Dr Zoë Thomas

Dr Zoë Thomas

Department of History
Associate Professor in Modern History

I am a social and cultural historian with particular specialisms in British history and the Anglophone world post 1850, histories of work, artistic culture, feminism, suffrage, and women’s and gender history. My first book Women Art Workers and the Arts and Crafts Movement (2020) won the Historians of British Art award for a single-author book with a subject between 1800-1960 and the Women’s History Network book prize. Other recent publications include a co-edited collection, Precarious Professionals: Gender, identities and social change in modern Britain, an article on women’s artistic entrepreneurship for Past & Present and a second co-edited collection Suffrage and the Arts: Visual culture, politics and enterprise. My research has been supported by the British Academy, Paul Mellon Centre, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Arts and Humanities Research Council, and Harvard’s Schlesinger Library, amongst others. I am very happy to undertake historical advisory work and have worked with the BBC and HBO America.


I studied for my BA and MA in History at Lancaster University and then moved to Royal Holloway to undertake an AHRC-funded History PhD (awarded 2017). During my PhD I taught modern British history, modern European history, and liberal arts modules at King’s College London, Royal Holloway, the University of Roehampton, the University of East London, and the University of Westminster. After finishing my PhD I had a frenetic year between 2016-2017 as a Teaching Fellow at the University of Birmingham and as the Coordinator of the Centre for Gender, Identity and Subjectivity in the History Department at the University of Oxford whilst also undertaking an Early Career Research Fellowship at the John Rylands Research Institute (University of Manchester), a Paul Mellon Centre Post-Doctoral Fellowship, and becoming a Visiting Scholar at the Oxford Centre for Life-Writing, Wolfson College and the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. I became a permanent lecturer at the University of Birmingham in September 2017.


I teach across the degree programme here at the University of Birmingham. Modules I have taught include:

  • British Women and Internationalism since 1850
  • Servant Stories: Domestic Service in Britain and the Wider World, c. 1800-1939
  • Learning to Read History / Making of Britain
  • Practicing History
  • Group Research
  • History in Theory and Practice
  • MA - New Directions in Modern British History

Do get in touch if you have any questions about modules I am teaching.

Postgraduate supervision

I am happy to supervise doctoral researchers on topics relating to my research specialisms. Feel free to get in touch.

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


My first monograph was titled Women Art Workers and the Arts and Crafts Movement and was published by Manchester University Press in 2020. This book offers the first comprehensive history of the network of women who worked at the heart of the English Arts and Crafts movement from the 1870s to the 1930s. Challenging the long-standing assumption that the Arts and Crafts simply revolved around celebrated male designers like William Morris, it instead offers a new social and cultural account of the movement, which simultaneously reveals the breadth of the imprint of women art workers upon the making of modern society. I emphasise how women navigated authoritative roles as 'art workers' by asserting expertise across a range of interconnected cultures: from the artistic to the professional, intellectual, entrepreneurial and domestic. I also stress the critical importance of the spaces around which women conceptualised alternative creative and professional lifestyles.

Alongside my articles listed below (under Publications) I have co-edited two collections in recent years: Suffrage and the Arts (2018) and Precarious Professionals: Gender, Identity and Social Change in Modern British History (forthcoming 2020). These collections have made two key interventions: the first re-established the central role that artists played in shaping the British suffrage campaigns, and the second argues that the development of professional society in modern Britain cannot be adequately understood without close scrutiny of gender and precarity.

Most recently, I have begun to turn my attentions to my second book project, provisionally titled, Collaborating Couples: Intimacy, Power, and Work in the Anglophone World, 1850–1950, which is currently funded by a British Academy Small Grant. This project will offer the first critical study of the professional and intimate histories of romantically attached couples who collaborated in the same field of work between 1850 and 1950 throughout the Anglophone world.

Other activities

I have a long-standing interest in women’s and gender history and am a member of the steering committee of the UK Women’s History Network.


Recent publications


Thomas, Z & Egginton, H (eds) 2021, Precarious Professionals: Gender, identities, and social change in modern Britain. New Historical Perspectives, University of London, Institute of Historical Research, London. <https://uolpress.co.uk/book/precarious-professionals/>

Thomas, Z 2020, Women art workers and the Arts and Crafts movement. Gender in History, Manchester University Press. <https://manchesteruniversitypress.co.uk/9781526140432/>

Garrett, M & Thomas, Z 2018, Suffrage and the Arts: Visual culture, politics, and enterprise. Bloomsbury. <https://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/suffrage-and-the-arts-9781350011861/>


Thomas, Z 2020, 'Between art and commerce: women, business ownership, and the arts and crafts movement', Past & Present, vol. 247, no. 1, pp. 151–196. https://doi.org/10.1093/pastj/gtz071

Gleadle, K & Thomas, Z 2018, 'Global Feminisms, c. 1870–1930: vocabularies and concepts - a comparative approach', Women's History Review, vol. 27, no. 7, pp. 1209–1224. https://doi.org/10.1080/09612025.2017.1417685


Thomas, Z 2024, Female Fellowship: Morris, feminism and the New Woman. in M Waithe (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to William Morris. Cambridge University Press.

Thomas, Z 2020, Historical pageants, citizenship, and the performance of women's history before second-wave feminism. in A Bartie, L Fleming, M Freeman, A Hutton & P Readman (eds), Restaging the Past: Historical Pageants, Culture and Society in Modern Britain. UCL Press. <https://www.uclpress.co.uk/products/123496>

Thomas, Z 2020, Selling Suffrage: Visual culture and merchandise in the British suffrage campaigns. in M Quirk, S Jacks & M Patty (eds), She Persists: Gender and Protest. National Gallery of Victoria. <https://www.ngv.vic.gov.au/essay/selling-suffrage-visual-culture-and-merchandise/>

Thomas, Z & Garrett, M 2018, 'Introduction'. in Z Thomas & M Garrett (eds), Suffrage and the Arts: Visual culture, politics, and enterprise. <https://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/suffrage-and-the-arts-9781350011830/>

Book/Film/Article review

Thomas, Z 2020, 'Book review of Eve Colpus, 'Female Philanthropy in the Interwar World: Between Self and Other (Bloomsbury, 2018)'', Journal of Contemporary History, vol. 55, no. 2. <https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0022009420913498i>

Thomas, Z 2020, 'Book review of Laura Schwartz, Feminism and the Servant Problem: Class and Domestic Labour in the Women's Suffrage Movement', Journal of Social History.

Thomas, Z 2019, 'Book review of Lucy Ella Rose, 'Suffragist Artists in Partnership: Gender, Word and Image' (Edinburgh University Press, 2018)'', Nineteenth-Century Contexts, vol. 41, no. 3. <https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/08905495.2019.1598031>

Thomas, Z 2018, 'Book review of Helen Glew, 'Gender, Rhetoric and Regulation: Women's Work in the Civil Service and the London County Council (Manchester University Press, 2015)', Contemporary British History, vol. 32, no. 4. <https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13619462.2019.1568695>

Thomas, Z 2018, 'Book review of Patricia De Montfort, 'Louise Jopling: A Biographical and Cultural Study of the Modern Woman Artist in Victorian Britain (Routledge, 2016)', Journal of Victorian Culture, vol. 23, no. 1. <https://academic.oup.com/jvc/article-abstract/23/1/137/4822095>

Other contribution

Thomas, Z 2018, Founding members of the Women’s Guild of Arts, (act. 1907–c.1939).. <https://www.oxforddnb.com/view/10.1093/odnb/9780198614128.001.0001/odnb-9780198614128-e-111253>

View all publications in research portal


  • The Arts and Crafts movement and artistic cultures
  • The suffrage campaigns and the history of feminism
  • History of work and the professions
  • Women’s history
  • Modern British History

Media experience

I have been interviewed for the BBC a number of times in the role of ‘historical expert’, for instance in a video for BBC online about suffrage campaigner Emily Wilding Davison, and also for a BBC2 programme about the Arts and Crafts Movement.

I have also worked as a historical consultant for HBO America.

I am happy to be contacted by media companies interested in working with me.



  • Gender equalities
  • Access to professions and higher education
  • Access to culture