Professor Lucy Noakes

Department of History
Professor Lucy Noakes
  • Email

  • Telephone

    +44 (0) 1206 873404

  • Location

    5NW.8.13, Colchester Campus

  • Academic support hours

    Tuesday 3.30-4.30; Wednesday 11.30-12.30



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 womens 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. 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 disciplines 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? 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 womens experiences of conflict, probably stems from these stories. I am currently working on four separate, but interlinked projects. The first is a history of death, grief and bereavement in Second World War Britain, to be published by Manchester University Press and provisionally titledDying for the Nation: Death, Grief and Bereavement in Second World War Britain. 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 Europes 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 which we are currently developing into an edited collection (Total War: An Emotional History) for Oxford University Press. My third project focuses on the memory of the First World War in Britain at its centenary. I am Principal Investigator on a three year AHRC project (2017-2020) 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 co-Investigator on the Gateways to the First World War AHRC project, based at the University of Kent. My final 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 entitledHow to Survive a Warthis 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 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). Finally, I am series editor,with Sasha Handley, University of Manchester, and Rohan McWilliam (Anglia Ruskin University) for the Social History Society book seriesNew Directions in Social and Cultural History. I am Principal Investigator on the £300,000 three year (2017-2020) AHRC project Reflections on the Centenary: Learning and Legacies for the Future. Co-Investigators are Dr Emma Hanna (University of Kent), Professor Lorna Hughes (University of Glasgow), and Dr Catriona Pennell (University of Exeter). Dr James Wallis (University of Essex) is Research Fellow on the project. I am Co-Investigator on the AHRC Gateways to the First World War Engagement Centre (£ 1000,000, 2014-2019). This is based at the University of Kent where Professor Mark Connelly is Principal Investigator. Othe team members are Dr Helen Brooks (University of Kent), Professor Brad Beaven (University of Portsmouth), Professor Alison Fell (University of Leeds) and Dr Emma Hanna (University of Kent). Dr Sam Carroll (University of Kent) is Heritage Officer and Community Historian. From 2014-2016 I held an American Council of Learned Societies Collaborative Research Fellowship with Professor Susan R. Grayzel, (University of Utah), to investigate the impact of aerial warfare and civil defence on gender and citizenship in 20th century Britain. I currently sit on the Academic Advisory Board of the Imperial War Museum's Second World War Galleries redevelopment project.


  • BA (Hons) History. University of Sussex

  • DPhil, History. University of Sussex

Research and professional activities

Conferences and presentations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Teaching and supervision

  • The Making of the Modern World since 1750 (HR100)

  • Hidden Histories: class, gender and the rise of British democracy (HR103)

  • History Works: Beyond Your BA (HR200)

  • Votes for Women! Life and Work for Women in Twentieth Century Britain (public history module) (HR213)

  • Research Project (HR831)

  • Research Methods in History (HR935)


Journals (10)

Andrews, M., Fell, A., Noakes, L. and Purvis, J., (2017). Introduction: Representing, Remembering and Rewriting Women’s Histories of the First World War. Women's History Review

Noakes, L., (2017). ‘My Husband is Interested in War Generally’: gender, family history and the emotional legacies of total war. Women's History Review

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

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

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)

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

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

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

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)

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

Chapters (3)

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. 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, 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

Books (2)

Noakes, L. and Pattinson, J., (2013).British Cultural Memory and the Second World War. A&C Black. 1441104976. 9781441104977

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

+44 (0) 1206 873404


5NW.8.13, Colchester Campus

Academic support hours:

Tuesday 3.30-4.30; Wednesday 11.30-12.30