Born and raised in Burnley, Lancashire, I was educated at Towneley Comprehensive School, and Burnley Grammar School, before going on Trinity College, Oxford, from which I graduated with a First Class Honours degree in Modern History. I returned to Trinity for my postgraduate studies, the resulting doctoral thesis providing the basis for my Oxford Historical Monograph on The Lancashire Working Classes, 1880-1930, a work selected by one discerning critic as one of the History Books of the Year in the BBC History Magazine in 2002.
While completing my doctorate, I became a research associate with Professor P.K. O’Brien, then Director of the Institute of Historical Research, on a project investigating the origins of technological progress in Britain over the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
Appointed Lecturer in Economic and Social History at the University of Edinburgh in 1994, on a one-year contract, and subsequently proved so difficult to get rid of that the appointment was made permanent in 2000. I was promoted to Senior Lecturer in 2004. For longer than I care to remember, I was Quality Assurance Officer for Economic and Social History, and then for the School of History and Classics, before becoming in 2010 the Head of the Economic and Social History section within the School of History, Classics and Archaeology.
In recent years, I have turned a long-standing passion for old, black and white films into a research interest, enabling me to justify long hours spent watching the films of Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and Laurel and Hardy, among others.