Most of my work is concerned to explore historical processes of interaction among 'space', 'populations' and 'power'. My approach is interdisciplinary: I have drawn on methods and theoretical perspectives from human geography, cultural studies, social anthropology, sociology, economics and political science. Although I primarily conduct my research on twentieth century Russian and East European history, much of my work is also comparative in approach.
Within this general problematic, I pursue the following overlapping and inter-related themes:
1. How the 'place' and 'displacement' of individuals or groups shapes the construction of social identities (national, regional, ethnic, gender, etc.) and social practices.
2. How, conversely, individuals and groups constitute and contest their identities in space and through spatial practices (e.g. through collective memory, commemoration and the popular use of history; in everyday life).
3. Spatial dimensions of imperial and state power; of nationalism and nation-building; of ethnic mobilisation, conflict and co-existence; of processes of political, social, economic and cultural transformation.
4. Technologies of spatial construction and regulation, both in terms of practice (e.g. territorial and urban planning; regional policies; programmes of economic development; border settlement and enforcement; migration and mobility controls, etc.) and in terms of discourse or representation (e.g. historiography, geography, cartography, etc.); and modes of popular or peripheral 'resistance' or 'subversion' to these technologies.
5. Representations of space in diverse contexts (e.g. in cartography, film, graphic arts, architecture, town planning, etc.) and the relationship of spatial representations with spatial practice s of power and resistance and with the lived experience of space.
Research & Public Engagement
This rubric informs much of my teaching and supervision, especially at third-year and postgraduate level, and my research and public engagement activities, which include the following current and recent projects:
- A book project: Mapping the Soviet: Cartography, Culture and Power from Lenin to Stalin, 1917-53 (development funding from the University of Nottingham and the J.B. Harley Research Fellowship Trust; archival research funded by an AHRC Fellowship, 2012-13, within the 'Science in Culture' programme). This explores the cultural history of Soviet cartography between the October revolution and the death of Stalin, in particular examining the ways in which the communist regime used maps to construct and control knowledge of space and territory. The project's wider aim is to establish a new interpretation of the political role and significance of cartographic practice and map culture in the modern world. The research is grounded in a close reading of Soviet archival documents concerning the state's organization and conduct of cartographic activities, as well as a wide range of published maps and atlases; school geography and history textbooks; specialist and popular handbooks on map-making and map-reading; and literary works, films, architecture and graphic art (including 'ephemeral' materials such as postcards, stamps or newspaper cartoons) featuring cartographic themes or imagery.
As an off-shoot of this project, I collaborated on an exhibition 'Vybiraia marshrut / Defining the route' created by Russian artist Sasha Sokolov for the 5th Moscow Biennale of Modern Art, 17 September to 9 October 2013 (opens a new window in Russian). For details of the exibition see this link to the venue (opens in new window).
I am also acting as Consultant to a major British Library exhibition on Twentieth Century Maps, scheduled for late 2016, and as Associate Curator of a major BL exhibition on the Russian Revolution, scheduled for 2017.
- Co-director of an AHRC-funded follow-on project Refugees in post-1945 Europe: Experiences in and beyond the DP camp (with Prof. P. Gatrell, University of Manchester, funded 2011-12, with 'legacy' activities ongoing). Drawing on the findings of two earlier AHRC-funded projects on East European population displacement (see under 'Past Research', below), this aimed (a) to create accessible educational and public resources for the study of refugee and migrant histories; (b) to promote wider public awareness of contemporary issues relating to displacement, migration and asylum, and (c) to transform perceptions of the refugee experience in the past and present. Our means of public engagement included a multi-site exhibition and an educational resource pack, which we developed in collaboration with teachers and students from the the Greater Manchester and Nottingham regions, and launched at a Nottingham teachers' workshop in November 2012. Our project partner was the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Education Trust, and collaborators included the Society of Friends, Imperial War Museum, British Film Institute, and Nottingham City Museums and Galleries. For details of this project, see our web-site (will open in a new window).
Between 17 August and 23 September 2012, Nottingham Castle hosted our exhibition 'When the War was Over: European Refugees after 1945', which was seen by over 25,000 visitors. For the University press release on the exhibition, see here (opens a new window). The exhibition poster can be downloaded via this link.
The exhibition has since been displayed at the launch of the Centre for Advanced Studies (link opens in new window), University of Nottingham, October 2012; the University of Glasgow Memorial Chapel, February 2013; Highfield House, University of Nottingham, May-June 2013; New Art Exchange, Nottingham, 16-23 June 2014, to mark Refugee Week; at the UK HQ of Kresy-Siberia, an international organisation dedicated to examining and promoting the history of the Polish diaspora, Manchester, October 2014; and at Friends House in Amersham, June 2015, and Friends House in Chesham, September 2015).
The project has also generated new collaborations. We have advised and supported 'Kresy-Siberia' (see above) in developing an online exhibition on post-1945 Polish migrations. I am currently also working with Ukrainian community historians to produce an educational resource and documentary film based on oral history interviews.
- Editor, Displaced Children in Russia and Eastern Europe, 1915-1953. Ideologies, Identities, Experiences (Leiden: Brill, forthcoming 2016). This volume of essays, arising from the two AHRC research projects (see 'Past Research', below) examines how East European nationalist and revolutionary regimes targeted children in campaigns of coercive re-socialisation associated with state- and nation-building, as well as how they strove to manage the consequences of child displacement caused by war, civil conflict, revolution and social collapse. Many of the chapters also reveal children's creativity and resourcefulness in devising means of coping with the consequences of marginalisation, overcoming trauma and improvising new identities and roles to enable them to negotiate their re-integration into society.
- Since 2014 I have worked as Co-I on a new project 'DHA Praxis: Interrogating Interdisciplinarity', involving collaborators from Horizon Digital Economy Research Institute and the Faculty of Arts, University of Nottingham. The project received approximately £40,000 from the University of Nottingham's Discipline Bridging Scheme, and had produced, among other outputs, a 'Good Practice Guide on Interdisciplinary Collaboration' and a video 'Interrogating Interdisciplinarity' (click on link to open YouTube in a new window).
- In winter 2016, I co-initiated a pilot project 'Presenting Textual Sources for Public Engagement', which received funding from the University of Nottingham's Research Priority Area 'Heritage and the Digital'. This project involved collaboration among colleagues from the Department of History, Horizon, Manuscripts & Special Collections and the University's Digital Research Team. Using focus groups with academics, postgraduate researchers and community historians, and consultations with museum, library and archive specialists, we produced a set of requirements and options for the design of an open-access digital tool for the curation of online text exhibits.
- In June 2016 we received £20,000 from the AHRC-funded Centre for Hidden Histories (opens in a new window) at the University of Nottingham to support the further development of this product by the same research team. I am Principal Investigator of this new project 'COREL: Creating Online Resources for Engagement & Learning'.
I supervise postgraduate research in most areas of 20th century Russian and East European political, cultural, economic and social history and historical geography. I have a track-record of supporting students in securing University of Nottingham and UK Research Council funding (see below), as well as supplementary travel and research bursaries, and I welcome enquiries or applications from any student intending to conduct either full-time or part-time research within my areas of interest.
Current research students:
Seonaid Rogers, 'Site-Seeing: Postcards of the Middle East and the Visual Construction of Place, 1890s to 1990s' (joint supervisor; funded by AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award in partnership with the British Museum).
Jonathan Rowson, 'Out-Migration in the Russian Village, 1880-1914: a Regional Case Study' (joint supervisor; 1+3 funded by ESRC DTC, commencing MA year October 2015).
Joseph Nicholson, 'Risk and Reward: Anglo-Soviet Economic Relations, 1921-24' (lead supervisor; 1+3 funded by ESRC DTC).
Michael Carey, 'The Role of Affect in British Responses to the Russian Revolution, 1917-24' (joint supervisor; funded by AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award in partnership with the British Library).
Siobhan Hearne, 'From 'Yellow Ticket' to 'Bourgeois Evil': Female Prostitution in Urban Russia, 1900-1930' (joint supervisor; 1+3 funded by ESRC DTC).
Laura Sumner, 'Competing Identities: The Construction of Social Identity among Urban Workers in Sormovo, 1917-1924' (second supervisor; 1+3 funded by ESRC DTC).
Andru Chiorean, 'Re-Writing the New Man: Censorship in Communist Romania, 1949-1977' (lead supervisor; funded by School of History Studentship; Harvard University Visiting Fellowship, 2011-12; Davis Graduate Student Travel Grant, 2013).
Former research students:
Stephen Parfitt, 'The Order in the Empire: The Knights of Labor in Britain, Australia and New Zealand, 1880-1900' (PhD 2014; joint supervisor; funded by University International Research Excellence Scholarship).
Viacheslav Tolmachev, 'Between Theory And Practice: Khrushchev's "Anti-Parasite" Legislation, 1956-1961' (MPhil 2014; lead supervisor; currently Counsellor on International Affairs to the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Russian Federation, Moscow).
Olga Bertelsen, 'Spatial Dimensions of Soviet Repressions in the 1930s: The House of Writers (Kharkiv, Ukraine)' (PhD 2013; lead supervisor; funded by University International Research Excellence Scholarship; Phi Kappa Phi Graduate Fellowship; Helen Darcovich Memorial Doctoral Fellowship, 2012-13; awarded Harriman Institute Postdoctoral Fellowship, Columbia University, USA, 2013-14; Postdoctoral Fellowship in the Center for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies, University of Toronto, 2014-15).
Alistair Wright, 'The Civil War in Karelia, 1918-1920' (PhD 2011; joint supervisor; ESRC-funded; currently teaching in Scotland).
Siobhan Peeling, '"Out of Place" in the Postwar City: Experiences and Representations of Displacement during the Resettlement of Leningrad at the end of the Blockade' (PhD 2010; lead supervisor; AHRC-funded; AHRC Postdoctoral Research Fellow, 2011-12; University-funded 'Community Engagement Consultant' in History and Tutor in History and in Russian Studies, University of Nottingham, 2012-13; AHRC-funded Research Associate and Centre for Advanced Studies Postdoctoral Fellow, 2013-14; Honorary Research Fellow and Teaching Associate, Department of History, 2015-16).
Alastair Kocho-Williams, 'The Culture of Russian and Soviet Diplomacy, Lamsdorf to Litvinov, 1903-1939' (PhD 2006; joint supervisor; funded by School Scholarship; currently Senior Lecturer in International and Soviet History, Aberystwyth University).
Main recent research-related administrative roles
Department of History (until 2012, School of History): Co-Director of Research and REF Co-Ordinator (2014-16); Chair of the Examinations Board (2013-15); Director of Research (2010-11); Chair of REF Steering Group (2010-11); Member, Strategy and Finance Committee (2010-11); Director of Postgraduate Research (2005-11); Research Funding Officer (2006-10); Chair of Research Ethics Committee (2009-11).
School of Humanities: Director of Postgraduate Research (2016-17); Member of Strategy Group (2016-17); Research Ethics Officer (2014-), Member of Research Committee (2014-15); Member of Research Strategy Taskforce (2010-11).
Faculty of Arts: Member of Arts Postgraduate Strategy Group (2016-17); Member of Faculty Research Committee (2010-11); Member of Arts Graduate Centre Strategy Group (2008-11).
University: Member of Research Ethics Working Group (2010-11); Chair of Arts and Humanities Special Interest Group (2007-10); Member of Humanities and Social Sciences Strategy Group (2007-09); Member of Management Committee, EPSRC project 'Towards Pervasive Media' (2009-11); Member of Digital Humanities Network Steering Group (since 2009); Member of Memory and Remembrance Network Steering Group (since 2010).
External: Member of AHRC Peer Review College (2007-15); Member of ESRC Assessor College (since 2009); Member of Executive Management Group and Public Policy Committee of 'Centre for Russian, Central and East European Studies' (University of Glasgow, 2007-2010).
2013-14 - Co-Investigator on a digital humanities project 'People-Events-Places' examining ways to visualize spatially-located data capturing human actions, perceptions and beliefs in the past. This involved a collaboration among the Horizon Digital Economy Research Institute and the Faculty of Arts, University of Nottingham, and the Digital Innovations Lab, University of North Carolina, and was funded by Horizon and the AHRC within the Data-Assets-Methods Network. I was lead author of an article 'Spatial Humanities: Moving Beyond the Dot on the Map', published in Proceedings of the Digital Research in the Humanities and Arts Conference, DRHA2014 (Maragiannis, Anastasios ed.), pp. 111-116.
2011-13 - Principal Investigator on a 2-year British Academy-funded project 'Theories, Ideologies, and Politics of Spatial Planning in Russia and Germany, 1890s to 1945'. This project examined how Russian and German academics in the first half of the 20th century rethought the nature of economic space and how their ideas interacted with political developments and state policy. It aimed to offer new insights into modern European history; the significance of space as object of theory and practice; the complex relations among science, technology, culture, ideology and politics; and the discursive origins and institutional formation of a 'rational' approach to spatial analysis that has shaped both geography's evolution as a discipline and planning and policy in the modern world.
2010-11 - Funded collaborator on the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPRSC)-funded interdisciplinary research project Towards Pervasive Media (2010-2011). As one of the leaders of the theme 'Curating the Landscape' I examined the mediation of spatial experience via mobile technologies. For TPM outputs please click image on left (opens in new window).
2004-2009 - Co-director of AHRC-funded international collaborative research project Population Displacement, State Practice and Social Experience in Russia and Eastern Europe, 1930-1956 (with Prof. Peter Gatrell, University of Manchester).
1999-2004 - Senior Research Fellow and Project Manager on AHRB-funded research project Population Displacement, State-building and Social Identity in the Former Russian Empire, 1918-1930, University of Manchester (Director: P. Gatrell).
For more details on both these projects, please see the website here (opens in new window: please note, the site is now archived).
1997-2001 - ESRC-funded PhD studentship. Thesis title: 'Soviet Karelia, 1920-1937. A Study of Space and Power in Stalinist Russia' (Supervisors: Prof. R.W. Davies, Dr. E.A. Rees).
For my books, articles and chapters arising from these projects, please click 'Publications' tab above.
I have also written and published on the history of film, comparative historiography, historical theory and methodology, and on contemporary questions of post-Soviet political development, cultural transformation and social memory (see publications list). Outside academia, I have written on economic, financial and business affairs in the Russian Federation, on conflict and forced migration in sub-Saharan Africa, and on Moscow's architectural history and heritage.