Phil’s research is concerned with the ways in which major transformations to urban space have shaped the modern political history of Britain.
He is currently working on his first book, which grounds mid-twentieth century urban change within a context of political ideas about the future of Britain. Placing the Labour Party – the more effusively neoteric of the two major political parties – at the centre of the discussion, the book covers the most extensive period of state-led urban change, from the end of the Second World War to the decline of high modernism in the late 1960s. Taking a particular focus on housing, his book explores how and why modernist ideas were adapted into existing socialist desires to drive a far-ranging process of urban transformation in Britain.
His current research considers the landscape of voluntary action in Birmingham from 1945 to the present day, as a strand of the Leverhulme Trust-funded project ‘Community-level perspectives on post-war change in the British voluntary sector.’ Working across a range of themes, he draws upon his expertise as a historian of cities, housing and politics to explore what social and political shifts affecting voluntary organisations and their client bases at the local level might tell us about modern British society and wider conceptions of voluntary action. A recent article in The Historical Journal discusses a post-war Mass-Observation survey of Aston in north Birmingham, used as an evidence base for Lord Beveridge’s 1948 Voluntary Action report, asking whether the absence of any serious consideration of the dynamics of class and religion in voluntary action reflected an idealised form of civil society as well as a misreading of the social circumstances of 1940s Britain.
His other points of focus are concentrated within the period 1960-1990 and include: radical black housing action and the shifting housing market in Handsworth; sexual violence and women’s access to urban space as seen through the work of the Birmingham Rape Crisis and Research Centre; and Catholic social action, youth and employment.
He is an active member of the internationally regarded Centre for Modern British Studies in the Department of History, and served as an organiser for the biennial 2019 Modern British Studies Conference.