Professor Matthew Hilton MA, PhD, FRHist

Professor Matthew Hilton

Department of History
Professor of Social History

Contact details

Arts Building
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

I am currently Professor of Social History. My work focuses on the history of humanitarianism, consumer society and on the history of social activism and non-governmental organisations, both in Britain and globally.


I did my PhD at Lancaster University and have been at Birmingham since 1997. In 2002 I was a winner of the Philip Leverhulme Prize  and I have been a visiting scholar at the Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies, Harvard.  I sit on the editorial boards of Past and PresentContemporary British History, Journal of Consumer Culture and History Compass.

Postgraduate supervision

Listed below are the fields in which Matthew Hilton is able to offer supervision of research postgraduates.

  • Consumer society in Britain and the rest of the world
  • British popular culture
  • Non-government organisations and civil society groups
  • Humanitarianism


Previous and current students and topics include:


Matthew Hilton's background is in the social and cultural history of modern Britain. His first book was on the history of smoking in British popular culture. Since then he has examined many different aspects of the history of consumer society and the politics of consumption in Britain, Malaysia and at the global level. He is currently associated with three main research projects

NGOs in Britain
( )

I have recently completed a history of non-governmental organizations in Britain in collaboration with Professor Nicholas Crowson.  to research the role of non-governmental organizations in Britain since 1945. This was a Leverhulme Trust funded project built on the online Database of Archives of Non-Governmental Organisations and was made up of the same team of researchers: Dr James McKay and Dr Jean-Francois Mouhot. Its principal findings are contained in The Politics of Expertise  and A Historical Guide to NGOs in Britain, though all the data from the project is freely available on the project website.

Matthew talks about his research into Non-Governmental Organisations

  • Transcript


The Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies
( )

In this AHRC project, working with Kieran Connell , we will create an archive of the world-famous Birmingham Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies. Set up in 1964 and led by figures such as Richard Hoggart and Stuart Hall, the CCCS was one of the first academic bodies to take ‘mass’ culture – pop music, television programmes, fashions – seriously. By creating an archive of Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies material, as well as staging an exhibition and conference to mark the 50th anniversary, this project seeks to learn more about the Centre’s research and practices and the way it helped to shape the development of an international discipline.


Non-state humanitarianism
( )

From the actions of nineteenth century missionaries and colonial officials to the recent food crisis in the Sahel region of West Africa, non-state humanitarianism has become one of the defining characteristics of international action. In collaboration with Kevin O’Sullivan at the National University of Ireland, Galway, we have created a ‘Non-state humanitarianism’ network, funded by the AHRC, which will investigate humanitarianism’s past and the uses of that past in a pan-European framework. We are hosting a series of workshops in 2013 and 2014 in Birmingham, Galway, the ZZF in Potsdam and the HCRI, Manchester.


  book cover  book cover  book cover consumerism 


  book cover book cover book cover book cover 


Edited Collections

 book cover book cover book cover book cover


Policy papers

  • (with James McKay, Nicholas Crowson and Jean-Francois Mouhot), Civic Participation and Social Responsibility, Briefing paper for meeting with Strategy Unit of Cabinet Office, 15 June 2010. Revised version published as ‘“The Big Society”: civic participation and the state in modern Britain’, History and Policy website.  

Witness seminars


  • Online searchable database of the archives of Non-Governmental Organisations in the UK (; first launched January 2008; currently 1,977 entries or approximately 750,000 words.


19th and 20th century Britain; contemporary global history; the history of consumer society; social movements; NGOs; civil society