacts of contracting such diseases upon identities, health and well-being, including in relation to the ongoing asbestos-related disease epidemic. I held an AHRC Knowledge Transfer Fellowship with Glasgow Museums in 2010-11 and have developed close links with museums, archives, community groups and some businesses, which has significantly impacted on their practices, including their understanding of the importance of memory heritage and the role of the voice in reconstructing past lived experience. I submitted a public impact case study to REF2014 and another: 'Memory in Public History' to REF2021 (rated at internal audit at 4*). The latter incorporates a new MOOC (FutureLearn) I worked on (with Kirstie Blair) delivered over 2019-2021 on coal miners' working lives (in collaboration with coal mining museums). Over 4,650 learners have taken the MOOC to date.
I have extensive experience of postgraduate supervision and welcome enquiries from prospective Masters and doctoral students interested in any aspects of the history of work, occupational health and safety, and deindustrialisation – especially those interested in deploying oral history methodology.