Dr Esther Breitenbach (MA (Hons), PhD)

Research Fellow


I graduated in Philosophy and Political Science from Dundee University in 1974, and subsequently worked in adult and community education, before commencing a career in academic research and teaching in 1991. I was based in Social Policy at Glasgow University and then Edinburgh University, and from the latter was seconded to the Scottish Executive Equality Unit (1998-2001), and to the Women and Equality Unit in the Department of Trade and Industry (2001-2003). I was Visiting Professor at the Institute of Governance, Public Policy and Social Research, Queen's University Belfast, from 2003-2005. In 2005 I obtained a PhD from the University of Edinburgh, and subsequently held positions as Postdoctoral Fellow, Teaching Associate, and Research Fellow in the School of History, Classics and Archaeology. Since 2011, I have been Honorary Fellow in the School.

Responsibilities & affiliations

Affiliated research centres

Edinburgh Centre for Global History

Research summary

  • Scotland and the British empire
  • Civil society and empire
  • National identity
  • Gender roles and identities
  • Women and politics in Scotland

Current research interests

I continue to work on themes related to Scottish participation in the British empire and its impact at home. I also work on themes related to Scottish women’s history, such as the activity of the women’s suffrage movement in Edinburgh. I am a member of the Committee of Women’s History Scotland, and contributed to an online learning resource about the women’s suffrage movement in Scotland, which was launched in 2018 to commemorate the centenary of women’s partial enfranchisement in 1918, and available at https://womenssuffragescotland.wordpress.com



Co-edited with Linda Fleming, S Karly Kehoe and Lesley Orr, Scottish Women: A Documentary History, 1780-1914 (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2013)

Co-edited with Pat Thane, Women and Citizenship in Britain and Ireland in the Twentieth Century (London: Continuum, 2010)

Empire and Scottish Society: the impact of foreign missions at home c. 1790-c.1914 (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2009)

Co-edited with Eleanor Gordon, Out of Bounds: Women in Scottish Society 1800 – 1945 (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1992)

Co-edited with Eleanor Gordon, The World is Ill Divided: Women's Work in Scotland in the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1990) 

Book chapters and journal articles

‘Scottish Women and Political Representation in the UK and Scottish Parliaments (1918–2020’, Open Library of Humanities, 6(2): 14 (2020).  DOI: https://doi.org/10.16995/olh.579 

‘Edinburgh Suffragists: Exercising The Franchise at Local Level’, Book of the Old Edinburgh Club: New Series Vol 15 (2019), pp. 63-80.

‘Pro-Empire Sentiment in Twentieth-Century Scotland before Decolonisation’, in Stephanie Barczewski and Martin Farr (eds), The MacKenzie Moment and Imperial History (Palgrave Macmillan, 2019), pp. 237-260.

'The making of a missionary icon: Mary Slessor as "Heroine of Empire"', Journal of Scottish Historical Studies, 37:2 (2017), pp. 177-197.  https://doi.org/10.3366/jshs.2017.0219

'For workers' rights and self-determination? The Scottish labour movement and the British empire from the 1920s to the 1960s', in Scottish Labour History, 51 (2016), pp. 113-133.

'The Influence of the Missionary Movement in Scotland' in Kenneth R. Ross (ed), Retrieving Scotland's Missionary Story (Padstow: Regnum Books International, 2014), pp. 57-69.

‘Women as Active Citizens: Glasgow and Edinburgh c. 1918-1939’, with Valerie Wright, in Women’s History Review, Vol. 23, No. 3 (2014), pp. 401-420. DOI: 10.1080/09612025.2013.820602

‘Scottish Encounters With Africa In The Nineteenth Century: Accounts of Explorers,  Travellers and Missionaries’ in Afe Adogame and Andrew Lawrence (eds) Africa in Scotland, Scotland in Africa (Brill, 2014), pp. 19-41.

‘Scottish Presbyterian missionaries in India and public opinion in Scotland’ in Crispin Bates and Andrea Major (eds), Britain and the Indian Uprising of 1857: Fractured Narratives and Marginal Experiences (New Delhi: Sage, 2013), pp. 74-94.

'The Impact of the Victorian Empire' in T.M. Devine and Jenny Wormald (eds) Oxford Handbook of Modern Scottish History, 1500-2000 (Oxford University Press, 2012), pp. 533-550.

'Scots Churches and Missions' in John M. MacKenzie and T.M. Devine (eds), Scotland and the British Empire (Oxford University Press, 2011), pp. 196-226.

'Religious Literature and Discourses of Empire: The Scottish Presbyterian Foreign Mission Movement' in Hilary Carey (ed), Empires of Religion (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2008), pp. 84-110.

‘Gender and Scottish National Identity’, with Lynn Abrams, in Abrams, L, Gordon, E, Simonton, D and Yeo, E (eds) Gender in Scottish History (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2006), p. 17-42.

‘“Curiously Rare?” Scottish Women of Interest’ in Scottish Affairs, No 18, (1997), pp. 82-94.

‘Out of Sight, Out of Mind? The History of Women in Scottish Politics’, Scottish Affairs, 2, (1993), pp. 58-70.

Social Policy and Politics


Co-edited with Alice Brown, Fiona Mackay and Janette Webb, The Changing Politics of Gender Equality (Basingstoke, Palgrave, 2002)

Co-edited with Fiona Mackay, Women and Contemporary Scottish Politics (Edinburgh: Polygon, 2001)

Women Workers in Scotland (Glasgow: Pressgang, 1982)

Book chapters and journal articles

With Yvonne Galligan, ‘Measuring Gender Equality: reflecting on experiences and challenges in the UK and Ireland’, Policy and Politics, Vol 34, no.4, (2006), pp 597-614.

‘Developments in Gender Equality Policies in Scotland since Devolution’, Scottish Affairs, Issue no 56, (2006), pp 10-21.

‘A Scottish Executive Gender Equality Strategy?’, in Etudes Ecossaises, Numero 9, (Grenoble: ELLUG, University Stendhal, 2004), pp.  185-204.

 ‘Gender and Identity’ in Crowther, J, Martin, I and Shaw, M, Renewing Democracy in Scotland: An Educational Source Book, (NIACE, 2002), pp. 127-130.

‘Les Femmes ecossaises face au changement constitutional’, in Dixon, K (ed) L’Autonomie ecossaise: Essais critiques sur une nation britannique (Grenoble: ELLUG, Universite Stendhal, 2001), pp. 53-73.

‘Changing Gender Relations in Modern Scotland’ in  Hassan, G and Warhurst, C (eds) A Different Future: A Moderniser’s Guide to Scotland (Centre for Scottish Public Policy/ The Big Issue in Scotland, 1999), pp. 229-238.

‘Women in Scotland and Constitutional Change’ in Etudes Ecossaises, Numero 5, (Grenoble: Universite Stendhal,1998), pp. 77-87.

‘Understanding Women in Scotland’, with Alice Brown and Fiona Myers, in Feminist Review, No 58, (1998), pp. 44-65.

‘Evaluation in Community Development’, with Angus Erskine, in The Scottish Journal of Community Work and Development, Vol no 2 (1997), pp. 17-25.

‘Participation in an anti-poverty project’ in Community Development Journal, Vol 32, No 2, (1997), pp. 159-168.

'The Pilton Partnership: Bringing Together the Social and Economic to Combat Poverty' with Angus Erskine, Local Economy,  (August 1994), pp. 117-133.

'Researching Women in Scotland: Problems and Opportunities', with Alice Brown and Fiona Myers, Scottish Affairs, No 8, (1994), pp. 71-85.

'Sisters Are Doing it for Themselves - the Women's Movement in Scotland', in The Scottish Government Yearbook, Alice Brown and Richard Parry (eds), (Unit for the Study of Government, University of Edinburgh, 1990), pp. 209-225.

'The Impact of Thatcherism on Women in Scotland', in The Scottish Government Yearbook, Alice Brown and David McCrone (eds), (Unit for the Study of Government, University of Edinburgh, 1989), pp. 174-206.

‘Scottish Feminism in Print' Cencrastus, No 21, (1985), pp. 45-47.

'A Comparative Study of the Women's TUC and the Women's STUC', Feminist Review, No 7, (1981), pp. 65-86.

Reports commissioned by government departments, etc.

With Fran Wasoff, A Gender Audit of Statistics: Comparing the Position of Women and Men in Scotland (Edinburgh: Scottish Executive Social Research, 2007)

Gender Statistics: An Evaluation (Manchester: Equal Opportunities Commission, 2006)

With Yvonne Galligan, Gender Equality Indicators in Northern Ireland (Belfast: Research Branch, Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister, 2004)

Researching Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender issues in Northern Ireland (Belfast: Research Branch, Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister, 2004)

‘Women’s Issues in Scotland: A review of research’, Women’s Issues Research Findings No 1 (Edinburgh: Central Research Unit, Scottish Office, 1999)

With Katherine Duffy, Building Local Partnerships Against Poverty, with Katherine Duffy (published with the permission of the DSS, 1997)

With John Mulvey, ‘The Pilton Partnership’ in Katherine Duffy (ed) Partnership and Participation: The Experience of Poverty 3 in the UK (published with the permission of the DSS, 1997)

Quality Through Equality: Good Practice in Equal Opportunities in Scottish Local Authorities (Glasgow: Equal Opportunities Commission, 1995)

With Alice Brown and Fiona Myers, Equality Issues in Scotland: A Research Review (Glasgow: Equal Opportunities Commission, 1994)