Mike Hally (BA Hons 1st (OU))

PhD Student - Modern History


Currently a part-time doctoral candidate in the School's Centre for the Study of Modern and Contemporary History, researching the creation and development of ex-service organisations in the UK 1914-21, with completion anticipated in 2019-20.

Did first 2 part-time years (ie 1st year FTE) at University of Birmingham, Centre for War Studies, 2013-15 (transferred to Edinburgh following departure of sole Supervisor)

Independent radio producer since 2000, making programmes primarily for BBC Radio 4 and World Service, mostly on history, current affairs, contemporary life and science history.  Previously a freelance reporter and producer, since 1990.

Manager and lead researcher of the North West Planning Assumptions Study, 1987-89, examining the assumptions underlying national and local government civil defence plans, on behalf of the nuclear-free zone local authorities in north-west England.

Engineer at British Aerospace from 1969-87, primarily electroncs, starting as improver technician, leaving as senior engineer.


BA, 1st class honours, Open University - multi-disciplinary, including history (war & social change), social science, psycholody, biologiy, electronics, drama, instrumentation, cinema history, oral history.

A levels - double maths and physics; S levels - applied maths and physics

Responsibilities & affiliations

Founder and currently (2019) historical consultant to AudioUK, the trade association for independent radio production companies in the UK (formerly the Radio Independents Group).

Founding partner of Square Dog Radio LLP.

Undergraduate teaching


Postgraduate teaching


Research summary

War, peace and social change, especially social history of the First World War and its aftermath.

The early computer pioneers, especially from WW2 to the 1960s.

Early post-WW2 cinema history, in particular local authority film censorship.

Current research interests

The creation and development of ex-service organisations in the UK from 1914-21. Looking particularly at predecessor organisations to the British Legion, and the groups and individuals, such as trades councils and particular MPs, whose efforts led to the formation of those organisations in 1916 and '17.

Past research interests

The early computer pioneers, initially for a BBC Radio 4 series "Electronic Brains", first broadcast in 2001, then written up in more detail as a book of the same name, published by Granta in 2005. Local authority film censorship, forming a dissertation for my final Open University course in 2002 -"the Naughty Pictures Committees: local authority film censorship in Manchester and Salfor" and subsequently made into a radio documentary, covering the whole of the UK, to mark the centenary of the British Board of Film Censors in 2012.

Knowledge exchange

Impact to date has been through related radio programmes, journal articles and books, as referenced in this profile, and conference presentations.

Project activity

Currently (early 2017) approaching in middle of fourth part-time year of doctoral study, ie approximately 3/4 way through second FTE year.

Chairing organising committee of 'What Tommy Did Next - Veterans' Activitied and Organisations of the First World War, in the UK and Beyond', a 1-day symposium at the University on Saturday 18th March 2017.  More details at http://www.what-tommy-did-next.org.uk/

Current project grants

University Research Grant from the Society for Army Historical Research
Research Grant from the Western Front Association
Research trips supported by the Royal Historical Society

Past project grants


Conference details

(to be added)

Veterans of the First World War: Ex-Servicemen and Ex-Servicewomen in Post-War Britain and Ireland, Routledge 2019 (opening chapter) 

Electronic Brains - stories from the dawn of the computer age, Granta 2005

Produced by me and all broadcast on BBC Radio 4

The Roots of the British Legion (2007): It seems like the Royal British Legion has always been with us -- synonymous with Remembrance Day, red poppies and be-medalled veterans parading with quiet dignity past cenotaphs in London and around the country. Yet it grew out of an assortment of rival ex-services associations that themselves arose from the awful experience of 'total war' and the country's poor treatment of returning soldiers. These new groups were quite different from the traditional Victorian philanthropic charities that had previously looked after their welfare, for these were self-help groups and they asserted their rights rather than asking for charity.

Clair Patterson - scourge of the Lead Industry (2008): The extraordinary story of one man’s discovery of the global contamination of the environment by man-made lead compounds -- a story of brilliant applied science, painstaking research and a refusal to bow to vested interests (science & history)Hamish Henderson - 'A Various Man' (2008): He's been called "the most important Scottish poet since Burns" but he's better known overseas than elsewhere in the UK. Nelson Mandela sought him out after his release from Robbin Island, Pete Seeger gamely attempted some of his Scots dialect poetry and E P Thompson called him "that rare man, a poet". This programme gives a flavour of the extraordinary life and work of Hamish Henderson.

The Menin Gate (2008): The Menin Gate in the little Belgian city of Ypres is an extraordinary symbol of remembrance - the Last Post has sounded every night since 1929 (bar WW2) and it's the most visited site on the Western Front. This is a little cameo for Remembrance Day, following ''the Roots of the British Legion'' last year and ''the Roots of Remembrance Day'' the year before.

Poppies are Red, Cornflowers are Blue (2009): The fourth in our series of annual ¼ -hour vignettes for Remembrance Sunday. It's not just how the Poppy became the symbol of remembrance in Britain - though that is a fascinating story, rarely told in full - but also a deeper analysis of why it rapidly became such a strong and enduring symbol, to the point where some fear it is becoming over-exploited. Plus a look at France's rather less ubiquitous flower of remembrance, the blue cornflower, and through these symbols an insight into the two countries' different approaches to remembering those who have died in conflicts past. 

The Death-Ray in Your Pocket - 50 years of Lasers (2010): It's often claimed you're never more than 10 feet from a rat, and you could probably say the same about lasers. In the home and at the shops, throughout medicine, the military, and almost everywhere else the laser has become one of the most ubiquitous pieces of modern technology. And that's in just 50 years, not bad for a device that, after its first successful test on 16th May 1960 was immediately dubbed “a solution looking for a problem”

Known Unto God (2011): Mark Whitaker recounts the story of the discovery and re-burial of the remains of an unknown soldier from World War 1, one of about two dozen cases a year in France and Belgium.

The Art of Remembrance (2012): Mark Whitaker looks at some of the more unusual ways that artists remembered the Great War, through the works of an painter, an architect, a film-maker, a sculptor and a poet.

The Naughty Pictures Committees (2012): On the centenary of the British Board of Film Censors, Laurie Taylor investigates how local councils used to ban films passed by the BBFC and permit others the Board had banned .