Professor Krista Cowman

Head of School

School/Department: History Politics and International Relations, School of



After studying English and History at the University of Keele I taught in a secondary school in East London while studying for an MA in the History of the European Labour Movement at the Institute of Historical Research funded by Newham Council. My D.Phil at the Centre for Women’s Studies University of York was funded by the ESRC. Following this I taught in the Department of History University of York and for the Open University then the School of Cultural Studies at Leeds Metropolitan University from 1998. In 2006 I moved to the University of Lincoln as its first Professor of History. I joined the School of History Politics and International Relations at Leicester in the summer of 2021


My D.Phil studied women’s activism across a range of political organisations investigating the impact of a large militant suffrage campaign on the women’s sections of political parties in Merseyside. My next project focussed on organizers in the militant suffrage society the Women’s Social and Political Union. Following that I worked on the social history of the First World War exploring British perceptions of living behind the lines on the Western Front.

I am currently involved in 2 research projects:

Women’s quotidian urban activism Britain c.1920-1990. This returns to my earlier interests in women and politics but moves away from formalised activism to focus on how everyday concerns such as housing play space education & health rather than political philosophy were the catalyst for women's public activism.

A (Socially Isolated) Room of One’s Own: Women Writing Lockdown. This interdisciplinary AHRC project (with Professor Lucie Armitt [Lincoln] Professor Sarah Pedersen [Robert Gordon] and performance poet Liv Torc) explores the gendered dimensions of the first lockdown March - August 2020 through studying contemporary autobiographical writing by British women. 


Women in British Politics 1689 - 1979. (Palgrave, 2010).
Women of the Right Spirit!  Paid Organizers of the Women's Social and Political Union, 1904 - 18. Manchester University Press, 2007, paperback 2011.
'Mrs Brown is a Man and a Brother: Women in Merseyside's Political Organisations, 1890 - 1920. Liverpool University Press, 2004.
Edited Collections
Gender and the European Town: Sites of Political Activity and Citizenship [co-edited with Nina Koefoed and Ãsa Karlsson--Sjögren]. (Routledge 2014).
Women and Work Culture, Britain 1850 - 1950 [co-edited with Louise A. Jackson]. (Ashgate, 2005).
Refereed Journal Articles (selected)
 'A Waste of Space?  The Debate over the Working - Class in Inter-war Britain.' Home Cultures 15: 1 2019, pp. 2-25.
'"The atmosphere is permissive and free":  the gendering of activism in the British adventure playgrounds movement, c.1948-1970.' Journal of Social History 2019, pp. 218-241.
'Play streets: Women, children and the problem of urban traffic 1930-1970.' Social History 4:2 May 2017 pp. 233-256.
 'Female citizenship and the gendered domestic interior in post-first world war Britain, 1918 - 1928.' English Historical Review, vol. CXXX no. 543 (2015) pp.352-383.
'Touring behind the lines: British soldiers in French towns and cities during the Great War.' Urban History, 41, 1, 2014, pp. 105-123.

‘“Carrying on a long tradition”: Second wave presentations of first wave feminism in Spare Rib, c. 1972-1980.’ European Journal of Women’s Studies, 17 (3) August 2010 pp. 193-210.

‘“There are kind Germans as well as brutal ones...” The foreigner in children’s fiction of the first world war.’ The Lion and the Unicorn, 31 (2007) pp. 103 – 115.

‘“Doing something silly instead of doing something cruel”. Uses of humour by the Women’s Social and Political Union, 1903 – 14.’ International Review of Social History, 52, 2007, pp. 259 – 274.

‘“Minutes of the last meeting passed”: The Huddersfield Women’s Social and Political Union minute book January 1907 – 1909, a new source for suffrage history.’ Twentieth Century British History, Vol. 13., No. 3., 2002, pp. 298 – 315.

‘“Incipient Toryism?” The Women’s Social and Political Union and the Independent Labour Party, 1903 – 14.’ History Workshop Journal, 53, 2002, pp. 128 – 148.

‘“A peculiarly English institution”: Work, rest and play in the Labour Church.’ Studies in Church History, vol. 37, 2002 pp. 357 – 368.

‘“We intend to show what our Lord has done for women.” The Liverpool Church League for Women’s Suffrage, 1914 – 18.’ Studies in Church History 34, 1998, pp 475 – 486.

‘“The stonethrowing has been forced upon us” The function of militancy within the Liverpool WSPU, 1906 – 14.’ Transactions of the Historical Society of Lancashire and Cheshire vol. 145, 1995 pp. 171 – 192.

Book Chapters

‘Municipal Socialism and Municipal Feminism’, in Rethinking Labour’s Past ed. Nathan Yeowell/Labour Progress, Bloomsbury, 2022.

‘Militant suffrage on screen’, in Screening Protest: Visual Narratives of Dissent across Time, Space and Genre’ ed. Alexa Roberts, Routledge, 2018.

‘Suffragette Iconoclasm’, in Suffrage and Visual Culture: Art, Politics and Enterprise eds. Miranda Garret and Zoe Thomas, Bloomsbury, 2018.

‘“The statutory woman whose main task was to explore what women were likely to think”: Margaret Thatcher and Women’s Politics in the 1950s and 1960s’, in Women Gender and the Conservative Party, Rewriting the Right ed. Julie Gottlieb and Clarisse Berthezene, Manchester University Press, 2018.

'Maisons de Tolérance: The real and imagined sexual landscapes of the Western Front’, in Landscapes and Voices of the Great War ed. Krista Cowman and Angela Smith, Routledge 2017.

‘“Open spaces didn’t’ pay rates”: Appropriating urban space for children in post WW2 England’, in Christoph Bernhardt, ed, Between Planning and Appropriation: Urban Open Spaces in Past and Present, Franz Steiner Publishers, 2016, 119-140.

‘“The parlez is not going on very well avec moi”; Learning and using “Trench French” on the Western Front’, in Christoph DeClerq and Julian Walker, eds., Languages and the First World War: Representation and Memory Palgrave 2016, pp. 19 – 37.

‘“Everything’s in a terrible mess”: Displacement in the wartime fictions of Elsa Triolet and Irène Némirovsky’, in Sandra Barkhof and Angela Smith, eds., War and Displacement in the Twentieth Century, Routledge, 2014, pp. 183-198.

‘The political autobiography of early women MPs’, in Julie V. Gotltlieb and Richard Toye, eds., The Aftermath of Suffrage. Palgrave Macmillan, 2013, pp. 203-223.

“Female suffrage in Great Britain”, in Blanca Rodriguez Ruiz and Ruth Rubion Marin, eds., Female Suffrage within the European Union: From Voters to European Citizens. Brill, 2012, pp. 273-288.

‘Collective biography in researching the past’, in Simon Gunn & Lucy Faire, eds., Research Methods for History Edinburgh University Press, 2011, pp. 83-101.

‘Women and radicalism in Liverpool c. 1890 – 1930’ in John Belchem and Bryan Briggs, eds, Liverpool, City of Radicals, Liverpool University Press, 2011, pp. 108-123.

“Historiographies of the feminist movement: Some thoughts on the British context” in Johanna Gehmacher & Natascha Vittorelli, ed, Wie Frauenbewegung geschrieben wird, Vienna, Locker, 2009, pp. 237-241.

‘“There is so much, and it will all be history”: Feminist activists as historians, the case of British suffrage historiography’, in Angelika Epple, Angelika Schaser eds., Gendering Historiography: Beyond National Canons, Campus: Frankfurt am Main 2009, pp. 141-162.

‘Time’ (with Louise A. Jackson) in M. Eagleton, ed, A Concise Companion to Feminist Theory, Oxford: Blackwell, 2003, pp. 32 – 52.

‘The battle of the Boulevards. Class, gender and the purpose of public space in later Victorian Liverpool’, in S. Gunn & R. J. Morris, eds, Identities in Space: Contested Terrains in the Western City Since 1850, Aldershot: Ashgate 2001. pp. 152 – 164.

‘“With a lofty moral purpose”: Caroline Martyn, Enid Stacy, Margaret McMillan, Katharine St John Conway and the cult of the good woman socialist’, in G. Cubitt & A. Warren, eds, Heroic Reputations and Exemplary Lives, Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2000, pp. 212 - 224

‘“Giving them something to do”: How the early ILP appealed to women’, in M. Walsh, ed, Working Out Gender, Aldershot: Ashgate, 1999, pp. 119 – 134.

‘“A Party between revolution and peaceful persuasion”: A fresh look at the United Suffragists’, in M. Joannou & J. Purvis, eds, The Women’s Suffrage Movement: New Feminist Perspectives, Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1998, pp. 77 – 89.


Selected Other Outputs

Contributor to Mari Takayanagi, Melanie Unwin and Paul Seaward eds Voice and Vote 136 page catalogue to accompany exhibition in Westminster Hall, 2018.

‘Women’s Movements in the Long 19th Century’ essay plus interview, Routledge History of Feminism (online resource).

Apprenticeships in Britain c.1890-1920 Report for Skills Funding Agency 2014 (

The Militant Suffrage Movement in York, University of York Borthwick Pamphlet, 2007.

‘Introduction’ to The Papers of Mary Gawthorpe, Thomson Gale Microfilms, 2006



I welcome PhD students with broad interests in modern British history particularly women’s and gender history urban history and the history of everyday life post 1945.

Recent PhD topics I have supervised include the history of divorce in Britain 1900- 1940 the Conservative Party in opposition 1974-1979 militant suffrage and socialism in Bradford and immigration race and the media in post-war Britain.


My teaching focuses on Modern History from the late nineteenth century to the 1980s, particularly in Britain, with a strong emphasis on women’s history, gender history and histories of women’s political activism. I have also taught histories of European feminism, historiography and the cultural history of the First World War. In my current role as Head of School I contribute to various modules on the History BA and MA programmes

Press and media

I am happy to talk to the press about any aspects of my research. Media work in the past has covered topics including women's suffrage women's voting habits women in socialist movements women and the First World War and the history of feminism. I can also discuss my current research into everyday activism in post-war Britain (play streets adventure playgrounds and women's centres) and the gendered experience of lockdown.
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