Malcolm McLaughlin

Malcolm McLaughlin


  • 2.22 Arts and Humanities Building

Accepting PhD Students

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Personal profile


I am a cultural historian of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, focusing mainly on the USA and Great Britain. My interest in history is animated by a desire to understand how people have created meaning about their lives by relating their own individual experiences and ideas to larger imagined communities, often connecting local, national, and global contexts. With that aim in mind, my work often looks at the role media has played in shaping ideas and expressing changing cultural and political attitudes, framing the way people have come to understand the world around them and the meaning of their own actions. 

Currently, I am working on a new book about outdoor-sportswriting, and its relationship to changing attitudes to the environment and nation at the turn of the twentieth century, Adventurelands: The Great Outdoors in the Age of Theodore Roosevelt. 

Connected to that work, I am involved in a collaborative project on the history of tourism and environmental thought, focusing on Yosemite National Park. Alongside this work, I am engaged in a collaborative project looking at the history of circus and the development of tourism and popular entertainment, focusing on the seaside town of Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, which has a remarkably rich circus heritage that is still very much alive today. 

Looking back, my second book was about the urban riots and rebellions of the long, hot summers of the 1960s in the USA (The Long, Hot Summer of 1967, 2014). The work involved connecting the experiences of local activists to larger national events, while taking in the influence of the wider global politics of anticolonialism and anticommunism. As well as drawing on witness testimony and transcripts of contemporary interviews, government papers and official documents, I looked at print newspapers and broadcast news to gain a better appreciation of how various media shaped a cultural understanding of the meaning of these riots, events that were often quite disparate urban flashpoints, and how various political actors exploited opportunities to frame and reframe events to their advantage. Taking readers into homes, schools, university campuses, neighbourhoods, TV studios, city halls, the White House and other institutions of national government, this book makes a distinctive contribution to the historical scholarship of a turbulent decade.

Looking further back, my first book looked at the urban community of an industrial city in the USA, investigating the ways in which a civic culture marked by discrimination, social division, and political and corporate cynicism created the conditions for a terrible, murderous race riot during World War I, an attempt by white people to drive African Americans out of the city and to destroy their homes (Power, Community, and Racial Killing in East St Louis, 2005). Reconstructing those events through the testimony of witnesses appearing before a federal inquiry, the book connects homes, workplaces, civic institutions, government, the criminal underworld, and places of leisure and entertainment, in order to understand the lived experience of people at the time and their parts in these terrible events.

I have supervised PhD projects across a range of topics, from community and politics in San Francisco to the death penalty and the American justice system, the NAACP and civil rights in the 1920s-1930s, the politics of English-language education in California in the 1980s-2010s, Jewish-American lawyers and the civil rights movement in the 1930s-1960s, or the history of German-American Boston, 1900-1920.

Key Research Interests

My current research focuses on the history of tourism and popular sport, travel, and adventure writing in the 19th and 20th centuries. The work is concerned in particular with the relationship between consumer culture and the development of national identity in the age of global empire. 

Previously, I have written on the history of race in the United States of America and in comparative context.

Areas of Expertise

Cultural history of 19th and 20th centuries

U.S. and Transatlantic culture

Media, culture, and politics

History of popular print culture, media, and consumption

History of sport and leisure

History of environmental ideas

History of race, class, and democracy

History of nationalism and liberalism

Key Responsibilities

Dr McLaughlin was Head of School (Art, Media and American Studies) from 2016-2022.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development 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 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • SDG 12 - Responsible Consumption and Production
  • SDG 15 - Life on Land
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions