Dr Phil Child

Dr Phil Child

Department of Social Policy, Sociology and Criminology
Research Fellow

Contact details

School of Social Policy
Muirhead Tower
University of Birmingham
Birmingham, B15 2TT

Phil is a political historian of modern Britain with a particular interest in housing, cities and voluntary action. He is also a member of the Third Sector Research Centre (TSRC), the departmental lead for the Civil Society and Volunteering research theme and a member of the Centre for Modern British Studies in the Department of History.  


  • PhD in History, University of Exeter (2016)
  • MPhil in Modern European History, King's College, University of Cambridge (2012)
  • BA (Hons) in History with European Study, University of Exeter (2010)


Phil studied history at undergraduate level at the University of Exeter and took his MPhil at the University of Cambridge, before returning to the University of Exeter for his PhD. He began working at the University of Birmingham in July 2017, as a Research Fellow on the Leverhulme Trust-funded project ‘Community-level perspectives on post-war change in the British voluntary sector’ based in TSRC


Phil has contributed to a number of undergraduate and postgraduate modules, including: 

  • Philosophies of Welfare
  • Policy into Practice
  • Policy Analysis
  • From Beveridge to May
  • Dissertation Supervision


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 currently serves as an organiser for the biennial 2019 MBS Conference.


Journal articles

Child, Phil (2019) ‘Blacktown, Mass-Observation and the dynamics of voluntary action in mid-twentieth century Britain’, The Historical Journal (forthcoming).

Child, Phil (2018)  Landlordism, Rent Regulation and the Labour Party in mid-twentieth century Britain, 1950-64Twentieth Century British History, 29:1 (March 2018), 79-103.

Book reviews and short publications:

Child, Phil (2018) ‘Wladimir Fischer-Nebmaier Matthew P. Berg and Anastasia Christou (eds.) (2015) Narrating the City: Histories, Space and the EverydayUrban History, 45:1, 181-182.

Child, Phil (2016), ‘Tower block boom: how high rise apartments became the height of luxury’, The Conversation.

Child, Phil (2015), ‘Peter Shapely (ed.) (2014) People and Planning: report of the committee on public participation in planning (The Skeffington Committee Report)Planning Perspectives, 30:3, 484-485.

Child, Phil (2014), ‘Regulating housing: neither new nor radical’, History & Policy

View all publications in research portal