Professor Peter Gurney

School of Philosophical, Historical and Interdisciplinary Studies
Professor Peter Gurney
  • Email

  • Telephone

    +44 (0) 1206 873946

  • Location

    5B.128, Colchester Campus

  • Academic support hours

    By appointment



I did my postgraduate research at the University of Sussex and taught at Sussex, Brighton, Glamorgan, Sheffield and Huddersfield Universities and the Northern College before coming to Essex. I am currently completing two books: 'National Service Life Stories: masculinity, class, and the memory of conscription in Britain' (under contract to Oxford University Press), and 'The Failure of Co-operation: consumer power and democratic change in modern Britain' (under contract to Manchester University Press). Previous PhD supervision Disability and masculinity in World War One (Dr Wendy Gagen) The Fairtrade movement in modern Britain (Dr Kathryn Wheeler) The provincial department store in interwar Britain (Dr Susan Lomax) Race, femininity and nation in Caribbean beauty contests (Dr Rochelle Rowe: published as 'Imagining Caribbean womanhood: race, nation, and beauty contests, 1929-70'. Manchester University Press, 2013) The history of the London brewing trade, 1750-1850 (Dr Alan Pryor) Drug cultures in London, 1930-70 (Dr Elliott Hicks) British support for the Spanish Republic, 1936-39 (Dr Emily Mason: published as 'Democracy, Deeds and Dilemmas. Support for the Spanish Republic within British Civil Society, 1936-1939'. Sussex Academic Press, 2017) War, crime and popular politics in Essex and Kent, 1790-1820 (Dr Joe Cozens) Post-war tourism in north-east Essex (Dr Sean O'Dell) A social and cultural history of the apple in Victorian England (Joanna Crosby) The culture of International Development in the United Kingdom, 1945-2000 (Christopher Timms) Representations of Bolshevism in Britain after the First World War (Andrew McIntosh) The implementation of the New Poor Law in Suffolk (Angela Miller) Current PhD students Percy Lomax: The decline of the Co-operative movement in postwar London Emma Bastin: The rayon industry in interwar Britain: an economic and cultural history


  • BA University of Sussex,

  • MA University of Sussex,

  • DPhil University of Sussex,

  • PGCE University of Leeds,

Research and professional activities

Research interests

Consumerism and consumer movements

Open to supervise

Popular politics and popular protest

Open to supervise

Working-class culture and autobiography

Open to supervise

Current research

Principal Investigator on an oral history research project funded by the Leverhulme Trust (£223k) entitled, 'National Service life stories: masculinity, class and the memory of conscription in Britain.'

The history of consumption and consumer movements

Conferences and presentations

National service and the memory of class in post-war Britain

European Social Science History Conference, University of Gothenburg, 15/4/2023

Chartist electoral politics and the language of democracy

Invited presentation, Northeast Conference on British Studies, Montreal, Canada, 4/10/2019

'The Co-op and the Cold War', Socialism and the Cold War Conference, Queen's University Belfast, 2015.

Belfast, United Kingdom, 2015

'From pacifism to a new world order: the Women's Co-operative Guild and the home front in Britain, 1939-45', Women's History Network Conference, University of Worcester, 2014.

Worcester, United Kingdom, 2014

'The economy in the popular mind in Britain, 1840-1914', British Association of Victorian Studies Conference, Royal Holloway, University of London, 2013.

Invited presentation, 2013

'History and Commitment', Conference marking 50 years of E.P. Thompsons The Making of the English Working Class, Peoples History Museum, Manchester, 2013.

Manchester, United Kingdom, 2013

'The democratic idiom: languages of democracy in Britain, 1830-48', Contested Democracy Conference, Universite Sorbonne Nouvelle, Paris, 2012.

Paris, France, 2012

'Dickens and Consumer Culture', Royal College of Art, London, 2012.

London, United Kingdom, 2012

'Languages of democracy in England, 1830-48', Two Eras of Democracy Conference, Rothermere American Institute, University of Oxford, 2010.

Invited presentation, Oxford, United Kingdom, 2010

Co-operation and the new consumerism in Britain between the wars, Co-operative Movements in Interwar Europe Conference, University of Bologna, 2009.

Bologna, Italy, 2009

'The iconography of hunger in England during the Hungry Forties,' North American Victorian Studies Association Annual Conference, University of Victoria, B.C., 2007.

Victoria, Canada, 2007

'The politics of consumption in England during the Hungry Forties,' British Association for Victorian Studies Conference, University of Liverpool, 2006.

Liverpool, United Kingdom, 2006

'Consuming politics in post-war Britain', Cultures of Labour Conference, University of Ghent, 2003.

Belgium, 2003

'Scarcity, excess and consumer organising in mid-Victorian England', Nineteenth Century Studies Association Annual Conference, University of Florida, 2003.

Gainesville, United States, 2003

'The Crystal Palace, the working classes and consumer culture in Victorian England', Victorian Exhibitions Conference, University of California, Santa Cruz, 2001.

Santa Cruz, United States, 2001

'Mass consumption and the post-war working-class', Material Politics Conference, University of Cambridge, 1999.

Cambridge, United Kingdom, 1999

'Thomas Frost and the art of escapology in Victorian England', Representing Victorian Lives Conference, University of Leeds, 1999.

Leeds, United Kingdom, 1999

'Observing working-class sexuality in England in the 1930s', Sex, State and Society Conference, University of Umeå, Sweden, 1998.

Umeå, Sweden, 1998

'The politics of working-class consumption in England, 1906-1926', Economic History Society Annual Conference, University of Lancaster, 1996.

Lancaster, United Kingdom, 1996

'Languages of co-operation in Britain, 1860-1914', XI International Economic History Congress, Università Bocconi, Milan, 1994.

Milan, Italy, 1994

'Co-operators, history and the nation', History Workshop 25, Ruskin College, Oxford, 1991.

Oxford, United Kingdom, 1991

'Co-operation and working-class self-expression, 1880-1918', History Workshop 21, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, 1987.

Newcastle, United Kingdom, 1987

'Internationalism in the British Co-operative Movement, 1869-1917', Internationalism in the European Labour Movement Conference, International Institute for Social History, Amsterdam, 1985.

Amsterdam, Netherlands, 1985

Teaching and supervision

Current teaching responsibilities

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

  • Exploring History: Research Workshop (HR242)

  • The Common People: History From Below in Britain 1830-1914 (HR352)

  • History Works: Career Portfolio (HR510)

  • Research Project (HR831)

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

  • History, Power, and Identity (HR930)

Previous supervision

Joanna Ruth Crosby
Joanna Ruth Crosby
Thesis title: The Economic, Cultural and Social Value of the Apple and the Orchard in Victorian England
Degree subject: History
Degree type: Doctor of Philosophy
Awarded date: 8/1/2021
Angela Mary Miller
Angela Mary Miller
Thesis title: The Introduction and Operation of the New Poor Law in Suffolk 1834-1870
Degree subject: History
Degree type: Doctor of Philosophy
Awarded date: 26/6/2020
Andrew Thomas Mcintosh
Andrew Thomas Mcintosh
Thesis title: Gender, Bolshevism and the Popular Press in Britain, 1916-1921
Degree subject: History
Degree type: Doctor of Philosophy
Awarded date: 4/9/2019
Christopher Bruce Timms
Christopher Bruce Timms
Thesis title: The Promotion of Global Humanitarianism in Britain, 1945-2000
Degree subject: History
Degree type: Doctor of Philosophy
Awarded date: 2/7/2019
Elizabeth Valentina Shaw
Elizabeth Valentina Shaw
Thesis title: Packaging Purity: Government Intervention, Commercial Innovation and Adulteration in Britain, C. 1870-1914
Degree subject: History
Degree type: Master of Arts (by Dissertation)
Awarded date: 30/9/2016
Joseph Thomas Cozens
Joseph Thomas Cozens
Thesis title: The Experience of Soldiering: Civil-Military Relations and Popular Protest in England, 1790-1805
Degree subject: History
Degree type: Doctor of Philosophy
Awarded date: 7/6/2016
Emily Sarah Jane Mason
Emily Sarah Jane Mason
Thesis title: 'save Spain': British Support for the Spanish Republic Within Civil Society in Britain, 1936-1939
Degree subject: History
Degree type: Doctor of Philosophy
Awarded date: 17/5/2016


Journal articles (49)

Gurney, P., (2022). Ian Gasse, Something to Build On: The Co-operative Movement in Dumfries, 1847-1914. Labour History Review. 87 (2), 213-214

Gurney, P., (2022). The Marginalization of History. Labour History Review. 87 (3), 277-81

Gurney, P., (2021). Christopher Frank, Workers, Unions and Payment in Kind. The Fight for Real Wages in Britain, 1820-1914. Labour History Review. 86 (2), 277-280

Gurney, P., (2020). Redefining ‘the woman with the basket’: the Women’s Co-operative Guild and the politics of consumption in Britain during World War Two. Gender and History. 32 (1), 189-207

Gurney, P., (2019). ‘Co-operation and Communism cannot work side by side’: organised consumers and the early Cold War in Britain. Twentieth Century British History. 30 (3), 347-374

Gurney, P., (2019). Peter Scott, The Market Makers: creating mass markets for consumer durables in inter-war Britain. The English Historical Review. 134 (571), 1598-1599

Gurney, PJ., (2018). 'Voice of Civilisation': advertising and its critics in austerity Britain. Contemporary British History. 32 (2), 190-208

Gurney, PJ., (2018). Frank Trentmann, Empire of Things. How We Became a World of Consumers, from the Fifteenth Century to the Twenty-first (London: Allen Lane, 2016). History: the journal of the Historical Association. 103 (2), 307-308

Gurney, PJ., (2018). Noel Thompson, Social Opulence and Private Restraint: The Consumer in British Socialist Thought Since 1800 (Oxford University Press, 2016). Cultural and Social History. 15 (2), 280-281

Gurney, P., (2015). 'The Curse of the Co-ops': Co-operation, the Mass Press and the Market in Interwar Britain. English Historical Review. 130 (547), 1479-1512

Gurney, PJ., (2015). The Age of Veneer: Charles Dickens and the antinomies of Victorian consumer culture. Dickens Quarterly. 32 (3), 229-246

Gurney, PJ., (2015). John Wilson, Anthony Webster and Rachel Vorburg-Rugh, Building Co-operation. a Business History of the Co-operative Group, 1863-2013 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013). Economic History Review. 68 (2), 737-739

Gurney, PJ., (2014). The Democratic Idiom: Languages of Democracy in the Chartist Movement. The Journal of Modern History. 86 (3), 566-602

Gurney, PJ., (2014). Emma Griffin, Liberty’s Dawn. A People’s History of the Industrial Revolution (New Haven: Yale University Press. 2013). History: the journal of the Historical Association. 99 (4), 704-706

Gurney, PJ., (2014). Sean Nixon, Hard Sell: Advertising, Affluence and Transatlantic Relations, c. 1951-69 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2013). Reviews in History

Gurney, PJ., (2013). History and Commitment: E.P. Thompson's Legacy. Labour History Review. 78 (3), 331-349

Gurney, PJ., (2013). Geoffrey Field, Blood, Sweat, and Toil. Remaking the British Working Class, 1939-1945 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011). History: the journal of the Historical Association. 98 (3), 476-478

Gurney, PJ., (2012). Co-operation and the "new consumerism" in interwar England. Business History. 54 (6), 905-924

Gurney, PJ., (2012). Nicole Robertson, The Co-operative Movement and Communities in Britain, 1914-1960. Minding Their Own Business (Farnham: Ashgate, 2010). Labour History Review. 77 (3), 375-377

Gurney, PJ., (2012). John Bohstedt, The politics of provisions: food riots, moral economy, and market transition in England, c. 1550 – 1850 (Farnham: Ashgate, 2010). Archiv fur Sozialgeschichte. 52

Gurney, PJ., (2012). Lawrence Black and Nicole Robertson (eds.), Consumerism and the co-operative movement in modern British history (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2009). Economic History Review. 63 (2), 544-545

Gurney, P., (2012). Co-operation and consumerism in interwar England: transcripts of interviews with co-operative society members from Lancashire and Yorkshire

Gurney, PJ., (2010). Frank Trentmann, Free Trade Nation: Commerce, Consumption, and Civil Society in Modern Britain (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008). Victorian Studies. 53 (1), 139-140

Gurney, PJ., (2010). Deborah Cohen, Household Gods. The British and their Possessions (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006). BBC History Magazine. 11 (2), 74-74

Gurney, PJ., (2010). Krista Lysack, Come Buy, Come Buy: Shopping and the Culture of Consumption in Victorian Women’s Writing (Athens: Ohio University Press, 2008). Journal of British Studies. 49 (1), 205-206

Gurney, PJ., (2010). Sean O’Connell, Credit and Community: Working-Class Debt in the UK Since 1880 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009). Twentieth Century British History. 21 (1), 126-128

Gurney, PJ., (2009). "Rejoicing in Potatoes": The Politics of Consumption in England during the "Hungry Forties". Past and Present. 203 (1), 99-136

Gurney, PJ., (2009). Cooperazione, consumismo di massa e modernità. Gran Bretagna fra le due guerre, Revista della Cooperazione, Terza Serie Trimestrale. 2, 39-71

Gurney, PJ., (2009). Exclusive Dealing in the Chartist Movement. Labour History Review. 74 (1), 90-110

Gurney, PJ., (2009). Une remise en question de l’ “opulence”: le movement coopérative britannique après la Seconde Guerre mondiale [Contesting “affluence”: The British cooperative movement after the Second World War]. Revue Internationale de l’Économie Sociale. 318, 71-89

Gurney, PJ., (2009). Wanting and Having: New Histories of Scarcity and Excess in Modern Britain. Twentieth Century British History. 20 (1), 97-109

Gurney, PJ., (2009). Brian Maidment, Dusty Bob. A Cultural History of Dustmen, 1780–1870 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2007). Urban History. 36 (1), 171-172

Gurney, PJ., (2007). Mary Hilson, Political Change and the Rise of Labour in Comparative Perspective: Britain and Sweden 1890–1920 (Oslo: Nordic Academic Press, 2006). Twentieth Century British History. 18 (2), 273-275

Gurney, PJ., (2006). "The sublime of the bazaar": A moment in the making of a consumer culture in mid-nineteenth century England. Journal of Social History. 40 (2), 385-405

Gurney, P., (2006). Working-class writers and the art of escapology in Victorian England: The case of Thomas Frost. Journal of British Studies. 45 (1), 51-71

Gurney, P., (2005). The battle of the consumer in postwar Britain. Journal of Modern History. 77 (4), 956-987

Gurney, PJ., (2005). Alan Burton, The British Consumer Co-operative Movement and Film, 1890s–1960s (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2005). Urban History. 32 (3), 541-542

Gurney, PJ., (2005). Dominic Shellard, Kenneth Tynan: a Life (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003). Contemporary British History. 19 (2), 170-171

Gurney, PJ., (2003). Michael Saler, The Avant-Garde in Interwar England: Medieval Modernism and the London Underground (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999). Contemporary British History. 17 (4), 113-114

Gurney, PJ., (2001). Alan Kidd and David Nicholls (eds.), Gender, Civic Culture and Consumerism: Middle-Class Identity in Britain, 1800-1940 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1999). Gender and History. 13 (2), 408-409

Gurney, PJ., (1998). W. Hamish Fraser, Alexander Campbell and the Search for Socialism (Manchester: Holyoake Books, 1996). Labour History Review. 63 (2), 229-231

Gurney, PJ., (1997). "Intersex" and "dirty girls": Mass-observation and working-class sexuality in England in the 1930s. Journal of the History of Sexuality. 8 (3), 256-290

Gurney, PJ., (1997). Le debat sur la co-operation dans l'Angleterre Victorienne et Edwardienne. Histoire, économie et société. 16 (2), 259-278

Gurney, PJ., (1997). The politics of public space in Manchester, 1896-1919. Manchester Region History Review. XI, 12-23

Gurney, PJ., (1995). Jean Turnbull and Jayne Southern, More Than Just a Shop. The History of the Co-op in Lancashire (Lancaster: Lancashire County Books, 1995). Labour History Review. 60 (1), 84-5

Gurney, PJ., (1995). Johnston Birchall, Co-op: The People’s Business (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1994). Labour History Review. 60 (1), 84-85

Gurney, PJ., (1994). Heads, hands and the co-operative utopia: an essay in historiography. North West Labour History. 19, 3-23

Gurney, PJ., (1994). The Middle Class Embrace: language, representation and the contest over co-operative forms in Britain, 1860-1914. Victorian Studies. 37 (2), 253-286

Gurney, PJ., (1991). David Vincent, Literacy and Popular Culture, England 1750-1914 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989). Sociological Review. 39 (1), 197-199

Books (4)

Gurney, P., (2020). Contemporary Thought on Nineteenth Century Socialism. Volume II. Socialism and Co-operation in Britain, 1850-1918. Routledge. 9781138321007

Gurney, P., (2017). The Making of Consumer Culture in Modern Britain. Bloomsbury Academic. 9781441137210

Gurney, P., (2015). Wanting and having: Popular politics and liberal consumerism in England, 1830-70. Manchester University Press. 978-0-7190-9145-2

Gurney, P., (1996). Co-operative Culture and the Politics of Consumption in England, 1870-1930. Manchester University Press. 0719049504. 9780719049507

Book chapters (20)

Gurney, P., (2022). GEORGE JACOB HOLYOAKE: SOCIALISM, ASSOCIATION, AND CO-OPERATION IN NINETEENTH-CENTURY ENGLAND. In: Routledge Revivals: History Workshop: 13 Volume Set. 52- 72. 9781138209947

Gurney, P., (2020). Socialism and co-operation in Britain, 1850-1918. In: Contemporary Thought on Nineteenth Century Socialism. Routledge. 1- 21. 978-1-138-32100-7

Gurney, P. and Morgan, K., (2020). Introduction: Socialism before the age of party. In: Contemporary Thought on Nineteenth Century Socialism. Routledge. 1- 12. 978-1-138-32100-7

Gurney, PJ., (2015). A house divided: the Labour Party and the organised consumer in post-war Britain. In: Consuming Behaviours: identity, politics and pleasure in twentieth-century Britain. Editors: Rappaport, E., Crowley, M. and Trudgeon Dawson, S., . Bloomsbury Academic. 237- 251. 978-0857857392

Gurney, PJ., (2009). Co-operative Press. In: Dictionary of Nineteenth Century Journalism in Great Britain and Ireland. Editors: Brake, L. and Demoor, M., . Academia Press and The British Library. 142- 143

Gurney, PJ., (2009). G.J. Holyoake. In: Dictionary of Nineteenth Century Journalism in Great Britain and Ireland. Editors: Brake, L. and Demoor, M., . Academia Press and The British Library. 285- 286

Gurney, PJ., (2009). Entries on 'Co-operative Press' and 'G. J. Holyoake'. In: Dictionary of Nineteenth Century Journalism in Great Britain and Ireland. Editors: Brake, L. and Demoor, M., . Academia Press and The British Library. 142- 3, 285-6. 978-9038213408

Gurney, PJ., (2007). '"A Palace for the People"? The Crystal Palace and consumer culture in Victorian England. In: Victorian Prism. Refractions of the Crystal Palace. Editors: Buzard, J. and Childers, J., . University of Virginia Press. 138- 150. 9780813926032

Gurney, PJ., (2007). Thomas Frost (1821-1908). In: New Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Editors: Goldman, L., . Oxford University Press

Gurney, PJ., (2006). Cooperative Movement. In: Encyclopedia of the Age of Industry and Empire. Editors: Merriman, J. and Winter, J., . Charles Scribners Sons. 555- 557

Gurney, PJ., (2006). Percy Redfern (1875-1958). In: New Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Editors: Goldman, L., . Oxford University Press

Gurney, PJ., (2003). Co-operative movement. In: The Blackwell Dictionary of Modern Social Thought. Editors: Outhwaite, W., . Blackwell. 114- 116

Gurney, PJ., (2001). An appropriated space: the Great Exhibition, the Crystal Palace and the working class. In: The Great Exhibition of 1851: New Interdisciplinary Essays. Editors: Purbrick, L., . Manchester University Press. 114- 145. 9780719055928

Gurney, PJ., (2000). Observing working-class sexuality in England in the 1930s. In: Sex, State and Society. Comparative Perspectives on the History of Sexuality. Editors: Tedebrand, L-G., . Almqvist and Wiksell International. 301- 328. 9789171918710

Gurney, PJ., (1999). Labor's great arch: Co-operation and cultural revolution in Britain, 1795-1926. In: Consumers against Capitalism? Consumer Co-operation in Europe, North America and Japan, 1840-1990. Editors: Furlough, E. and Strickwerda, C., . Rowman & Littlefield. 135- 171. 9780847686490

Gurney, PJ., (1997). Measuring the distance: D. H. Lawrence, Raymond Williams and the quest for "community". In: Social Conditions, Status and Community, c.1860-1920. Editors: Laybourn, K., . Alan Sutton. 60- 83. 9780750910705

Gurney, PJ., (1995). L'abbraccio della bourghesia: linguaggi e modi di rappresentare la cooperazione in Gran Bretagna, 1860-1914. In: La Federconsorzi tra Stato liberale e fascismo. Editors: Fontana, S., . Laterza. 231- 268. 978-8842048060

Gurney, PJ., (1993). Co-operative movement. In: The Blackwell Dictionary of Twentieth Century Social Thought. Editors: Bottomore, T. and Outhwaite, W., . Blackwell. 111- 113

Gurney, PJ., (1988). "A Higher State of Civilisation and Happiness": Internationalism in the British Co-operative Movement c.1869-1917. In: Internationalism in the European Labour Movement: 1830-1940. Editors: Van der Linden, M. and Van Holthoon, F., . Brill. 543- 564. 9789004085558

Gurney, PJ., (1988). George Jacob Holyoake: Socialism, association and co-operation in nineteenth century England. In: New Views of Co-operation. Editors: Yeo, S., . Routledge. 52- 72. 978-0415025232

Grants and funding


National Service Life Stories: masculinity, class and the memory of conscription in Britain

Leverhulme Trust

+44 (0) 1206 873946


5B.128, Colchester Campus

Academic support hours:

By appointment