Professor Wendy Webster


I am a social and cultural historian with particular interests in questions of ethnicity, race, imperialism, migration, refugee movements, gender and sexuality—mainly in twentieth-century British history, but occasionally straying into the twenty-first. I’m interested in the way that paying attention to these questions changes ideas about what British history is and who made it and in the ways in which they are entangled with the history of the British Empire. This research has been funded at various times by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the British Academy and the Leverhulme Trust.

My first academic book, Imagining Home, was published in 1998 and republished as a Routledge Classic in 2022 with a new preface on the ‘pandemic home’. Englishness and Empire won the International Association for Media and History prize. My most recent book, Mixing It, was named book of week by Oxford University Press, book of the month by BBC History Revealed Magazine and a book of the year by History Today. The research on which this project was based was developed through two visiting fellowships—one at Australian National University and the other at the University of Tasmania. It was part of a wider project that included an exhibition at Imperial War Museum North.

My current project is on the history of life writing and what I call 'death writing' in Second World War Britain and its Empire.  Many people were made into writers by war. Some hadn’t written much before and many did not think of themselves as writers or have any literary ambitions, but the strength of their commitment to writing in wartime is often remarkable. Some risked their lives to write. The project explores the ways they used writing, its significance in their lives and the efforts made to ensure that it survived. It looks at the role played by gender, racial and class divisions in this history— who couldn't write, who wrote most and whose writing was most likely to survive.   

I have taught across a range of institutions of higher education, chiefly the Open University, the University of Central Lancashire and the University of Huddersfield where I am Emeritus Professor of Modern Cultural History. I have been involved in the work of the Second World War Network (Scotland) at the University of Edinburgh. 


Knowledge exchange


2020: ‘VE Day and coronavirus: this time, let’s not forget the efforts of migrants and ethnic minorities’

2019: ‘Irish nurses in wartime Britain: Mary Morris's diary’. Our Migration Story won the Royal Historical Society’s Public History Prize and the Guardian’s University Award for Research Impact.

2018: ‘Windrush Generation: The History of Unbelonging’. This piece was reprinted in the Rush Theatre Company’s programme for their musical show on Reggae.

2015: Britain’s love/hate relationship with foreigners during the Second World War' BBC History Magazine online piece

'2015: ‘Britain's World War II Refugees’

2010: North West Frontier (1959 film) ‘Colonial Film: Moving Images of the British Empire’

2010 Guns at Batasi (1964 film) ‘Colonial Film: Moving Images of the British Empire’

2008: Where No Vultures Fly (1951 film), British Film Institute Screenonline catalogue.  



2021: Historical consultant for ‘Una Marson: Our Lost Caribbean Voice’, broadcast on BBC2 in 2022.

2021: Interview for Irish Newstalk Radio ‘Best of June books’ on Mixing It, broadcast 2021. 

2019: Interview for France Télévisions programme on the Windrush Scandal, broadcast 2019.

2019: Interview for Kirklees Local TV programme on Caribbean migration, ‘Windrush: The Years After’, broadcast 2020.

2016: Interview for ‘Roger Bannister: Everest on the Track’, broadcast on BBC4, 2018

2013: Interview for BBC World Service on Margaret Thatcher (broadcast on day of her funeral, 2013).

2013: Interview on Radio Scotland on Second World War film and radio for series on ‘A Scot’s History of Britishness’.

2012: Interview on ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) on speech and language in Second World War Britain.

2010: Interview on ‘Around the World, episode of ‘The Story of British Pathé’, broadcast on BBC4, 2011.

2003: Interview on BBC Radio 4, Woman’s Hour on 50th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II’s Coronation.



2021: Online Talk to Imperial War Museum Second World War and Holocaust Partnership programme.  

2022: Consultant, Imperial War Museum for ‘One Story, Many Voices’, Second World War and Holocaust Partnership programme.  

2015: Curator of ‘Mixing It: The Changing Faces of Wartime Britain’, Permanent display at Imperial War Museum North. 


Newspapers and Magazines

2019: Interview for ’50 Years on and the fight for feminism continues’, Yorkshire Post, 31 December 2019.

2018: Interview for ‘Meet the Author’, piece on Mixing It as Book of the Month in History Revealed, March 2018.

2018: Interview for ‘In its finest hour, Britain’s population was multiethnic and multinational’ in BBC History Magazine, March 2018.

2012: Interview for Associated Press on Margaret Thatcher.

2003: 'The Monarch, the Media and the Monkey', BBC History Magazine, June 2003.




Conference details

I have given papers and talks about my work across many institutions internationally—Aarhus University, the University of Amsterdam, the Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies in Amsterdam, Australian National University, the University of Calgary, the University of Copenhagen, the University of Cincinnati, Leipzig University, the University of Melbourne, the University of Pittsburgh, Sciences Po Paris, the University of Tasmania, the University of Tokyo, the University of Toronto. In 2019, I spoke in a Cambridge Union Debate, ‘This house believes Thatcher was a feminist’.




Imagining Home: Gender, ‘Race’ and National Identity, 1945-64 (London: Routledge Classics 2022, first published by UCL Press, 1998).

Mixing It: Diversity in World War II Britain (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018).

Englishness and Empire, 1939-1965 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005).

Not a Man to Match Her: The Marketing of a Prime Minister (London: Women’s Press, 1990).   


With Louise Ryan, Gendering Migration: Masculinity, Femininity and Ethnicity in Post-war Britain (Aldershot, Ashgate, 2008). 


‘Unravelling Britishness’, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society 33 (December 2023).

'Enemies, Allies and Transnational Histories: Germans, Irish and Italians in Second World War Britain', Twentieth Century British History 25/1 (2014), 63–86

‘ "Fit to Fight, Fit to Mix": Sexual Patriotism in Second World War Britain', Women's History Review 22/4 (2013), 607-624

‘ “Europe Against the Germans”: The British Resistance Narrative, 1940-50’, Journal of British Studies 48/4 (October 2009), 958-982.

‘“The Whim of Foreigners”: Language, Speech and Sound in Second World War British Film and Broadcasting’, Twentieth Century British History 23/3 (2012), 359–382   ‘Home, Colonial and Foreign: Europe, Empire and the History of Migration in Twentieth-century Britain’, History Compass, vol. 7, (November 2009), 1-19.

‘Transnational Journeys and Domestic Histories', Journal of Social History 39/3 (Spring 2006), 651-666.

‘Domesticating the Frontier: Gender, Empire and Adventure Landscapes in British Cinema, 1945-59’, Gender and History 15/1 (April 2003), 85-107. 

'Reconstructing Boundaries: Gender, War and Empire in British Cinema, 1945-50', Historical Journal of Film Radio and Television 23/1 (March 2003), 43-57.

‘‘There’ll Always be an England”: Representations of Colonial Wars and Immigration, 1948-68’, Journal of British Studies 40/4 (October 2001) 557-584. Reprinted in Simon Faulkner and Anandi Ramamurphy (eds), Visual Culture and Decolonisation in Britain (London, Ashgate, 2006); in Stephen Howe (ed), The New Imperial Histories Reader (London: Routledge, 2007); in Athena Syriatou (ed), Ruling the Waves: Aspects of history and historiography of the British Empire (Asini Publications, Athens, 2018, translated into Greek).  

‘Defining Boundaries: European Volunteer Worker Women in Britain and Narratives of Community’, in Lynn Abrams and Karen Hunt (eds), ‘Borders and Frontiers in Women’s History’, special issue of Women’s History Review 9/ 2 (2000), 257-276.

‘Border Crossings: Enforced Displacement and Twentieth-Century History’, Women’s History Review 9/4 (2000), 825-833.

‘Elspeth Huxley: Gender, Empire and Narratives of Nation, 1935-1964’, Women’s History Review 8/3, (1999), 527-545.


‘Maintaining racial boundaries: Greater Britain in the second world war and beyond’ in Stuart Ward and Christian Pedersen (eds), The Break-up of Greater Britain (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2021).

‘Mumbo-jumbo, Magic and Modernity: Africa in British Cinema, 1946-1965’, in Lee Grieveson and Colin MacCabe (eds), Film and the End of Empire (London, BFI Publishing, 2011). 

‘The Empire Comes Home: Commonwealth Migration to Britain’, in Andrew Thompson (ed), Britain’s Experience of Empire in the Twentieth Century (Oxford University Press, 2011). 

‘The Silent Village: the GPO Film Unit Goes to War’, in Scott Anthony and James Mansell (eds), The Projection of Britain: A History of the GPO Film Unit (British Film Institute, 2011). 

‘From Nazi Legacy to Cold War: British Perceptions of European Identity, 1945-64’, in Michael Wintle and Menno Spiering (eds), European Identity and the Second World War, 1939-1970 (Basingstoke, Palgrave, 2011).

‘Shorn Women, Rubble Women and Military Heroes: Gender, National Identity and the Second World War in Britain, France and Germany, 1944-1948’ in Laura Rorato and Anna Saunders (eds), The Essence and the Margin: National Identities and Collective Memories in Contemporary European Culture (Amsterdam, Rodopi, 2009).

‘Introduction’ (with Louise Ryan) in Louise Ryan and Wendy Webster (eds), Gendering Migration: Masculinity, Femininity and Ethnicity in Postwar Britain (Aldershot, Ashgate, 2008). 

‘Britain and the Refugees of Europe, 1939-1950’ in Louise Ryan and Wendy Webster (eds), Gendering Migration: Masculinity, Femininity and Ethnicity in Postwar Britain (Aldershot, Ashgate, 2008). 

‘Rose-tinted Blighty: Gender and Genre in Land Girls’ in Michael Paris (ed), Repicturing the Second World War: Representations in Film and Television (Basingstoke, Palgrave, 2007). 

‘The Empire Answers: Imperial Identity on Radio and Film’, in Phillip Buckner and Doug Francis (eds), Rediscovering the British World (Calgary, University of Calgary Press, 2005). 

'Immigration and Racism', in Paul Addison and Harriet Jones (eds), Companion to Contemporary Britain 1939-2000 (Oxford, Blackwell, 2005). 

‘The African-Caribbean Community in Britain’, Reader’s Guide to British History (London, Routledge, 2003).

‘Race, Ethnicity and National Identity’, in Ina Zweiniger-Bargielowska (ed), Women in Twentieth Century Britain: Economic, Social and Cultural Change (London: Longman, 2001). 

'Representing Nation: Women, Obituaries and National Biography, in Ann-Marie Gallagher, Catherine Lubelska and Lousie Ryan (eds), Re-presenting the Past: Women and History (London, Longman, 2001). 

‘Interviews’, in Margaretta Jolly, ed., Encyclopaedia of Life-Writing: Autobiographical and Biographical Forms (London: Fitzroy Dearborn, 2001).

'Sound Recording and Life Writing', in Margaretta Jolly, ed., Encyclopaedia of Life-Writing:  Writing: Autobiographical and Biographical Forms (London: Fitzroy Dearborn, 2001).  

‘ ‘Our life’: Working-class Women’s Autobiography in Britain’, in Frances Bonner, Lizbeth Goodman, Richard Allen, Linda Janes and Catherine King (eds), Imagining Women: Cultural Representations and Gender (Cambridge: Polity, 1992).