Department of History

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John Beckett

Professor of English Regional History, Faculty of Arts



I have taught at the University of Nottingham for much of my career, In addition to my full-time work in the Department of History, I am:

  • Chair of the Thoroton Society, the local history and archeology society for Nottinghamshire.
  • Chair of the History of Lincolnshire Committee which publishes scholarly monographs on the county
  • Chair of the Nottinghamshire Archives User Group
  • Convenor and Editor of the Nottinghamshire Church History Project (jointly with the Diocese of Southwell and Nottingham}
  • Chair of the Editorial Board of the academic journal Midland History

Expertise Summary

I supervise research students in all areas of eighteenth and nineteenth century British history.

Recent successful Ph.D. students have worked in the following areas:

  • Nottinghamshire landowners and their estates c.1660 - c.1840

  • The renaissance of the English market town study of six Nottinghamshire market towns, 1680-1840

  • Patrician landscapes, plebian cultures : parks and society in two English counties, c.1750-1850

  • Parliamentary Enclosure in Northamptonshire,

  • Parliamentary Enclosure in Lincolnshire

  • Working-class diet and health in Nottingham, 1850-1939

  • The political activities and opinions of the Fourth Duke of Newcastle (1785-1851)

  • Anglican Choir Bands in the East Midlands

  • The Lincolnshire attorney in the 18th and 19th centuries

  • Seventeenth century Leicestershire politics

  • Enclosure in the Isle of Axholme, Lincolnshire

I currently supervise research students working on the rural shop in the East Midlands since the nineteenth century, the 1918 influenza outbreak in the East Midlands, nonconformity in south Nottinghamshire in the nineteenth century, industrial Derby, and crime in Derbyshire in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries..

Teaching Summary

I currently reach the following UNDERGRADUATE courses

Level 1. Learning History (10 credits)

Level 2. Rethinking the Industrial Revolution (20 credits)

Level 3. Nottingham: a Provincial City (40 credits)

I also supervise Exploring Historiography essays at level 2, and dissertations at level 3.

I currently supervise POSTGRADUATE students for the degrees of



Research Summary

Ongoing research work includes: (with M.E. Turner), Sustainability in British Agriculture, 1500-2000. Project funded by the ESRC (1999-2002) which has already produced published outputs. Work… read more

Current Research

Ongoing research work includes: (with M.E. Turner), Sustainability in British Agriculture, 1500-2000. Project funded by the ESRC (1999-2002) which has already produced published outputs. Work currently in progress on a book. About 75% complete, but both authors delayed by other commitments.

(with M.E. Turner), Landownership in Britain since 1880. Several conference papers given, one substantial publication (Agricultural History Review, 55, 2007) and a book chapter in 2010. Conference papers given in 2008 in Lisbon and Lund.

The English Village. A book on the evolution and development of the English Village through time, arising from my work (2005-10) with the Victoria County History. AHRC Fellowship in 2011. Several chapters written: research ongoing.

A history of the University of Nottingham. A project sponsored by the university, and involving in particular detailed research on the past 25 years. Work on going, but it is hoped to produce the book by summer 2014.

Southwell Church History Project (University of Nottingham, and Diocese of Southwell and Nottingham, currently with funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund). Preparation of researched histories of each church and church site in Nottinghamshire. Intended to lead to (a) a website (ongoing), (b) an edition in the Thoroton Society of Nottinghamshire Record Series, and (c) a major scholarly study of the evolution of church buildings since the Norman Conquest (with Christopher Brooke).

The Aristocracy and the First World War. A study of the transformation of the English aristocracy from a leisured class into part of the machinery of war, with special reference to the papers of the Brownlow family, in Lincolnshire Archives.

Newstead Abbey and the Byronic legacy. A study of the break up of the Newstead (Nottinghamshire) estate in the 1920s and 1930s, and at the position of the Abbey as a Byron memorial. Expected to be a long article c.2014.

A book on Local History in England, for Routledge. Due to be completed in 2015

The Rise and Fall of The GrenvillesSupervision

I continue to supervise research students at the University of Nottingham, and am happy to consider applications for work in any area of British history, including local history (both within the East Midlands and further afield) since the seventeenth century.

The PhD students who I am currently supervising are as follows:

Janet Gilks - crime in Derbyshire

Michael Crane - the development of Derby

Anne Woodcock - nonconformity in south Nottinghamshire

Rosemary Muge - poaching in the East Midlands

Joan Knight - the 1918 outbreak of influenza in the East Midlands


Conference papers:

'The decline of manorial control over village and community governance, 1600-2010', 8th European Social Science History Conference, University of Ghent, Belgium, 14 April 2010

'Local History in its comparative international context', International Symposium, Institute of Historical Research, 8 July 2009

'The New Domesday of Landownership, 1875, and its aftermath', 7th European Social Science History Conference, Faculty of Letters, University of Lisbon, Lisbon, Portugal, 28 February 2008

(with Michael Turner), 'Agricultural Productivity in England, 1700-1914', European Cooperation in the field of Scientific and Technical Research (COST) action A35: Program for the study of European rural societies (PROGRESSORE) Third Workshop for Working Group 2 (Rural management of land): `Production and productivity in European agriculture in a historical context', University of Lund, Sweden, June 13-14 2008

'Libraries and the Victoria County History', Historic Libraries Forum, Royal Asiatic Society, London, 15 November 2007

'End of the Old Order? The Land Question and the Burden of Ownership in the UK, c.1880-c.1925', Sixth European Social Science History Conference, Amsterdam, 22 March 2006

(with Michael Turner), 'F.M.L. Thompson and the English Land Market, 1918-21', British Agricultural History Society, Winter Conference, IHR, London, 10 December 2005

(with Michael Turner), 'The Land Question and the Burden of ownership, c.1880-1925', 'The Land Question' conference, the University of Hertfordshire, Hatfield, 3 July 2005

`Historical Dimensions of Sustainable Farming', ESRC Transdisciplinary Seminar Series: Approaches to Sustainable Farmland Management, School of Geography, University of Nottingham,13 January 2004

(with Michael Turner and Bethanie Afton), `Agricultural Sustainability', British Agricultural History Society Spring Conference, University of Sussex, 8 April 2002

`The Anglican Diocese as Region: the creation of Southwell Diocese, 1878-1884', Conference of Regional and Local Historians (CORAL), University of Wolverhampton. 6 September 2001

Public lectures

'Byron and the Luddites', Lucy Edwards Lecture, Newstead Abbey Byron Society, 11 December 2011.

'The Victoria County History and the Lincoln Record Society: the quest for a 'County History' of Lincolnshire', Jim Johnston Memorial Lecture, University of Lincoln, , 18 May 2010

'The Early days of the Victoria County History', Christopher Elrington Memorial Lecture, Amwell Society, Islington, London, 26 January 2010

'Two Christian Counties: Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, and the Diocese of Southwell, 1884-1927', Roy Christian Memorial Lecture, Derby WEA and Derbyshire Archaeological Society, University of Derby, 11 January 2008.

'England's Past for Everyone', Gerald Aylmer Seminar, Royal Historical Society, 20 November 2008.

'England's Past for Everyone: researching the local community', Historical Association Annual Conference, Clore Centre, British Museum, 14 April 2007

'Local History, family history and the Victoria County History: new directions for the twenty-first century', Marc Fitch Lecture, University of London, Clore Management Centre, Birkbeck, 23 September, 2006.

'Byron and Newstead: the Aristocrat and the Abbey', VCH Essex Appeal Fund, AGM, Blix, nr Chelmsford, 22 November 2006

'The Victoria County History: Past, Present and Future', Historical Association, Manchester Branch, 4 November 2006

'The Survival of the Aristocracy in England: how did they do it?', HA Essex, Chelmsford, Essex Record Office, 13 May 2006

'Building towns and suburbs: landlords, enclosure and commons, 1750-1914, Victorian Society, East of England Groups, Lucy Cavendish Hall, Cambridge, 8 April 2006

'Byron and Newstead: the Aristocrat and the Abbey', London Byron Society, The George, 213 Strand, London, 22 February 2005.

'Agriculture and the Industrial Revolution', Cheshire Local History Association Annual conference (keynote address), Northwich, Cheshire, 30 October 2004

`The Survival of the Aristocracy in England: how did they do it?, Bolton Branch, Historical Association, Bolton School, 1 March 2004

`Why Did the Aristocrats Dislike their Country Houses?', Calke Abbey (National Trust Lecture), 20 February 2004

`Byron and Rochdale', International Byron Society Annual Conference, Rochdale, 23 August 2003.

`Robert Bakewell and Agricultural Productivity: new thoughts on a well-worn theme', New Dishley Society, Snibston Discovery Park, Coalville, 17 October 2002

`Houses in Nottingham, 1688-1750', Maurice Barley Commemorative Lecture, University of Nottingham, 6 June 2002

`Jubilees, Coronations and the Creation of English Cities: Nottingham, Leicester and Derby', Historical Association, Nottingham Branch, University of Nottingham, 9 May 2002

`Byron and Newstead', International Byron Society Annual Pilgrimage, Newstead Abbey, Nottinghamshire, 13 April 2002

`The Anglican Diocese as Region in Nineteenth-Century England', Anne Mitson Memorial Lecture, Nottingham Trent University, 20 March 2002

`Laxton: England's Last Open Field Village', Wolfson Lecture in Local History, Board of Continuing Education, Wolfson College, University of Cambridge, 20 May 1999.

Past Research

See my publications list.

Future Research

I am currently completing three books:

The English Village - a study of the evolution of the English village since the Norman Conquest, building on work undertaken at the Victoria County History (2005-10). Publisher Yale UP.

A New History of the University of Nottingham. Commissioned by the University, and due for publication in 2014.

Issues in Local History. A book of essays relating to my long experience and knowledge of the working of local history both in the UK and further afield. Publisher: Routledge.

Department of History

University of Nottingham
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

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