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Professor Michael Roper

Staff positionProfessor
Telephone01206 873045
Office hoursThursday 12-1 Friday 11-12

I did a BA Hons in History at Melbourne University, and an MA in History at Monash University, before coming to Essex in 1985 on a Commonwealth Scholarship. Essex opened up many new vistas for me. My PhD on masculinity and management culture in Britain after 1945 was supervised by Paul Thompson, whose work on life stories, memory and generational change continues to influence my thinking. I sat in on Leonore Davidoff's Gender History MA (I think I was one of the first men to do so), which really sparked my interest in the historical study of masculinity. I worked for a couple of years as a researcher at London Business School but was lured back to Essex in 1991 to teach social history. Ian Craib was another valued colleague, helping me to think critically about the relations between psychoanalysis and sociology.  I've also benefited greatly from colleagues in the Centre for Psychoanalytic Studies over the years, as my research has moved towards war, biography and the history of subjectivity.


BA hons. (Melbourne) MA (Monash) PhD (Essex)

Current research

'The Generation Between': growing up in the aftermath of war, Britain 1918-1939

This project – funded by the British Academy - investigates the impact of the First World War on children born in Britain in the 1920s. This was a generation which had no direct experience of war as children, but whose parents often carried war’s traces in their memories and bodies. The project focuses on three aspects of the war’s legacy on children. Firstly, we are undertaking oral history interviews with the children of First World War soldiers, now aged in their late 80s and 90s. Secondly we are investigating how ‘experts’ in child psychology, psychoanalysis and child guidance perceived the war’s effects on children. Thirdly, with Rachel Duffett in the History Department at Essex, we are investigating the war’s legacy in interwar children’s’ culture, particularly through toys. Our objective is to reconstruct, through family life, ‘expert’ opinion and children’s culture, the various ways in which the First World War inhabited the lives of the successor generation.

Research interests

 My research interests include war, memory and the transmission of trauma across generations; total war and family relationships in 20th Century Britain; biographical and psycho-social methods; and the relations between psychoanalysis and history, embracing both the history of psychoanalysis in Britain, and the use of psychoanalytic concepts 'outside the clinic', within historical and social research.

Teaching responsibilities

Teaching and Research Supervision

Teaching areas at Undergraduate and Masters level includes:

  • oral history and life-stories
  • testimony of war
  • 20th century British social and cultural history
  • biographical methods
  • cultural history and theory

I am happy to supervise research students in the fields of war, trauma and memory; history of emotions; the history of masculinities; biographical and psycho-social methods; psychoanalysis and social-historical research; 20th century British social and cultural history.

Completed PhD students:

  • Bethany Morgan: Negotiating Midlife
  • Kate Powis, Facing Death: story and psyche
  • Rachel Duffett, A War Unimagined: Food and the rank and file soldiers of the first world war ,
  • Kostas Charamis, Memory & personal experience in communist narratives of the Greek civil war  
  • Ana Ljubinkovic, The Victims of Military Humanitarian Intervention: A study of the psycho-social impact of the UNOSOM involvement in Somalia
  • Jin-Nye Na, Feminism vs Nationalism? A study of the movement of military 'comfort women' in postcolonial South Korea
  • Laura Chase, The creation of place image in interwar Clacton and Frinton
  • Anita Chan, Gendering Primary Teachers: Discourses practices and identities in Hong Kong
  • Susan Hill, Male Friendships: A contextual study

Selected publications:

The Secret Battle. Emotional Survival in the Great War Mike Roper Book cover Mike book cover


The Secret Battle. Emotional Survival in the Great War, Manchester University Press, Manchester, 2009. See below for commentaries

Edited with T.G. Ashplant and G.Dawson, Commemorating War: The Politics of Memory,Transaction Publishers, New Jersey, 2004.

Masculinity and the British Organization Man Since 1945, ,Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1994, pp. ix-259

Edited with J.Tosh, Manful Assertions. Masculinities in Britain since 1800, Routledge, London, 1991, pp. x-221.


‘Psychoanalysis and the making of history’ in S. Foot and N. Partner (ed), Sage Handbook of Historical Theory (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2012), pp. 311-325.

The “spear head of an advance”: Wilfred Bion’s wartime letters to John Rickman’, Psychoanalysis and History, 14, 1 (2012), pp. 95-109.

‘Beyond Containing: World War I and the Psychoanalytic Theories of Wilfred Bion’, in S. Alexander and B. Taylor, History and Psyche. Culture, Psychoanalysis, and the Past, (Basingstoke, Hants: Palgrave Macmillan: 2012), pp. 129-147

‘Nostalgia as an emotional experience in the Great War’, The Historical Journal, 54, 2 (2011), pp. 421-451.

'Between the Psyche and the Social: masculinity, subjectivity and the First World War Veteran', Journal of Men's Studies, Vol. 15, No. 3, Fall 2007.

'Between manliness and masculinity: the 'war generation' and the psychology of fear in Britain, 1914-1970', Journal of British Studies, Vol 44, no. 2, April 2005, pp. 343-363.

'Slipping out of view: subjectivity and emotion in gender history', History Workshop Journal, Vol. 59, Spring 2005, pp. 57-73.

'Maternal relations: moral manliness and emotional survival in letters home during the First World War', in S. Dudink, K. Hagermann and J. Tosh (eds), Masculinity in Politics and War: Rewritings of Modern History, Manchester University Press, Manchester, 2004, pp. 295-315, re-published in J. Scott (ed), Documentary Research, Vol. II, Sage, London 2005.

'Analysing the analysed: transference and counter-transference in the oral history encounter', Oral History,Vol. 31, no. 2, Autumn 2003, pp. 20-33.


‘The psychological legacy of World War I for children’, Emotions and Violence in 20th Century Europe, Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin, June 2013

 ‘Subjectivities in the aftermath: the ‘generation between’ in Britain, 1920-45’, Keynote address, Aftershock: post-traumatic cultures since the First World War, University of Copenhagen, May 2013

'The Nervous Child and the Shell-shocked Soldier: child psychology in the aftermath of war, Britain 1920-35', Psychoanalysis in the Age of Totalitarianism conference, September 2012

‘The Unconscious Work of Social History’, Keynote address, Making sense of past emotions: a seminar on the History of Emotions, University of Copenhagen, May 2012

‘Wilfred Bion and the ‘Nameless dread’ of trench warfare’, Public Lecture, British Psychoanalytical Society, Applied Section, November 2011

‘Manifestos for psycho-social studies’, inaugural meeting of ‘Sociology, Psychoanalysis and the Psycho-social’ group, British Sociological Association, Birkbeck, October 2011

‘Reading between the lines: letters home and emotional survival in the Great War’, Re-appraising the First World War seminar, Imperial War Museum, October 2011

‘Historians and the unconscious burdens of the past’, Keynote address, ‘Historical Perspectives on Gender and Emotional Labour’, University of West England, June 2011

“The generation between”: children of the First World War in twentieth-century Britain’, Social History Society Conference, Manchester University, April 2011

‘Masculinities in Interwar Europe’, Keynote address, German Historical Society, June 2010

‘First World War memoirs and the emotional work of ‘re-remembering’, ‘War Stories: the war memoir in literature and history’, University of Newcastle, Australia, November 2010

‘A late homecoming: the First World War and the ‘maternal turn’ in the psychoanalytic thought of Wilfred Bion’, European Social Science History Conference, Ghent, April 2010

Additional information

Responses to The Secret Battle 

Interview with Shaul Bar-Haim, Journal of Maternity Studies, December 2012 (PDF available on hyperlink)

Psychoanalysis and History podcast seminar, Institute of Historical Research, Roundtable discussion of Michael Roper's The Secret Battle: Emotional Survival in the Great War (Manchester, 2009) , Peter Barham, Deborah Thom (Robinson College, Cambridge), Sally Alexander (chair, Goldsmiths, University of London), with a response by Michael Roper, December 2009

BBC Radio 4, ‘Thinking Allowed’, 9th September 2009, discussion of The Secret Battle with Joanna Bourke

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