Explore our research

  • Public History

The Public History group are engaged in a wide range of innovative work. There are several overlapping aims:

  1. To undertake research that helps us to understand the role of various forms of history within wider society.
  2. To communicate our academic research to diverse audiences through public lectures, museum exhibitions and collections development in various institutions.
  3. To work with local, regional and national organisations to promote the public understanding of history.
  4. To work with organisations and members of the public to promote new interpretations of history and facilitate research by non-academics.

We have achieved these aims in a number of ways, including:

  1. Major museum exhibitions curated from within the group.
  2. Acted in an advisory capacity to museums, archives local and regional organisations.
  3. Acted as heritage partners for funded heritage projects.
  4. Organised a large number of conferences, study days and public lectures.
  5. Delivered hundreds of public lectures to local groups across the north of England and further afield.
  6. Regularly appeared on broadcast media including primetime television, national and local radio.

Expertise and Subject Areas

We have several areas of strength:


Few history departments can equal our close working relationship with a wide range of museums:
Nick Mansfield had a very successful career in museums, culminating in his position as Director of the People’s History museum in Manchester. Nick became a senior research fellow at UCLan in 2010 and he continues to enjoy strong relationships with a wide network of museums in the UK and overseas.

Annemarie McAllister was awarded a Heritage Lottery Fund grant of almost £50,000 to curate and develop a major exhibition at the People’s History Museum on Demon Drink? Temperance and the working class.

Steve Caunce and Andy Gritt have worked on a £315,000 Arts Council Funded project preparing materials for a consortium of Pennine Museums developing an understanding of the causes and impact of industrialisation.

Robert Poole has led a number of significant public history projects including a major project marking the 400th anniversary of the Lancashire Witch trials and further work on Manchester Histories, especially related to the Peterloo massacre of 1819.

Keith Vernon has curated an exhibition at the Museum of Lancashire on the history of Preston Guild.

Other museums and heritage organisations advised from within the group:

  • Imperial War Museum – North, Rochdale Pioneers Museum
  • Museum of Primitive Methodism, Engelsea Brook, Crewe, Cheshire
  • Museum of the Fylde
  • Manchester Cathedral
  • Manchester Jewish Museum
  • British Deaf History Society Museum 
  • British Deaf Association London headquarters

The University also funds a full time PhD student (Jack Southern) to work closely with Lancashire County Council’s Queen Street Mill (Burnley) on research into the impact of the cotton industry on local communities.

Family history

We are one of few history departments in the UK to fully embrace family history as a powerful and meaningful research method. Andy Gritt has led the Institute of Local and Family History since its foundation in 2001 and he has worked closely with the wider family history community for many years. Steve Caunce and Mairtin O’Cathain have also been particularly active in this field with publications, ongoing research, community engagement work and a large number of public lectures.

This work also feeds into postgraduate research, for instance:
Ginette MacDonald, ‘Family, community and kinship in the rural industrial village, c.1890-1928’.
Juliet Saunders, ‘Migration patterns in north-east Wales’.


1. We have regularly acted as consultants/advisers to archives and museums.

2. Museum exhibitions have been curated from within the group including:

  • Demon Drink and the working Class exhibition at the People’s History Museum, Manchester
  • Preston Guild, Museum of Lancashire.
3. We have held over 100 public conferences and study days since 2001 events in addition to several series of evening and lunchtime lectures.

4. In 2013 we held an international Public History conference ‘Whose History is it anyway? Public history in perspective’. This attracted over 50 speakers from three continents.

5. We have organised a number of Public History events at the People’s History Museum in Manchester, particularly focussing on key individuals from the labour movement such as James Callaghan and Michael Foot.

6. In 2011 we held a Public History fair with a large number of exhibitors and a large public audience.

Publications and Outputs

Caunce, Stephen (2009) ‘Known Only to Themselves and to God: Autobiography and Fiction as Sources for Family and Community History’. In: Family History in Lancashire: Issues and Approaches. Cambridge Scholars Publishing, pp. 99-120. ISBN 978-1443813433

Caunce, S (2003) ‘Houses as Museums: The Case of the Yorkshire Wool Textile Industry’, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 6 (13). pp. 329-343

Gritt, Andrew Jonathan (2009) Family history in Lancashire: issues and approaches. Cambridge Scholars Press, Cambridge, UK. ISBN 978-1443813433

Gritt, Andrew and O’Cathain, Mairtin, Family history: its values and future prospects (forthcoming).

Nick Mansfield and Myna Trustram, ‘Remembering the buildings of the British labour movement: an act of mourning’, International Journal of Heritage Studies, Vol. 19 No. 5, September 2013, 14-33

Nick Mansfield, Buildings of the labour movement, English Heritage, 2013

Events and News

Finding identities: Lancashire and the First World War
23-24 November, 2013

Additional Information

Postgraduate students

We welcome applications or enquiries from potential postgraduate students in any aspect of Public History, including: family history, history and archives, history and museums, the built environment, the public understanding of history, commemoration and memorialisation.

Contact details:
Dr Andy Gritt
Senior lecturer in History and Director of the Institute of Local and Family History
School of Humanities and Social Sciences
Preston, PR1 2HE 

Related Research Groups

History: regional history

History: labour identities