Staff Profiles


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.

See all of Brad’s publications here

Follow Brad @BradJBeaven

Karl Bell

karl_bellDr Karl Bell is Senior Lecturer 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.

See all of Karl’s publications here

Follow Karl @drkarlbell

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.

See all of Rob’s publications here

Follow Rob @RobJames68

Steven Gray

steven_new-profile-picDr Steven Gray is Lecturer in the History of the Royal Navy. His research focuses on British imperial, maritime, transnational, global and transoceanic history. He is particularly interested in the material infrastructures of global networks, and how these facilitated the mobility of goods, people, militaries and empires. Steven’s interest within the Port Towns project relate directly to his research that has looked at how the expansion of a steam-powered Royal Navy in the second half of the nineteenth century had wider ramifications across the British empire. Steam propulsion made vessels less subject to the vagaries of tides, winds and currents, but it also made them utterly dependent on a particular resource – coal – and its distribution around the world. His research assesses how this created geopolitical tensions, required large infrastructures, as well as labour forces, and also engendered cultural connections around the globe. He is also responsible for the new MA Naval History programme at the University.

See all of Steven’s publications here

Follow Steven @Sjgray86

Jessica Moody

P9020006Dr Jessica Moody is Lecturer in Modern History and Heritage. She joined the University of Portsmouth in 2014 and her research focuses on the various ways in which people engage with the past; through heritage, public history, collective memory and commemoration. She has particular research interests in the memory of transatlantic slavery in Britain and the Atlantic World and in the representation and public engagement with dissonant heritage and difficult/traumatic histories.

Jessica’s interests with the Port Towns project relate directly to her work on the representation of transatlantic slavery in port cities. Her PhD mapped the collective memory of slavery in public discourse in Liverpool from the 19th century to the present day and she is currently developing research around this topic to other locales. She is also interested in researching links between maritime mythologies, local and national identity narratives, and discourses of ‘race’ and empire more broadly across Europe. She would be happy to supervise PhD candidates on any of these topics.

See all of Jessica’s publications here

Follow Jessica @jessicammoody

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

Melanie Bassett

Melanie BassettDr Melanie Bassett is a Sessional Lecturer in History and a Research Associate for Port Towns and Urban Cultures. Her PhD research is entitled, The Royal Dockyard Worker in Edwardian England: Culture, Leisure and Empire. The thesis re-examined the concept of a monolithic imperial identity and tracked the nuances of working-class imperialism within what has been assumed to be one of the British Empire’s most deferential, subservient and politically conservative workforces. It asserted that research has yet to articulate how the sectional divisions and social and cultural hierarchies presented in the workplace were replicated in the wider community.  It traced the leisure activities patronised by Dockyard workers and assessed their attitudes to their right to take part in the expanding opportunities for recreation and the key issue of how their patterns of leisure reflected their attitudes towards the British Empire and their own role in it. Through the use of local sources and an exploration of the themes at a local level it demonstrated how concepts of imperialism manifested itself in the everyday lives of the British public during the height of the British Empire.

Follow Melanie @melanie_bassett

See Melanie’s posts on this website.

Simon Smith

simon_smithSimon Smith is a Doctoral Candidate working under the Port Towns and Urban Cultures project and is also a Sessional Lecturer in History. His PhD research considers the experience of sailors in the Royal Navy during the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. Looking beyond the technological changes, Simon focuses on the image of sailors and the presentation of the Royal Navy: no longer was the British sailor a ‘bawdy drunkard’ but a hero of the Empire policing the oceans and enforcing Pax Britannia. With a key focus on the growth of pageantry and the positioning of the navy in British imperial culture, this fits in a neat juxtaposition with the growing trend of port-towns research. His research aims to provide socio-cultural investigation of sailors and their relationship with the navy and imperialism.

As part of the project team, Simon is involved with the running of the Port Towns and Urban Cultures website, producing and maintaining content for it, along with social media communications for the project.

Follow Simon @SMGSmith

See Simon’s posts on this website.

Eilís Phillips

Eilís PhillipsEilís Phillips is a MRes student 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. She will be embarking on a PhD from September 2016.

As part of the project team, Eilís is involved with the running of the Port Towns and Urban Cultures website, producing and maintaining content for it, along with social media communications for the project.

Follow Eilís @EilisPhillips

See Eilís’ posts on this website.

Chris Spackman


Dr Chris Spackman is a part-time Tutor in History at the University of Portsmouth working under the Port Towns and Urban Cultures Project. His thesis examined the relationship between the Boys’ Brigade and urban cultures in late nineteenth and early twentieth century Britain. Through a case study approach of the port-side locations of London, Bristol, and Glasgow his thesis assessed both regional and national variances in the application of the object of the organisation. In particular, Chris’ research afforded special attention to the leisure pursuits undertaken by the movement. Through his case study approach Chris’ thesis offered a challenge to the historiographical consensus that purports that camping, rather than the regular weekly sessions, was the greatest attraction available to members of youth movements.

As a member of the project Chris produces content for the website. Recently he delivered a paper at the Annual Social History Conference titled “‘We Have an Anchor That Keeps the Soul’: The Summer Camps of the Boys’ Brigade in Port Towns, 1886-1933”.

Follow Chris @ChrisSpackman

See Chris’ posts on this website.

Daniel Swan

daniel_swanDaniel Swan is a Doctoral Candidate working under the Port Towns and Urban Cultures project. His PhD considers wartime citizenship, gender roles, young women’s identities, and the interactions between public and private memories of war within women’s reconstructions of their lives during the Second World War in Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight through oral testimony. Space and place is an integral part of his work; assessing the areas where women lived, worked, socialized, and the relationships between people within these spaces. Daniel is a research assistant for a national project examining the commemoration of the First World War during the centenary. As part of this he is interviewing visitors to 36 Hours: Jutland 1916, The Battle That Won the War, a centenary exhibition about the Battle of Jutland at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, and will be transcribing the interviews. His research interests include gender, cultural and oral history.

Follow Daniel @danielswan38

See Daniel’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.


Anna Bowman

Fortnum and Masons - croppedAnna Bowman (MA, AMA) is an experienced museum curator who joined the department in April as Naval Heritage Archivist, seconded to HMS Warrior 1860 as the ship’s Archivist.  Her central role on the ship is to manage the collections, assist with the interpretation and presentation of the Ship and its history and provide greater access to the collections, particularly for research purposes.  Anna will also be working on the digitisation of the collection. Anna is an established museum professional who has managed a variety of collections both here in Portsmouth and in her home county of Yorkshire. Her specific expertise is Collection and Volunteer management and Museum accreditation.  As District Museum Officer for the Craven District she managed the three museums, including collections management and a programme of exhibition and events.  Her most recent role was the West Yorkshire Textile project, evaluating the importance of the textile collections and ensuring greater accessibility to them for visitors, researchers and Universities. As part of the project team, Anna will be working on the new MA Naval History programme at the University, facilitating access to HMS Warrior‘s Archives and museum collections at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.

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