Simon Briercliffe

Simon Briercliffe

Department of History
Honorary researcher

Contact details

I am a historian of modern Britain, with a particular focus on the Black Country region of the West Midlands in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. I am an honorary research fellow with the Centre for Midland History, and a researcher at the Black Country Living Museum in Dudley.


  • PhD (2022) University of Birmingham
  • MA (2010) King's College, London
  • BA (Hons) (2003) Middlesex University


My work as a historian began with a postgraduate dissertation on Victorian housing, completed as part of the MA Cities programme at King's College, London. I followed this up by pursuing a part-time PhD at the University of Birmingham, initially supervised by Prof Carl Chinn, and latterly by Profs Matt Houlbrook and Nick Crowson. The research focuses on Irish immigration into Victorian Wolverhampton, drawing on my geography background by using space as an analytical lens. I completed this in 2022. Alongside this, I have worked as a researcher for the Black Country Living Museum in Dudley. There I conduct research on all aspects of Black Country history (including social, economic, industrial and more), with a particular focus since 2016 on the post-World War Two era - my research has formed a principle part of the Museum's £30m post-war development.

I published this as my first book: Forging Ahead: Austerity to Prosperity in the Black Country 1945-1968, published by History West Midlands. I have also worked on various community history projects in the Midlands, for example including community engagement work with the Chance Heritage Trust, and publishing a second book for Purbanat CIC: 50 Years of Bangla Brummies: 1971 and Birmingham's Bangladeshi Community in 2023.


My research focuses on various aspects of Black Country and West Midlands history. My PhD centred on a small neighbourhood in Wolverhampton which became the town's Irish Quarter. I drew on my interest in geography by using space as an analytical lens to seek to understand the lives of this poor, illiterate and stigmatised community, who left few historical records of their own. Chapters included particular reference to how Victorian perceptions of Irishness, race and urbanism affected social issues like sanitation, policing, religious practice, and associational culture, and used GIS mapping to attempt a spatial "history from below" methodology. I am continuing to research the subject and hope to publish elements of the research.

My work on the post-war Black Country is more general, but includes a similar focus on specific families, businesses, neighbourhoods and social worlds. My book Forging Ahead is a general history of this under-studied region in this period, and includes research on industrial, social and domestic worlds. In particular - and similarly to other research - it has a strong focus on telling the under-represented histories of migrant communities in the region. This work at the Black Country Living Museum is ongoing - I continue to work with Caribbean, Punjabi, Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities to tell a fuller history of the West Midlands in the past seventy years. I am always interested in research and telling the histories of communities in a variety of ways.


  • Forging Ahead: Austerity to Prosperity in the Black Country, 1945-1968 (History West Midlands, 2021)
  • 50 Years of Bangla Brummies: 1971 and the history of Birmingham’s Bangladeshi Community (Purbanat, 2023)
  • ‘Immigration’, in The Black Country: A History In 100 Objects, edited by Malcolm Dick, David J Eveleigh and Janet Sullivan (Black Country Living Museum, 2019)
  • ‘BCLM Forging Ahead: building a new urban history of the Black Country’, Urban History 48(2), 2020: 334-350
  • ‘BCLM: Forging Ahead at Black Country Living Museum’, Midland History 47(2), 2022: 208–10.