Dr Matt Cole

Photograph of Dr Matt Cole

Department of History
Teaching Fellow

My research is in the history of the West Midlands region, most especially in the politics and society of the Modern era. I have published political biography and electoral analysis as well as studies on sport, business and the arts. I also broadcast regularly with the BBC on historical and political questions. 




I studied as an undergraduate and postgraduate at the University of York, and gained my doctorate from the University of Birmingham in 2006. I have taught and researched with the Open University (1990-2001) and for the Hansard Society in association with the London School of Economics (2006-12) as well as teaching at the University of Birmingham since 2000. I have throughout this period worked in 16-19 education and for the BBC as a current affairs commentator.


  • Deputy Convenor of the MA in West Midlands History
  • Undergraduate Dissertation supervisor

Postgraduate supervision

British Liberal and Liberal Democrat Party history, liberal political thought and modern party politics and constitutional affairs more generally.
Regional social, economic, political and cultural history of the West Midlands, Lancashire and Yorkshire.

Find out more - our PhD History  page has information about doctoral research at the University of Birmingham.


As a Morrell Scholar at the University of York between 1984 and 1987 I examined the relationship between the work of John Stuart Mill and the arguments used to support campaigns to widen the franchise in nineteenth and twentieth-century Britain.

I was awarded a Research Associateship of the Open University between 1998 and 2001 to examine the determinants of British parties’ attitudes to constitutional reform, and was awarded the PSA’s David Butler Prize in 1998 for research on policy towards electoral reform.

Between 2007 and 2011 the Scurrah Wainwright Trust funded my research into the history of the Liberal Party in the twentieth century, particularly to produce a biography of Richard Wainwright, former MP for the Colne Valley.

Between 2014 and 2016 I carried out a study supported by the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust of the impact of participation in the coalition government on Liberal Democrat MPs’ campaigns in twelve constituencies. The findings were published as ‘Liberalism in Power: Watching the Titanic (Birmingham 2016; PDF - 1.55Mb)

In 2019-20 I held a Research Fellowship as Historian of the University, commissioned to investigate and publicise UoB's development for its 120th anniversary.

Other activities

  • Visiting Fellow, Hansard Society
  • Political Analyst, BBC Radio West Midlands
  • Editorial Board member, Journal of Liberal History
  • Regular contributor of papers at conferences of the Political Studies Association, its Elections, Public Opinion and Parties Specialist Group and the British Liberal Political Studies Group.
  • During 2021-22 I co-ordinated the 'Pathfinders' project in which eighty students researched and delivered biographies of medal-winning past Team England athletes who had suffered discrimination because of ethnicity, sex, sexuality or disability as inspirational material for the Team England competitors at the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.


  • 'The Local Version: Tennis in the West Midlands since 1870', Midland History (Routledge 2021) 
  • Leading the Field: the Story of Sport at the University of Birmingham (Birmingham 2016) 
  •  ‘The Transformation of Post-war Birmingham’, Chapter 11 of Birmingham: Workshop of the World, Ed. Carl Chinn and Malcolm Dick (LiverpoolUniversity Press 2016) 
  • At the Heart of the Game: the History of Edgbaston Priory Club (EPC 2013) 
  • Political Parties in Britain, (Edinburgh University Press 2012), with Helen Deighan 
  • Richard Wainwright, the Liberals and Liberal Democrats: Unfinished Business (Manchester University Press 2011) 
  • Democracy in Britain, (Edinburgh University Press 2006)

View all publications in research portal


Matt has worked for the BBC and commercial broadcasters since 1992 commenting on elections, party conferences and other political developments on local and national radio and TV. His specialism is in modern British party and electoral politics, and he has a particular interest in the politics of the West Midlands.


  • political commentary