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Claire Langhamer

Claire Langhamer is Director of the Institute of Historical Research.

Claire is a social and cultural historian of modern Britain who specializes in the history of everyday life, especially the experiences of women and girls, and the history of feeling.

Institute Roles

Claire joined the IHR in October 2021, moving from the University of Sussex where she had been Professor of Modern British History since 2014, a Senior Lecturer since 2004, and a Lecturer since 1998. She is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and a Trustee of the Mass Observation Archive and sits on a number of Advisory Boards including that of the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin. She has a degree in History from Manchester University (1991) and a PhD from the University of Central Lancashire (1996).

She teaches on the MA in History, Place & Community, for which she convenes the Scoping & Planning a Research Project module.

Research Interests

Claire’s research largely focuses on twentieth- and twenty-first-century Britain. She is particularly interested in the intersections between the social, the cultural and the emotional, and has tried to develop new ways of working across these categories using life writing, particularly that found within the Mass Observation Archive, and oral history. Her publications on women’s lives include studies of leisure, home and employment and a collaboration with Penny Tinkler and Stephanie Spencer on Women in Fifties Britain (2017). Her work on girls’ autobiographical writing has culminated in a trade book - Class of ’37, co-written with Hester Barron - which explores the lives of one particular class of twelve and thirteen-year-old Bolton schoolgirls who wrote essays for Mass Observation in 1937. The book uses both on their own writing and the memories of their descendants. 

Claire’s interest in emotion has led her to historicise individual feelings and employ emotion more broadly as a category of historical analysis. Her work with Ian Gazeley on interwar happiness brought emotion and economics together; her publications on love - including the monograph, The English in Love (2013) - challenged existing chronologies of social and cultural change. The latter was a book of the week in The Sunday Telegraph and The Times Higher. She continues to explore the history of love through her editorship of the modern volume of Bloomsbury’s A Cultural History of Love which will examine love in all its forms, within a global context. Claire’s other research projects explore emotion during war, at work and in politics. A British Academy-sponsored collaboration with Lucy Noakes and Claudia Siebrecht resulted in in the co-edited volume, Total War: an Emotional History (2020) and a book on Feelings at Work in modern Britain is under contract with Oxford University Press. She has published articles and chapters on the emotional politics of the 1940s and 1950s and plans to contribute a monograph on The Emotional Reconstruction of Postwar Britain to Bloomsbury’s Mass Observation Series.

Wider Academic Work

Claire advocates for History through collaborations with archives and museums, the media, schools, and diverse publics. She has supported the historical community through her activities as a Trustee of the Mass-Observation Archive (since 2007); her work as a REF panelist in 2021 and output assessor for REF2014; and her co-editorship of Twentieth Century British History from 2010-2013. She has a strong commitment to public engagement work which includes television (e.g. Princess Margaret: Rebel Royal in 2018), radio (e.g. the Radio 4 series Our House in 2019) and school programming (e.g. Women and Work for BBC2 Schools, 2013; the Secondary Education and Social Change in the UK since 1945 Schools videos, 2021). She works with archives and museums (e.g. a lecture to accompany The National Archive’s Britain’s Cold War Revealed exhibition in 2019; a podcast on Mass Observation with Bolton Museum in 2020), with theatres (e.g. Ropetackle Centre, 2014), within the local community (e.g. an in-conversation with Helen Pankhurst at a pop-up event in Brighton in 2019), and for groups and organizations such as the Historical Association. She is currently collaborating with Hester Barron and Bolton Museum on a schools engagement project in Bolton.


Co-authored trade book

With Hester Barron, Class of 37. Girls Growing up Before the War (Metro, 2021).

Single authored monographs

The English in Love. The Intimate Story of an Emotional Revolution (Oxford University Press, 2013).

Women's Leisure in England, 1920-1960 (Manchester University Press, 2000).


Edited collections

With Lucy Noakes and Claudia Siebrecht, Total War: An Emotional History (British Academy/ Oxford University Press, 2020).

With Penny Tinkler and Stephanie Spencer eds., Women in Fifties Britain: A New Look, (Routledge, 2017).


‘Mass-Observing the Pandemic’: Writing Histories of 2020 roundtable. Historical Research, 93:262,  2020, 795-801.

'Mass-Observing the Atom Bomb: The Emotional Politics of August 1945', Contemporary British History, 33:2, 2019, 208-225.  

''Who the Hell are Ordinary People Anyway?' Ordinariness as a Category of Historical Analysis’, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 28, 2018, 175-195.

With Hester Barron, 'Children, Class, and the Search for Security: Writing the Future in 1930s Britain', Twentieth Century British History, 28:3, 2017, 367-389.

'Feelings, Women and Work in the Long 1950s’, Women’s History Review, 26:1, 2017, 77-92.

With Hester Barron, 'Feeling through Practice: Subjectivity and Emotion in Children's Writing', Journal of Social History, 51:1, 2017, 101-123.

'Everyday Advice on Everyday Love: Romantic Expertise in Mid-twentieth Century Britain', L'HOMME, European Journal of Feminist History, 24:1, 2013, Online.

With Ian Gazeley, 'The Meanings of Happiness in Mass Observation’s Bolton', History Workshop Journal, 75:1, Spring 2013, 159-189.

'Love, Selfhood and Authenticity in Post-war Britain', Cultural and Social History, 9:2, 2012, 277-297 12.

''The Live Dynamic Whole of Feeling and Behavior': Capital Punishment and the Politics of Emotion, 1945-57', Journal of British Studies, 51:2, 2012, 416-441.

'Love and Courtship in Mid-twentieth-century England', Historical Journal, 50:1, 2007, 173-196.

'Adultery in Post-war England', History Workshop Journal, 62:1, 2006, 86-115.

'The Meanings of Home in Postwar Britain', Journal of Contemporary History, 40:2, 2005, 341-362.

''A Public House is for all Classes, Men and Women Alike': Women, Leisure and Drink in Second World War England’, Women's History Review, 12:3, 2003, 423-443.

'Manchester Women and their Leisure: Changing Experiences from Youth to Married Adulthood, 1920- 1960', Manchester Region History Review, XIII, 1999, 32-42.


‘Working and Feeling in Modern Britain’ in Arnold Forster and Moulds eds., Feelings and Work in Modern History: Emotional Labour and Emotions About Labour (Bloomsbury, 2021).

‘Mass-Observation’, in Loughran ed., Bloomsbury History: Theory and Method (Bloomsbury, 2021).

''Astray in a Dark Forest'? The Emotional Politics of Reconstruction Britain', in Langhamer, Noakes, Siebrecht eds., Total War: An Emotional History (British Academy/ Oxford University Press, 2020).

'Trust, Authenticity and Bigamy in Twentieth-century England', in Barclay, Meek and Thompson eds., Courtship, Marriage and Marriage Breakdown: Perspectives from the History of Emotions (Palgrave, 2019).

'Amours, Séductions et Désir' in Corbin, Courtine and Vigarello eds., Histoire Des Emotions, volume 3, L’Empire De L’Emotion, 1880-2013 (Editions du Seuil, 2017).

‘Afterword’ to Harris and Jones eds. Love and Romance in Britain, 1918-1970 (Palgrave, 2014).

‘Leisure: Comparative History and Practices’, in Bonnie G. Smith, ed., in The Oxford Encyclopaedia of Women in World History, (Oxford University Press, 2008).

‘Mass Observation and Histories of Women’, Mass Observation Online (Adam Matthews, 2007).

‘Leisure, Pleasure and Courtship: Young Women in England, c.1920-1960’ in Maynes, Soland and Benninghaus, eds., Secret Gardens, Satanic Mills. Placing Girls in European History, 1750-1960 (Indiana University Press, 2005).

'Towards a Feminist Framework for the History of Women’s Leisure, c. 1920-1960' in Gallagher, Lubelska and Ryan, eds., Re-presenting the Past. Women and History (Longman, 2001).