Staff Profiles

Meet the PTUC Team!

Centre Director

Brad Beaven

brad_beavenBrad Beaven is Professor in Social and Cultural History and has worked at the University of Portsmouth since 1994.  He has published widely on urban popular culture in Britain in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. He is author of Leisure, Citizenship and Working-Class Culture, 1850-1945 (2005), Visions of Empire: Patriotism, Popular Culture and the City, 1850-1939 (2012) and Dickens and the Victorian City (with Patricia Pulham, 2012). He has contributed on working-class leisure for both BBC radio and television programmes, most recently, The Golden Age of Coach Travel (2011) and British Passions on Film (2012).

Brad is the Port Towns and Urban Cultures Project Leader and is currently researching port-town urban culture in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, focusing on the topography of sailortowns. Brad is an experienced doctoral supervisor and welcomes PhD applicants interested in popular culture and the city c.1800 – 1945. Follow Brad @BradJBeaven

See all of Brad’s publications here.

See Brad’s posts on this website


Staff members

Karl Bell

karl_bellDr Karl Bell is Reader in History. His research interests revolve around aspects of the fantastical imagination in the nineteenth century. He has published work on magic, witchcraft, urban folklore, millenarianism, and supernatural readings of landscape. His first book, The Magical Imagination: Magic and Modernity in Urban England, 1780-1914 (2012) has been shortlisted for the 2012 Whitfield Prize. He is also the author of The Legend of Spring-heeled Jack: Victorian Urban Folklore and Popular Cultures (2012).

Karl’s interests within the Port Towns project relate to local ghost lore, spatial narratives, and popular urban mentalities. He is currently developing work on invasion scares and future war fiction in nineteenth-century port towns. He would be happy to hear from potential PhD candidates who would like to work in any of these areas. Follow Karl @drkarlbell

See all of Karl’s publications here

Rob James

rob_james Dr Rob James is Senior Lecturer in History. His research interests centre on British society’s leisure habits, in particular the relationship between leisure provision and consumption in the early twentieth century. He is author of Popular Culture and Working-Class Taste in Britain 1930-39: a round of cheap diversions? (2010), and numerous articles on aspects of popular taste and cinema-going in Britain, including ‘Cinema-going in a Port Town, 1914-1951: Film booking patterns at the Queens Cinema, Portsmouth, UK’, Urban History, 40.2, 2013.

Rob’s current research project investigates leisure provision and consumption in British port towns in the first half of the twentieth century. It assesses the responses of civic elites to the growing number of leisure activities on offer in these towns, and the ways in which the townspeople participated in them. He welcomes prospective PhD applicants interested in any aspect of popular culture in twentieth century Britain. Follow Rob @RobJames68

See all of Rob’s publications here.

Read Rob’s posts on the website

Cathryn Pearce

Cathryn Pearce is a Part-time Lecturer for the MA Naval History programme. She also currently teaches maritime history at the University of Greenwich, and was formerly an Associate Professor of History at University of Alaska Anchorage. Her research focuses on coastal communities responses to shipwrecks on their shores during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. She is author of Cornish Wrecking: Reality and Popular Myth, 1700-1860 (2010), and she has contributed to BBC television programmes such as Timewatch: The Wreckers and Timeshift: Shipwrecks, as well as BBC Radio 4’s ‘Making History’ programme. In her spare time, Cathryn is secretary of the Publications Committee for the Society for Nautical Research (SNR), on SNR’s Council and she serves on the editorial board of the SNR’s INT-1 journal, The Mariner’s Mirror. She is also a Trustee of the British Commission for Maritime History, a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and a member of the Navy Records Society.

Cathryn’s current research focuses on the history of lifesaving and coastal communities, with particular emphasis on the role of the Shipwrecked Fishermen and Mariners’ Royal Benevolent Society, founded by some of the most important naval officers of the nineteenth century. See a selection of Cathryn’s publications here. Follow Cathryn @CathrynPearce

Mathias Seiter

Mathias_SeiterDr Mathias Seiter is Senior Lecturer in History. In his research on Central Europe during the long 19th century he addresses questions of identity formation, nation building, borderlands and liminal spaces, perceptions of space, and German-Jewish history. His current research on port towns focuses on German naval towns and seaports, in particular Kiel, Wilhelmshaven and Bremerhaven between 1871 and 1918. As gateways to the Baltic and the North Sea, these port towns were spaces in which different people, cultures and identities met. His project will assess the interplay and connectedness of transnational, imperial, national and local identities and how identities manifested themselves in urban culture and spaces.

See all of Mathias’ publications here

James H. Thomas


Dr James H. Thomas is Reader in Local and Maritime History at the University of Portsmouth. James has six books to his credit, three of which deal with Portsmouth. He is the author of three Portsmouth Papers on maritime matters and of over 100 articles in peer-reviewed international, national and regional journals. Many of these examine, in various forms, the relationship between Portsmouth and the sea. His research interests embrace cultural, economic, maritime and social relations in Portsmouth 1650-1800, the East India Company’s eighteenth-century provincial impact, piracy in the Indian Ocean 1690-1820, and the celebration of George III’s birthday. He has successfully supervised 1 M.Phil and 7 PhDs to completion, 1 M.St. for the University of Oxford and numerous dissertations at Masters level. He has acted as an External Examiner for the University of Winchester and has examined theses for the Universities of Exeter, Southampton and Winchester.

A member of two editorial boards, he has also served on the Council of the Navy Records Society and that of the British Association for Local History. He is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, of the Society of Antiquaries and of the Historical Association.

See all of James’ publications here

See James’s posts on this website

Research Assistant

Melanie Bassett

Melanie BassettDr Melanie Bassett is the Research Associate for Port Towns and Urban Cultures and a Sessional Lecturer in History. She manages the PTUC website and social media outputs alongside undertaking her own research on port towns. Her PhD research, ‘The Royal Dockyard Worker in Edwardian England: Culture, Leisure and Empire’ re-examined the concept of a monolithic imperial identity and tracked the nuances of working-class imperialism. She has worked with Professor Brad Beaven on a number of WW1 projects, including ‘Mapping the National Impact of the Jutland Battle: Civic and Community Responses during the First World War’ and ‘Lest We Forget’ in partnership with Portsmouth City Museum, which culminated in a large-scale exhibition that commemorated the ways that Portsmouth and its people experienced the War.

Mel previously worked in museums and was employed at Portsmouth City Museum and the Royal Naval Museum.

Follow Melanie @melanie_bassett

See Melanie’s posts on this website


PhD Candidates

John Bolt

John Bolt is a full-time PhD candidate at the University of Portsmouth. His research focus is on the social history of the Royal Marines, principally in the nineteenth century, and aims to demonstrate how the organizational culture of the Royal Marine Corps and its unique military identity developed in the Royal Dockyard cities of Chatham, Portsmouth, and Plymouth. Now a resident of Portsmouth, John is originally a native of the United States from the Greater Boston area. Since moving to Portsmouth, John has volunteered as an archivist with the Royal Marines Museum in Portsmouth, and has also worked as a project manager on the exhibition, “36 Hours: Jutland 1916, The Battle That Won the War”, at the National Museum of the Royal Navy. John also assists with the MA Naval History at the University of Portsmouth. John earned his BA History from the Virginia Military Institute, and his MA History (Merit) from the University of Portsmouth. Prior to undertaking further studies in history, John has most recently served as a United States Marine Corps Officer, having served as an infantry officer, intelligence officer, and as a military advisor. John’s research interests include the examination of the evolution of military cultures, the historical treatment of military veterans, and civil-military relations in urban port town communities. Follow John @JD_Bolt and at

See John’s posts on this website

Joe Davey

Joe-DaveyJoe Davey is a PhD Student working under the Port Towns and Urban Cultures project. His research looks to explore seafarers in the port of Bristol between 1850 and 1939 and the extent to which seafarers formed a distinct sub-culture of the working-class. Looking at working-classes and seafarers’ leisure, culture, employment, income, crime, housing, citizenship, the project will assess how far seafarers’ identity can be determined as separate in relation to the working-classes as a whole in the port of Bristol. The research will also assess how accurate the argument is that Bristol did not have its own sailortown and how this manifested in relation to the development of Bristol as a port and a city.

Elizabeth Libero

Elizabeth C. Libero is a Doctoral Candidate at the University of Portsmouth. Her research examines the Royal Navy’s activities in the South Atlantic during the first decade of the nineteenth century. She is especially interested in ways that processes of knowledge production shaped imperial activities. Prior to this, Elizabeth completed a BA at Smith College, an MA in Social Studies Education at Columbia University, and an MA in Eighteenth-Century Worlds at the University of Liverpool, earning a distinction for her dissertation ‘Writing Naval Identity: The memoirs of Samuel Walters, Lieutenant, R.N.’

Eilís Phillips

Eilís PhillipsEilís Phillips is a Doctoral Candidate and her research focuses on British nineteenth-century folklore, in particular examining the ways in which industrial sites that disturb rural environments such as mines, railways and shipping routes were portrayed as monstrous in the writing of the period. Her main areas of interest include all aspects of the monstrous and the magical during the 1800s, with specific focus on non-anthropocentric and human/environmental hybrid monster narratives, exploring these evolving narratives within the context of socio-cultural upheaval during the Industrial Revolution. Prior to undertaking undergraduate study at the University, Eilís worked as a professional musician and journalist. Follow Eilís @EilisPhillips

See Eilís’ posts on this website

Jenna Twyford-Jones

Jenna Twyford-Jones is a Doctoral Candidate, working on the nineteenth and early-twentieth century history of Tiger Bay, Cardiff’s ‘Sailortown.’ Her research explores the relationship between the residential and working community of Tiger Bay with the rest of the Cardiff city region, with particular attention to the contemporary media portrayal of this multicultural, multinational ‘Sailortown.’ The types of work the community engaged in, their leisure pursuits, civic life, social interactions, and familial ties all contribute to this research. This work follows on from her recently completed MA with Distinction in History from the Open University. Jenna’s wider historical interests include Black British and Anglo-Jewish history, as well as the history of immigration as a whole, especially to south Wales. Blog: Twitter: @JRTwyfordJones Instagram: @porttownpics

See Jenna’s posts on this website