School of History, Classics & Archaeology

Economic and Social History Research Group

Economic and Social History – as a research and teaching unit at the University of Edinburgh – dates back to 1884 when Economic History was first taught here.

 Economic and social historians now form a vibrant research group in the School of History, Classics and Archaeology. Whilst our interests cover a range of themes, chronological periods, and geographical places, we share the following:

  • A commitment to interdisciplinarity, working in dialogue with other social sciences (including economics, political science, sociology, anthropology and criminology)
  •  A strong interest in producing research that is relevant and useful to wider audiences, including policy-makers and practitioners, and which contributes to wider public debate
  • Enthusiasm for innovations in the use of sources, methods  and approaches (both quantitative and qualitative, and including digital humanities)

The diverse topics and themes that we cover include: economic planning; natural resources and energy policy; time and economics; trade and tariffs; the transatlantic slave trade; war and conflict; inequality and living standards; craft economies; textiles and design; urban environments; maps and mapping; social networks; gender and sexuality; social history of the body, medicine and psychiatry; crime and policing; piracy and smuggling; oral culture and print culture; and sport, leisure and cinema-going. 

Our work has attracted significant recent funding from the AHRC, ESRC, Leverhulme Trust, Royal Society of Edinburgh, and Wellcome Trust.

Funded research projects

Funded projects in which we are currently involved include:

Teaching and Research degrees

We offer undergraduate degrees (MA) in Economic History, and Economic and Social History.  At postgraduate level we offer the MSc by Research in Economic and Social History, and we welcome new PhD students across our wide range of research interests.

Other activities and links

We run seminar series in Economic and Social History and Histories of Gender and Sexuality and act as a hub for Second World War Studies.

We are actively involved in the Economic History Society. Nuala Zahedieh is a member of the Executive Committee and Chair of the EHS Conference Committee, and she is on the editorial board of the Economic History Review.  Georgina Rannard is Student Ambassador for the EHS.

Gayle Davis is a member of the editorial boards of History of Psychiatry and  Scottish Archives

Stana Nenadic is Director of the Pasold Research Fund, which promotes research into fashion, textile and clothing history, and publishes the journal Textile History.

The journal Social History is based at Edinburgh (under editors Louise Jackson and Gordon Johnston) and they are also involved in the  SocialHistoryBlog (

Richard Rodger is on the Editorial Board of Urban History and Treasurer of the Urban History Group.

Adam Fox is a Committee Member of the 'British Academy Records of Social and Economic History' series published by Oxford University Press.

Wendy Ugolini is on the editorial board of Contemporary British History.



Prof Martin Chick

Academic staff

Honorary and emeritus

PhD students

  • Rachel Bell, Growing Up in Britain: Experiences of Childhood 1945-1990.
  • Axelle Champion, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry in Scotland and France, c.1870-1914.
  • Malcolm Cooper, Gerard Baldwin Brown and the Conservation Movement in Britain
  • Joseph Curran (ESRC studentship for fees, Jenny Balston Scholarship). Moral Reform' and 'Associational Culture': Social Relations in Dublin and Edinburgh 1815-1845.
  • Phil Dodds (AHRC award, MESH). The Cartography of Alexander Kincaid.
  • Anne Feintuck  (AHRC award,  MESH),  Printing and Publishing: Edinburgh 1890-1930
  • Alastair Learmont (ESRC 1+3 award),The Scottish West Indian Planter Class in Distress 1800-1815.
  • Malcolm Noble, The Common Good of Edinburgh c.1820-56.
  • Jane O’Neill (ESRC 1+3 award), Youth, Sexuality and courtship in Scotland 1945-80.
  • Michal Palacz, The Polish School of Medicine at the University of Edinburgh (1941-1949): A case study in the transnational history of Polish wartime migration to Great Britain..
  • Iida Saarinen, (Funded by the School of History, Classics and Archaeology and Fondation Catholique Ecossaise)  ‘Belonging’ in a Roman Catholic Seminary in the Nineteenth Century: A Prosopographical Study of Scottish Mission’s France-Trained Students and Seminarian Social Identities, 1818-1878
  • Rian Sutton (funded by the College of Humanities and Social Science), Victims or Villains:  Denial of Female Agency in Cases of Murder in Britain and the USA 1850-1900
  • Charlotte Holmes, The Role of Women in Medical Care in Early Modern Scottish Households

  • Kevin Hall, Vagrancy and Crime in Edinburgh and Canongate, 1560–1640

  • Chien-Yuen Chen, Daniel Defoe’s Moral and Political Thought in its Religious Context

  • Daisy Cunynghame, The History of the Edinburgh, Kelso and Newcastle Dispensaries, 1776–1800

  • Jessica Campbell (ESRC 1+3). Alternative Therapies in British Psychiatry since c. 1840