Chelsea-Anne Saxby

Chelsea-Anne Saxby

Department of History
Doctoral researcher

Contact details

PhD title: Making Love on British Television: The Representation of Sex, Bodies and Intimate Lives in the Long 1970s
Supervisor: Professor Matt Houlbrook,  Professor Gavin Schaffer and Dr Chris Moores 
PhD History



  • MA Modern British Studies
  • BA (Hons) English Literature and History


I read English Literature and History at the University of Birmingham and graduated in 2015. I have remained with the institution for both my MA in Modern British Studies (2016) and my PhD, which I began in 2016.


  • The Making of the Contemporary World


My doctoral research project explores the ways that British television could represent sex, bodies and intimate lives in the long 1970s. I argue that television – an area often understudied by historians - was a crucial site in the discursive struggle to demarcate the boundaries around ‘normal’ and ‘natural’ sexual practices and bodies. I show how these discourses were involved in the formation of subjects, both in the ways producers imagined viewers, but also the ways a viewer’s sense of self was constructed through their engagement with these mass cultural artefacts.

Each of my four chapters takes a different area of the television landscape as a vantage point onto these research questions, moving from the centre of ‘ordinary’ programming to the margins of schedule. The first chapter uses viewers’ complaints about dirty jokes in sitcoms to explore the struggle over an ‘acceptable’ language with which to talk about sex and bodies on television. The second focuses on the ‘heat-throbs’ of medical dramas and their fans to explore the cultural representation of doctors and nurses, the construction of heteronormative romance, and producers’ imagining of women viewers. In the third chapter, I take one parent’s protest against BBC Schools Television’s Merry-go-Round series as a starting point to explore what was at stake when producers, in collaboration with psychologists and teachers, discursively secured primary-aged children as a legitimate audience for sex education. Finally, my fourth chapter focuses on the BBC’s access series, Open Door, to assess how marginal groups, such as the Urinary Infection Club, tried to use television to secure their ‘ordinariness’.   

Other activities

  • A2B Supervisory Tutor 
  • Co-organised ‘Ways of Knowing in (and about) Modern Britain’, PG and ECR Conference, Westmere House, University of Birmingham, 5th-6th July 2018

Papers given:

  • ‘Rosemary Proom Misses a Lesson in Love: Schools Sex Ed Programming and its Reception in 1970s Britain’, North American Conference on British Studies, Providence, Rhode Island, 25-28th October, 2018.
  • ‘Constructing Sexual Knowledge in 1970s British Sex Education Programming’, Sexpertise: Sexual Knowledge and the Public in the 19th and 20th Centuries, Devon and Exeter Institution, 24-25th July 2018
  • ‘Imagining the Schools Sex Education Audience in 1970s Britain’, Publics and their Health: Historical Perspectives, Future Directions, Institute of Historial Research (London), 28-29th June 2018
  • ‘In Poor Taste: Complaints about Dirty Jokes on British Television’, 1960-1980’, British Studies in a Broken World: Modern British Studies Conference, University of Birmingham, 5-7th July 2017