School of Politics and International Relations

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Helen McCabe

Associate Professor in Political Theory, Faculty of Social Sciences



I joined Nottingham in September 2017. I am currently working on a British Academdy Innovation Fellowship (2023-2024) with Karma Nirvana, entitled "What Data? What Happens? Barriers to Generating Evidence-Based Policy to End Honour-Based Abuse."

In January 2020 I became an AHRC Fellow with "To Have and to Hold", a project about forced marriage and modern slavery. I currently lead the work on forced marriage in the Rights Lab, a University of Nottingham Beacon Research of Excellence (I am part of the Law and Policy Programme). You can hear me talk about my work in a podcast on The Rights Track here, with Global Partnerships here, or on the project's podcast here.

From 2019 onwards, I was also the Principal Investigator on project funded by the AHRC in collaboration with researchers, activists, and artists in Kenya and the NGO World Reader, seeking to amplify the voices of survivors of human trafficking in Kenya through ethical storytelling and participatory photography. You can see an exhibition of work produced as part of this project here. You can find out more about the project, and access our ethical remote research toolkit here.

In October 2020 I won a UKRI-funded ESRC Covid-19 Rapid-Response grant looking at the impact of Covid-19 and Covid-related decision-making on people already experiencing, or vulnerable to, forced marriage in the UK. You can hear me watch me talk about this research at an event hosted by Global Partners here. A summary of our findings, along with links to all our publications, including links to our data-sets, are available at

My D.Phil thesis looked at J.S. Mill's surprising claim to be a socialist: I completed it in 2010. My book, John Stuart Mill, Socialist is published with McGill-Queens University Press (Spring 2021). You can watch me talking about it here. Since graduating from my D.Phil, I have been teaching analytical political theory and the history of political thought at the University of Oxford (2010-2013) and the University of Warwick (2013-2017); publishing articles on Mill's socialism, his feminism and his philosophy of persuasive; and working on a project concerning his authorial relationship with Harriet Taylor Mill. You can hear me talking about Harriet Taylor Mill here. My Cambridge Elements book on her (Harriet Taylor Mill) was published in February 2023. I also have a chapter on her in "Philosopher Queens" (Unbound), and wrote the new, revised, entry on her in the Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy. A book about her co-authoring relationship with Mill is currently under contract with McGill-Queens University Press.

I welcome applications and expressions of interest from prospective PhD students interesting in researching forced marriage and/or modern slavery, or from those interested in further research into J.S. Mill and/or Harriet Taylor.

Expertise Summary

I lead an interdisciplinary team concerned with the meaning and experience of forced marriage globally; measuring its prevalence more-accurately; understandings its causes and consequences; developing more-effective interventions aimed at achieving the United Nations' station goal of ending it by 2030. You can read our recent evidence submission to the Women and Equalities Select Committee on these issues here.

From October 2020 to April 2022 I was working on an ESRC-funded COVID-19 rapid-response grant investigating the impact of Covid-19 and Covid-related decision making on people experiencing, or vulnerable to, forced marriage in the UK. With Dr Katarina Schwarz I co-authored a submission to the Joint Committee on Human Rights regarding the impact of the UK government's response to COVID-19, which is available here. I also talked about this issue at a Global Partners online conference about human trafficking, which you can watch here.

I also lead work on using ethical storytelling and participatory photography to help create communities with survivors of human trafficking and forced marriage in Kenya. We have learned useful tips about working remotely in a pandemic as well as substantive findings about the impact of these ethical, survivor-oriented methods, which should be of interest to NGOs as well as other academics.

My previous research mainly looked at the political philosophy of John Stuart Mill, especially his connections to pre-Marxist socialism (particularly that of Robert Owen, Charles Fourier, Victor Considerant, Henri Saint-Simon and Louis Blanc). My book came out in 2021. I was featured on a programme on Radio 4 about "Autarky" in November 2022. I also work on in the nature of his intellectual relationship with Harriet Taylor Mill (whom he credited as his co-author), and in her independent status as a political philosopher. Mill and Taylor's views on worker-owned democracies have interesting implications for thinking about resilience and "building back better" after Covid-19.

Teaching Summary

I am not currently teaching, as I am on research leave.

I continue to supervise PhDs, and am always happy to be contacted by students considering PhD applications in my area of expertise - either the history of political thought, or forced marriage.

Research Summary

I currently research issues around forced marriage and modern slavery. I am working on a British Academy Innovation Fellowship called "What Data? What Happens? Barriers to Generating Evidence-Based… read more

I currently supervise two PhD students, both working on projects relating to forced marriage. Both have been funded via the ESRC Doctoral Training College of which Nottingham is a part. More information about these projects is available here: and here:

I welcome approaches from students looking to work in this area, as well as students wanting to work on Mill, Harriet Taylor, or Helen Taylor.

Current Research

I currently research issues around forced marriage and modern slavery. I am working on a British Academy Innovation Fellowship called "What Data? What Happens? Barriers to Generating Evidence-Based Policy to End Honour-Based Abuse" with Karma Nirvana, who run the national helpline for honour-based abuse, as well as two projects aimed at increasing public awareness of the issue through arts-based methods (including zines and comics). These projects are led by my colleagues Dr Lauren Eglen (University of Nottingham) and Dr Hannah Baumeister (Liverpool John Moore's University) respectively. I am interested in questions about prevalence and risk for forced marriage in the UK, as well as the increased risk posed by natural hazards such as hurricanes and other climate-change affected weather events. I am working with a team funded by Templeton World Charity Foundation on these questions.

In addition, I am working on a book about John Stuart Mill and Harriet Taylor's collaborative relationship. My book on Taylor Mill came out with Cambridge University Press in February 2023.

Past Research

My book, John Stuart Mill: Socialist was published by McGill-Queens University Press in 2021. I have given related papers in Frankfurt and Toronto in 2020 (online because of Covid-19) and Nottingham, Paris, York and Boston in 2018. This work stems from my doctoral research, which looked at Mill's somewhat surprising assertion of being 'under the general designation of Socialist'. I considered this in its historical context (particularly of 'utopian' socialism such as that of Robert Owen and his followers, Henri Saint-Simon and his followers the Saint-Simonians); Charles Fourier and Victor Consideration; and Louis Blanc, Philipe Buchez and other cooperative socialists in France) and found it to be a plausible claim. Mill's socialism is akin, but not identical to, many of these 'utopian' socialists. I also considered his socialism in a more conceptual fashion (particularly given John Rawls' claim that Mill was a supporter of 'property-owning democracy' rather than 'liberal socialism') and found that Mill's commitments to the free development of individuality; equality; social harmony; progress and general utility make him plausible a 'liberal socialist'.

Future Research

My future research will increasingly focus on forced marriage, and how to end it, along with other forms of modern slavery, by 2030. In particular, I will focus on prevalence, causes, consequences and means of ending it.

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