Dr Matt Cole

Photograph of Dr Matt Cole

Department of History
Research 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 am currently writing the history of the University of Birmingham.




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
  • Tutor, MA History by Distance Learning (Historical Methods)

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)

Since 2019 I have been the Research Fellow in writing the history of the University of Birmingham, due for publication in 2021.

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.


Recent publications


Cole, MA, Elliott, RJR & Shimamoto, K 2005, 'A note on trends in European industrial pollution intensities: A divisia index approach', The Energy Journal, vol. 26, no. 3, pp. 61-73.

Cole, MA, Elliott, RJR & Elliott, R 2003, 'Do environmental regulations influence trade patterns? Testing old and new trade theories', World Economy, vol. 27, no. 8, pp. 1163-1186.

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