Dr David Gange PhD

Photograph of Dr David Gange

Department of History
Senior Lecturer in History

Contact details

Arts Building
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

I'm a cultural historian of modern Britain. I work on how individuals and communities explore and explain their identities, particularly through history, religion, the arts and the sciences.


From 2004-2007 I undertook a PhD at Trinity College Cambridge, supervised by Professor Peter Mandler. From 2007-2010 I was Postdoctoral Research Fellow on a Leverhulme-funded project at Cambridge University entitled ‘Past versus Present: Abandoning the Past in an Age of Progress’; I was also a fellow of Wolfson College Cambridge from 2008-2010. I arrived at Birmingham in 2010 and my first monograph, Dialogues with the Dead: Egyptology in British Culture and Religion was published by Oxford University Press in June 2013. I am author of The Victorians: A Beginner’s Guide (Oneworld, 2016) and am currently writing two books, my second monograph, The Battle for Britain’s Soul: Remaking Human Nature, 1870-1914, and a book of coastal history and travel, The Frayed Western Edge: A Historian’s Journey from Shetland to the Channel based on journeys undertaken for my blog: http://mountaincoastriver.blogspot.co.uk/.

My work has been featured on BBC2, Smithsonian Television, at the Hay Festival and in the Times Literary Supplement. In 2013 I was awarded the Head of School's Award for Excellence in Teaching (History and Cultures), the Head of College's Award for Excellence in Teaching (Arts & Law) and the Aston Webb Award for Outstanding Early-Career Academic. In 2015-16 I am part of the Intercontinental Academy convening in Sao Paulo and Nagoya to produce collaborative work between the humanities and sciences on the concept of Time. 


  • The Making of the Contemporary World
  • Option: Music and Society, 1785-1914
  • History in Theory and Practice (convenor)
  • Advanced Option: Reason and Romance: The Cultural History of Nineteenth-Century Britain
  • Special Subject: Science, Religion and Empire: Rediscovering the Ancient Near East
  • Historical Methods (convenor)
  • Sites and Sources in Modern British Studies

Postgraduate supervision

I teach MA dissertations every year and currently have seven PhD students, researching a wide range of themes in nineteenth- and twentieth-century history. I encourage contact from anyone wishing to research the cultural history of nineteenth-century Britain, particularly those interested in the history of historical disciplines (such as nineteenth-century History, Antiquarianism or Egyptology), Victorian religious thought or the arts and sciences.  


My previous books have explored the nineteenth-century development of disciplines such as Egyptology and archaeology, examining the cultural and often religious questions that gave them their specific forms. I am also engaged in ongoing research projects on time and temporalities in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

My next monograph uses conceptions of human nature - which appeared in literature, the arts, and all media of public debate - to explore broad cultural developments at work between 1870 and 1914. Ideas on human nature stood at intersections of the sciences, theology, philosophy, history and other systems of thought (which, even at the end of this period, remained less separate than some historiography implies) and therefore provide insight into contemporary understanding of where authority in questions of human meaning and identity lay. Theology and religion were characterised more by resilience and adaptation than decline across these decades, but concepts such as ‘the soul’ and ‘spirituality’ were open to new kinds of debate. Many thinkers turned to comparison - between Christianity, scientific worldviews and extra-European or ancient religions - in order to elucidate possible new conceptions of human being. Several Protestants even argued that modern Protestantism had misunderstood biblical conceptions of the self and was in need of wholesale renewal. My research explores how these debates played out in public, asking how arguments about human nature could be won or lost, and which voices carried authority over what questions. It finds cultural change that was more limited in scope and more tied to the forms and practices of traditional modes, than existing literature implies.   

Other activities

I am part of the Intercontinental Academy, organised by the Institutes of Advanced Study in Nagoya, Japan and Sao Paulo, Brazil. This is a project aiming to facilitate collaboration between the humanities, social sciences and sciences in attempts to understand Time and temporalities.

I enjoy writing for, and speaking to, an audience outside the university. This includes my Oneworld Beginner’s Guide, The Victorians (2016) as well as appearances at literary festivals such as Hay. It also includes my historical nature writing, for example The Frayed Atlantic Edge: A Historian’s Journey from Shetland to the Channel, pieces for collections such as Dunlin Press’s Migrant Waders (2016), and articles for media such as Earthlines Magazine. These publications are based on the kayak and mountain journeys I undertake in my spare time, and this writing is represented by Georgina Capel Associates.

I’m a trumpeter on several commercially-released albums, for instance, Jon Opstad’s Still Picture.


  • The Battle for Britain’s Soul: Remaking Human Nature, 1870-1914 (forthcoming, 2018)
  • The Frayed Atlantic Edge: A Historian’s Journey from Shetland to the Channel (forthcoming, 2018)
  • The Victorians: A Beginner's Guide (Oneworld Books, 2016)
  • Cities of God: the Bible and Archaeology in Nineteenth-Century Britain (Cambridge University Press, collection edited with Michael Ledger-Lomas, 2013)
  • Dialogues with the Dead: Egyptology in British Culture and Religion (Oxford University Press, 2013)
  • I have also published a range of articles on similar themes and on other topics such as the history of epic poetry, the building of the Aswan Dam, and the preservation movement. I have published reviews for periodicals including The Times Literary Supplement.