Professor in Sociology, University of Essex

Pam joined the Social History Society as a graduate student in the early 1990s. In 2016 she co-convened its 40th anniversary conference, at which she was elected Chair.

She works across history and the social sciences and is currently working on two new research projects. The first, After Care, (with crime historians Barry Godfrey, Heather Shore and Zoe Alker) investigates the long-term impact of 19th and early 20th century youth justice interventions. They use digital record linkage to establish ‘what happened next’ to a large cohort of delinquent, difficult and destitute children passing through England’s early youth justice systems. The project raises questions about the uses of historical evidence in contemporary evidence-based policy making. Early findings generated much media coverage and our full findings will be published in a forthcoming book, Young Criminal Lives.

The second focuses on a pressing present-day challenge – that of recurrent care proceedings in the English child protection system. She is leading an interdisciplinary evaluation of two pioneering interventions (Positive Choices and Mpower) working with birth mothers at risk of losing further children to care. They will be sharing their latest findings with practitioners and researchers at an event at the University in January 2017. The project stems from Pam’s earlier involvement with the Suffolk Family Justice Council, which she has written about in the Journal of Law and Society.

In 2014, she presented a BBC TWO series, Shopgirls: The True Story of Life Behind the Counter tracing the history of Britain’s shopworkers and consumer cultures from 1860 to the present. She has also written an accompanying book, Shopgirls, co-authored with Annabel Hobley. The project was part-funded by the ESRC and inspired by my 2012 series, Servants: The True Story of Life Below Stairs, a history of domestic servants from the mid-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth centuries. This followed on from her book Bad Girls in Britain in which she explored the part played by domestic service training in the reform of delinquent, destitute and neglected girls.

Pam has always been keen to make social history useful beyond the academy, including by engaging with policy-makers and practitioners. As she recently wrote in the History Workshop Journal“As historians we need to be able to work across a larger range of outputs and look beyond the monograph, the journal article, the specialist website and the public exhibition. One way to do to this is to work, where time allows, more directly with practitioners themselves and to work to their agenda. We also need to be prepared to move beyond the confines of our particular ‘period’ when necessary and to swap our fine brushes for broader ones so as to paint new ‘grand narratives’ of social change that are not crudely determinist but are critical, structural and sceptical. This kind of work, whether or not it is formalized as ‘knowledge transfer’ or ‘research impact’, offers new opportunities for a more publicly-oriented history that, crucially, looks beyond the heritage sector and other creative industries. It would allow us to ‘punch our weight’ with integrity.”

Key Publications