Emma Griffin

Emma Griffin


  • 4.20 Arts

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Personal profile

Administrative Posts

  • Director of Admissions, 2008-2009
  • Director of Research, 2016-17; 2018-19


British social and economic history of the 18th and 19th centuries, in particular the industrial revolution, its social consequences and impact upon women

Teaching Interests

I teach courses on the social and economic history of Britain, 1750-1900, with particular interests in gender history, the industrial revolution, and working-class life.  I would welcome postgraduate students working on any aspect of cultural history from 1700 to 1900, and particularly those interested in industrialisation, working-class history, and women.


I studied in London as an undergraduate and then moved to Cambridge to work on a PhD on popular recreations.  Before joining UEA, I held a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, and a lectureship at Sheffield University.  I held a Scouloudi fellowship in London and a Gilder-Lehrman fellowship in New York, and was a visiting maître de conférence at the Université de Paris VIII in 2004.  In 2001, my Ph.D. was awarded the Prince Consort and Thirlwall Prize.  

My research focuses on the social and economic history of Britain during the period 1700-1914, with a particular focus on the history of industrialisation and its social consequences




Key Research Interests and Expertise

My major research interest in recent years has been the British industrial revolution.  The first outcome of this research was a student textbook published by Palgrave which aimed to clarify exactly what the industrial revolution was and when and why it occurred.  A draft chapter looking at the way in which ideas about ‘industrial revolution’ have changed over the last two hundred years may be found here: The 'industrial revolution': interpretations from 1830 to the present.  A summary of some of my thoughts about the industrial revolution can also be found here: Victorian Industrialisation.

More recently, this project has evolved into a broader concern with the ways in which life changed for the working poor during this period.  Throughout most of the twentieth century, historians have taken a very bleak view of the social consequences of the industrial revolution: they have argued that this period witnessed lower wages, longer working hours, more intensive and monotonous working patterns, an increase in child labour, and deteriorating housing conditions – on almost all measures, the consensus is that industrialisation had deleterious consequences for the labouring poor.  I am revisiting these claims through an extensive analysis of working-class autobiography and life-writing.  These sources provide eloquent testimony to the social misery that industrialisation sometimes wrought, but they also challenge the accepted narrative in complex ways.  Looking at experiences of industrialisation through the prism of the family I argue that the benefits and costs of industrial progress were spread unevenly across husbands, wives and children.  This book is under contract with Yale University Press with a provisional publication date of 2012.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Devlopment Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 1 - No Poverty
  • SDG 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth