Dr Zoë Thomas

Dr Zoë Thomas

Department of History
Lecturer in the History of 19th Century Britain and the Wider World

I am a historian of the 19th and 20th centuries with particular specialisms in the history of work, artistic culture, and women’s lives. My first book Women Art Workers and the Arts and Crafts Movement was published by Manchester University Press in 2020. My other publications span the history of the suffrage campaigns, the Arts and Crafts movement, historical pageantry, global feminisms, the development of professional cultures, and women’s small-scale entrepreneurship. I am also happy to undertake historical advisory work, and have previously worked with the BBC and HBO America.

Biography

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.

Teaching

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.

Research

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.

Publications

Recent publications

Book

Thomas, Z 2020, Women Art Workers and the Arts and Crafts Movement. 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/>

Article

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

Chapter

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/>

Thomas, Z 2018, ‘“I loathe the thought of suffrage sex wars being brought into it”: Institutional conservatism in early twentieth-century women’s art organisations’. in Z Thomas & M Garrett (eds), Suffrage and the Arts: Visual culture, politics, and enterprise. Bloomsbury. <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>

Thomas, Z 2017, 'Book review of James Fox, 'British Art and the First World War, 1914-1924 (Cambridge University Press, 2015)', Journal of Social History, vol. 50, no. 4. <https://academic.oup.com/jsh/article-abstract/50/4/737/2890309?redirectedFrom=fulltext>

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

Expertise

  • 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.

Expertise

 

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