Professor Lucy Noakes

School of Philosophical, Historical and Interdisciplinary Studies
Professor Lucy Noakes
  • Email

  • Telephone

    +44 (0) 1206 873404

  • Location

    5B.139, Colchester Campus

  • Academic support hours

    Thursday 2.30-3.30 Friday 1.00-2.00



I came to be a historian in a very roundabout way: not having studied history for A level, I became interested in the past through my politics. Seeing E.P. Thompson speak on CND platforms led me to his The Making of the English Working Class, and a desire to know about women's lives in the past introduced me to the work of Sheila Rowbotham and other feminist historians. This interest in history from below, in the lives of people who were central to the making of history, but rarely able to record their own part in this process, continues to inform and drive my work. I was lucky enough to be accepted as an unconventional history applicant at the University of Sussex, and stayed at Sussex to complete my DPhil, drawing on the Mass Observation Archive which was held there, and of which I am currently a Trustee. I subsequently worked at Southampton Solent University, the University of Portsmouth and the University of Brighton, joining Essex in 2017. Although the work of a historian can sometimes seem to be daunting, with the discipline's numerous debates, theoretical turns and complex arguments, I believe that history is, above all, about the stories that we tell. We all construct narratives about our own lives and it is the relationship between these individual stories and the great sweep of 20th century history that makes the study of the past so fascinating and so vital. What was it like to be a young woman in the Chinese cultural revolution? To be the grandson of slaves in the early 20th century United States? Or to be a parent trying to protect their children during the bombing wars of mid-century Europe and Asia? How did these people tell their own stories, and where can we find them? The relationship between politics and history, that led to my fascination with the past as a teenager, thus continues to inform my work today. The ways that we approach and understand past lives, and the ways that their stories are remembered, are central to contemporary politics. The work of historians today probably has a greater relevance and urgency than at any other time in the recent past, making it an important and exciting subject to study, research and teach. I work on the social and cultural history of early to mid 20th century Britain, with a particular interest in the experiences and memories of those who experienced the First and Second World Wars. This research focus has probably been driven by the stories that circulated in my family when I was growing up. I never tired of hearing my grandparents' stories of the Second World War, especially those of my grandmothers, who experienced the bombing of London and Coventry. My work on gendered identities in wartime, and on women's experiences of conflict, probably stems from these stories. I am currently working on several separate, but interlinked projects. The first is a history of death, grief and bereavement in Second World War Britain. The monograph of this research, Dying for the Nation: Death, Grief and Bereavement in Second World War Britain was published by Manchester University Press in January 2020, but I continue to be fascinated by this topic, and hope to write more on it. Sadly, grief in times of crisis seems to be a subject that we currently need to understand more clearly. Dying for the Nation was the winner of the Social History Society Book Prize in 2022. This project draws on work from the emotional turn to understand wartime grief, an area that I explore further in my second project, which considers the emotional history of Europe's two total wars of the 20th century. Working with Claire Langhamer and Claudia Siebrecht of the University of Sussex, we held a conference on this topic at the British Academy (2013) which we a developed into an edited collection (Total War: An Emotional History) for Oxford University Press (2020). I am currently working on the idea of 'sentimentality' and war memories, thinking about ways that this much derided response can be rescued from the 'condescension of history'. My third project focuses on the memory of the First World War in Britain at its centenary. I was the Principal Investigator on an AHRC-funded project (2017-2021) Reflections on the Centenary (with Catriona Pennell, University of Exeter, Emma Hanna, University of Kent, Lorna Hughes, University of Glasgow and James Wallis, University of Essex) and was co-Investigator on the Gateways to the First World War AHRC project, based at the University of Kent which ran between 2014-2019. Working with the Reflections team I am currently writing a co-authored book on the British memory of the First World War at its centenary for Berghahn Books. Our Report on Centenary commemorations, and the contribution of academic researchers to these, for the AHRC can be found on the University of Essex Centre for Public History webpage. My fourth project aims to develop our understanding of the ways in which total war, in particular the targeting of civilians in aerial warfare, shapes societies in complex and often unexpected ways. Provisionally entitled 'How to Survive a War' this project focuses on the relationship between gender, citizenship and civil defence in Britain and its empire between 1914 and 1968. I am working on this with Professor Susan R. Grayzel (University of Utah), and the early stages of the research were funded by an American Council of Learned Societies Collaborative Research Fellowship (2014-2016). I also continue to work closely with the material produced by the Mass Observation movement in mid-century Britain, and by the Mass Observation project since the 1980s. I am drawing on this material to write about ideas of 'the people's war' among 'the people' during the war, and also to write a history of VE Day through the words of Mass Observation writers for Atlantic Books. Finally, I sat on the Academic Advisory Board of the Imperial War Museum's Second World War Galleries redevelopment project, and am series editor,with Sasha Handley, University of Manchester, and Rohan McWilliam (Anglia Ruskin University) for the Social History Society book series New Directions in Social and Cultural History. I am a Trustee of the Mass Observation Archive. From January 2024 I am President-Elect of the Royal Historical Society, taking up Presidency of the Society from November 2024. For more on the Royal Historical Society see:


  • BA (Hons) History. University of Sussex

  • DPhil, History. University of Sussex


University of Essex

  • Director of Research,, HIstory, University of Essex (1/9/2021 - present)

Research and professional activities

Research interests

I am a social and cultural historian of modern warfare

The First and Second World Wars; death, grief and commemoration; legacies of warfare; gender and war; cultural memory; emotional histories and 20th century Britain; public history.

Open to supervise

Conferences and presentations

'It is all very difficult to imagine we have peace'. Mass Observers, Britain, and the Ends of the Second World War

Invited presentation, Keynote presentation, Britain and the World Annual Conference, Britain and the World Annual Conference, Winchester, United Kingdom, 21/6/2024

Making Grief Work. Gendering Emotions in Second World War Britain

Invited presentation, Women and War Conference, Alls Souls College, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom, 22/3/2024

Collecting Stories, Sharing Identities. Oral History and Giving Voice to the Past

Invited presentation, Keynote presentation, Sweet Thames NLHF Project, Lews Folk Music Society, Lewes, United Kingdom, 22/10/2023

Public Lecture. ‘In memory of my Great Grandfather and his infant son’: Histories, communities and feelings in the centenary of the First World War

Invited presentation, Keynote presentation, Royal Historical Society Public Lecture, University of the Highlands and Islands, Dornoch, 18/9/2023

Plenary Lecture 'Remembering Europe's Wars. Community and Collective Histories in the 21st Century

Invited presentation, Keynote presentation, Conference. Engagement with the Past, Activism in the Present, Engagement with the Past, Activism in the Present, Toruń, Poland, 24/4/2023

Annual Public Lecture

Invited presentation, Keynote presentation, Centre for the HIstory of War, Media and Society, Centre for the History of War, Media and Society, Canterbury, United Kingdom, 29/1/2020

War without end. Living with grief in 1940s Britain

Invited presentation, Keynote presentation, St Andrews Literature Department 'War and the Emotions' workshop, War and the Emotions, St Andrews, United Kingdom, 24/1/2020

In Memory of my Grandfather and his Infant Son’: Families, Memories and the Legacies of Grief in the First World War Centenary

North American Conference on British Studies, NACBS, Vancouver, Canada, 16/11/2019

Led By Donkeys. Englishness, Memory and Brexit.

Invited presentation, European Collective Memories in an Age of Populism Workshop, Department of Politics, Washington D.C., United States, 12/4/2019

Reflections on the Centenary

Invited presentation, A Century of Remembrance, London, United Kingdom, 17/11/2018

Dying for the nation: death, grief and bereavement in Britain after the Great War

Invited presentation, Keynote presentation, Annual Lecture, First World War centenary annual lecture series, Lancaster, United Kingdom, 5/11/2018

Eve in Khaki: women and the British Army, 1917-48

Invited presentation, Keynote presentation, Public Lecture, London, United Kingdom, 2/3/2018

2017: Keynote lecture, 'Gender, Family Histories, and the Emotional Legacies of Total War, Mass Observation 80th Anniverary Conference, University of Sussex.

Brighton, United Kingdom, 2017

2017: Public lecture, 'The First World War and the British Way of Death', For Then, For Now, For Ever: One Hundred Years of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Brookwood Military Cemetery

Brookwood, United Kingdom, 2017

2017: Keynote lecture, ''Couldn't Have Been a Nicer Morning For It': Gendering Remembrance in 1930s Britain', Gendering Peace in Europe, 1918-1945, University of Sheffield

Sheffield, United Kingdom, 2017

2017: Conference paper, 'Motherhood and the Gendered Politics of Wartime Grief', Berks Conference of Women Historians, New York Hofstra University

Hempstead, United States, 2017

2017: Research seminar, 'Towards an Emotional Economy of Grief in Second World War Britain', Modern HIstory Seminar Series, University of Oxford

Oxford, United Kingdom, 2017

2016: Conference paper, 'War Without End: Living with Grief in 1940s Britain', North American Conference on British Studies, Washington DC

Washington D.C., United States, 2016

2016: Research seminar 'Emotional Communities in the Second World War: Death, Grief and Masculinity in the British Armed Services', Centre for the Study of Modern Conflict, University of Edinburgh

Edinburgh, United Kingdom, 2016

2015: Symposium presentation: 'Telling Tales About the Blitz: Men, Women and Civil Defence in Postwar Britain', Symposium on War, Gender and Memory, University of Mississippi

Oxford, United States, 2015

2015: Conference paper: 'A Broken Silence: Remembering War in Interwar Britain', American Historical Association Annual Conference, New York

New York, United States, 2015

2015: Workshop Participant 'An Ordinary Heroism: British Cultural Memory of the Second World War in the Early 21st Century', International Workshop: Commemorating World War Two and the Politics of Memory, Hanyang University Research Institute of Comparative HIstory and Culture, Seoul

Seoul, South Korea, 2015

2015: Symposium presentation: 'The Emotional Economy of Grief in Wartime Britain', AHRC Public Workshop on Culture and Conflict, Library of Congress, Washington DC

Washington D.C., United States, 2015

2015: Public lecture: 'A Broken Silence. Mass Observation and Armistice Day in 1930s Britain', Mass Observation Talks,The Keep Archive, Brighton

Brighton, United Kingdom, 2015

2015: Keynote lecture: 'British Cultural Memory and the Second World War', Cultural Memory Conference, Greenwich University, London

London, United Kingdom, 2015

2014: Public lecture. 'The Search for Peace in Interwar Europe', The British Embassy, Helsinki

Helsinki, Finland, 2014

2014: Public lecture: 'Grief in Wartime Britain', and graduate workshop, 1914-2014: War and Intimacy Public Lecture Series, Institute for Research in the Humanities, University of Wisconsin.

United States, 2014

Teaching and supervision

Current teaching responsibilities

  • Hidden Histories: Class, Race and Gender in Britain, c. 1640s-Present (HR103)

  • War and the Twentieth-Century World: Experiences, Representations, and Legacies (HR172)

  • Rebellious Pasts: Challenging and Creating Histories (HR173)

  • Exploring History: Research Workshop (HR242)

  • Britain�s Second World War: Mass Observation, Myth and Memory (HR308)

  • History Works: Career Portfolio (HR510)

  • Research Project (HR831)

  • Rethinking History: Approaches, Theories and Concepts (HR924)

  • Approaches to War, Culture and Society (HR962)

  • War and Memory: Remembering, Commemorating, and Contesting the Past (HR970)

Previous supervision

Frances Ellen Casey
Frances Ellen Casey
Thesis title: The Role of British Home Front Needlework During the First World War, 1914-1918
Degree subject: History
Degree type: Doctor of Philosophy
Awarded date: 19/1/2022
Olivia Abigail Elisabeth Smith
Olivia Abigail Elisabeth Smith
Thesis title: The Memory of the First World War At its Centenary in Britain: A Study of War Memory At National, Local and Individual Levels
Degree subject: History
Degree type: Master of Arts (by Dissertation)
Awarded date: 9/1/2020


Journal articles (21)

Noakes, L., (2023). Elizabeth T. Hurren. Hidden Histories of the Dead: Disputed Bodies in Modern British Medical Research.. The American Historical Review. 128 (1), 448-449

Noakes, L., (2023). The People's War in Concrete and Stone. Death and the Negotiation of Collective Identity in Second World War Britain.. The English Historical Review. 138 (594-595), 1118-1142

Noakes, L. and Wallis, J., (2022). The people's centenary? Public history, remembering and forgetting in Britain's First World War Centenary. The Public Historian. 44 (2), 56-81

Noakes, L., (2021). Power, Politics and Humiliation: Power and Shame in the Modern World. Cultural History. 10 (2), 270-274

Noakes, L., (2020). Valuing the Dead: Death, Burial, and the Body in Second World War Britain. Critical Military Studies. 6 (2), 224-242

Noakes, L., (2020). Catherine Flinn. Rebuilding Britain's Blitzed Cities: Hopeful Dreams, Stark Realities. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2019. Pp. 243. $114.00 (cloth).. Journal of British Studies. 59 (1), 202-204

Noakes, L., (2019). Santanu Das and Kate McLoughlin, eds. The First World War: Literature, Culture, Modernity. Proceedings of the British Academy 213. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018. Pp. 280. $85.00 (cloth).. Journal of British Studies. 58 (2), 454-456

Noakes, L., (2019). Jay Winter. War beyond Words: Languages of Remembrance from the Great War to the Present.. The American Historical Review. 124 (3), 1034-1035

Andrews, M., Fell, A., Noakes, L. and Purvis, J., (2018). Introduction: Representing, Remembering and Rewriting Women’s Histories of the First World War. Women's History Review. 27 (4), 511-515

Noakes, L., (2018). ‘My Husband is Interested in War Generally’: gender, family history and the emotional legacies of total war. Women's History Review. 27 (4), 610-626

Noakes, L., (2015). A broken silence? Mass Observation, Armistice Day and ‘everyday life’ in Britain 1937–1941. Journal of European Studies. 45 (4), 331-346

Noakes, L., (2015). Gender, Grief, and Bereavement in Second World War Britain. Journal of War and Culture Studies. 8 (1), 72-85

Ussishkin, D., (2015). Lucy Noakes and Juliette Pattinson, eds. British Cultural Memory and the Second World War. London and New York: Bloomsbury, 2014. Pp. 240. $120.00 (cloth).. Journal of British Studies. 54 (3), 784-785

Pattinson, J., Noakes, L. and Ugolini, W., (2014). Introduction: Incarcerated Masculinities: Male POWs and the Second World War. Journal of War and Culture Studies. 7 (3), 179-190

Noakes, L., (2014). 'Gentle in manner, resolute in deed': women in the British army in the post-war years. Women's History Magazine. 76, 5-12

Noakes, L., (2012). ‘Serve to Save’: Gender, Citizenship and Civil Defence in Britain 1937–41. Journal of Contemporary History. 47 (4), 734-753

Noakes, L., (2011). From War Service to Domestic Service: Ex-Servicewomen and the Free Passage Scheme 1919-22. Twentieth Century British History. 22 (1), 1-27

Noakes, L., (2008). “A disgrace to the country they belong to”: the sexualisation of female soldiers in First World War Britain. Revue LISA / LISA e-journal. VI (4), 11-26

Noakes, L., (2007). Demobilising the Military Woman: Constructions of Class and Gender in Britain after the First World War. Gender and History. 19 (1), 143-162

JACKSON, LA., (2007). Women in the British Army: War and the Gentle Sex, 1907–1948 ‐ By Lucy Noakes. History. 92 (306), 271-271

Graves, P., (1999). Lucy Noakes. War and the British: Gender and National Identity, 1939-91. (Social and Cultural History Today.) London: LB. Taurus; dist. by St. Martin’s Press, New York, N.Y. 1998. Pp. vi. 218. $59.50. ISBN 1-86064-306-X.. Albion. 31 (1), 164-165

Books (6)

Noakes, L., (2023). War and the British: Gender, Memory and National Identity 1939-1991. Revised Edition.. Bloomsbury Academic

Noakes, L., (2020). Dying for the Nation: Death, Grief and Bereavement in Second World War Britain. Manchester University Press. 0719087597. 9780719087592

Noakes, L., Langhamer, C. and Siebrecht, C., (2020). Total War: An Emotional History. Oxford University Press

Noakes, L. and Pattinson, J., (2013). British Cultural Memory and the Second World War. Bloomsbury Academic. 1441160574. 9781441160577

Noakes, L., (2006). Women in the British Army: War and the gentle sex, 1907-1948. Routledge. 0203088328. 978-0415390576

Noakes, LC., (1997). War and the British: Gender and National Identity, 1939-1991. I.B. Tauris. 9781860643064

Book chapters (12)

Noakes, LC., (2018). The 'worth' of grief and the 'value' of bodies: managing the civilian corpse in Second World war Britain. In: The Materiality of Mourning Cross-disciplinary Perspectives. Editors: Newby, Z. and Toulson, RE., . Routledge. 175- 190. 1351127640. 9781351127646

Noakes, L., (2017). Eve in Khaki: Women working with the british military, 1915-18. In: Women and Work Culture: Britain c.1850-1950. 213- 228

Noakes, L., (2016). Women and World War II. In: The Ashgate Research Companion to Modern Warfare. 223- 237

Noakes, L., (2015). 'Deep England': Britain, the countryside and the English in the Second World War. In: Fighting for Britain?: Negotiating Identities in Britain During the Second World War. Editors: Pattinson, J. and Ugolini, W., . Peter Lang. 25- 47. 9783035307047

Noakes, L., (2015). Popular memory, popular culture: The war in the post-war world. In: The Cambridge History of the Second World War: Volume 3: Total War: Economy, Society and Culture. Editors: Geyer, M. and Tooze, A., . Cambridge University Press. 675- 697. 9781139626859

Noakes, L., (2014). War and Peace. In: Women in Twentieth-Century Britain: Social, Cultural and Political Change. 307- 320

Noakes, L., (2013). Women and World War II. In: The Ashgate Research Companion to Modern Warfare. Editors: Kassimeris, G. and Buckley, J., . Ashgate. 223- 237. 9780754691778

Noakes, L., (2013). 'War on the Web': The BBC 'People's War' Website and Memories of the Second World War in 21st century Britain. In: British Cultural Memory and the Second World War. Editors: Noakes, L. and Pattinson, J., . Bloomsbury Academic. 47- 66. 9781441160577

Noakes, L., (2012). Defending the home(land): gendering Civil Defence from the First World War to the 'War on Terror'. In: Gender and Conflict since 1914 Historical and Interdisciplinary Perspectives. Editors: Carden-Coyne, A., . Palgrave Macmillan. 53- 70. 9780230280946

Noakes, L., (2008). 'Playing at being soldiers'?: British women and military uniform in the First World War. In: British Popular Culture and the First World War. Editors: Meyer, J., . Brill. 123- 145. 9789004166585

Noakes, LC., (2005). Eve in Khaki: Women Working with the British Military 1915-1918. In: Women and Work Culture: Britain c.1850–1950. Editors: Jackson, LA. and Cowman, K., . Ashgate. 213- 228. 978-0754650508

Noakes, L., (2002). Women and the War that Never Happened: British Women, Autobiography and Memory during the Gulf War. In: Temporalities, Autobiography and Everyday Life. Editors: Campbell, J. and Harbord, J., . Manchester University Press. 219- 232. 9780719055751

Reports and Papers (1)

Noakes, L., Hughes, L., Hanna, E., Pennell, C. and Wallis, J., (2021). Reflections on the Centenary of the First World War: Learning and Legacies for the Future

Grants and funding


Royal Mail 80th anniversary of the end of the Second World War special stamp edition

Royal Mail

Life in a Garrison town? Community and Identity in 21st century Colchester.

UOE Participatory Research Fund


Gateways to the First World War (Phase 2)

Arts and Humanities Research Council


Reflections on the Centenary of the First World War: Learning and Legacies for the Future

Arts and Humanities Research Council

+44 (0) 1206 873404


5B.139, Colchester Campus

Academic support hours:

Thursday 2.30-3.30 Friday 1.00-2.00

More about me