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Steven King

Steven King

Professor of Economic and Social History

School of Arts & Humanities

Staff Group(s)
History, Heritage and Global Cultures


Steven King is Professor of Economic and Social History. His research spans the period from the early 1700s to the present and encompasses Britain and Europe. He has in the past published on histories of industrialisation, disability, medicine, mortality, courtship, illegitimacy, textile history, and women's suffrage, but the central pillar of his published work has been the subject of the past, present and future of the British and European welfare state. Steven has recently completed the AHRC Follow on Funding Grant 'Voices of the Victorian Poor' (PI, Dr Paul Carter at The National Archives) which aims to provide lesson plans and resources so that school children of all ages can access data generated as part of his prior AHRC grant 'In Their Own Write' The resource can be found here:

These interests and themes feed directly into undergraduate and postgraduate teaching, including HIST30720 (Britain, War and Society in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries) and HIST40120 (Engaging Research). Most recently he has begun an ESRC project with Professor Owen Davies (University of Hertfordshire) on informal healing cultures 1834-1948.

Steven has supervised 47 PhD candidates to completion and is keen to hear from further potential candidates wanting to explore research on any of the themes referenced in this profile. Those who do not already have a fixed and definite topic in mind might find it useful to talk to him about his pre-packaged projects. Encompassing thematic areas such as textile history, disability history, histories of courtship and marriage, protest and resistance, workhouses, and histories of language and self, these projects bring together sources that Steven has collected over many years of research but which he will never have the time to exploit himself.

Career overview

Steven King joined Nottingham Trent University in 2020. He has previously held posts at the University of Leicester, Oxford Brookes University, the University of Central Lancashire and the Institute of Historical Research. Prior to his academic career, Steven worked for the National Westminster Bank. At Oxford Brookes he held the roles of Associate Dean (Research) and Associate Dean (Resources). For the University of Leicester he fulfilled a number of roles around research, widening participation and leading research centres before becoming PVC and Head of the College of Social Sciences.

Research areas

At the core of Steven's current research sits the question of how poor people understood, experienced, and contested the welfare systems to which they were notionally subject. His recent AHRC project used pauper and advocate letters written to the central authorities of the post-1834 New Poor Law to explore these themes and the jointly authored book from the project - In Their Own Write: Contesting the New Poor Law - was published by McGill-Queens University Press in December 2022. An earlier book from the project - P. Jones and S. King, Pauper Voices, Public Opinion and Workhouse Reform in Mid-Victorian England - was published by Palgrave in 2020. Steven has also asked similar questions about agency, negotiation and the malleability of state power for the Old Poor Law, and his Writing the Lives of the English Poor, 1750s-1830s (McGill-Queens University Press, 2019) won the 2019 British Academy's Peter Townsend Prize and the 2020 British Records Association Janette Harley Prize . This collective work builds upon and feeds into other projects and interests including:

  • The experience and construction of disability
  • Clothing, with a particular focus on the actuality and symbolism of clothing for poor people
  • Madness and the poor law
  • The life-cycles of ordinary people, with a particular focus on death and courtship/marriage
  • Old age and its construction
  • Histories of courtship and marriage
  • Institutional histories
  • Poor childhoods
  • Histories of literacy and epistolarity
  • Sickness and poverty
  • Textile history

Looking ahead, Steven has recently begun four projects: The first looks at the way disability was understood, portrayed and constructed in the period from the 1750s to the present. Amongst other things, he asks 'Is it better for the disabled to have moral or legal rights?' His second project looks at the long history of benefit cheats from the 1600s to the present and the book of this project - Fraudulent Lives - is scheduled for publication in 2023. A third and bigger project starts from the hypothesis that the central medium term outcome of Covid-19 will be the need for political elites to conduct a new conversation, and conclude a new settlement, with its welfare citizens. The project explores what previous moments of international welfare convergence of this sort can tell us about how that conversation can be conducted and what its outcomes might be. Finally, he has just begun an ESRC grant on informal healing cultures 1834-1948.

External activity

Steven is Executive Editor of Family and Community History and has filled this role since 2004. He is also a board member of the N.W. Posthumus Institute and a member of the Peer Review Colleges of the ESRC and AHRC. In 2020 he was elected as Fellow of the Royal Historical Society.

Sponsors and collaborators

Steven has held more than £6,500,000 worth of grants across the spectrum from the Leverhulme Trust, Wellcome Trust, British Academy, AHRC, ESRC, EU, British Council and Pasold Trust.


S. A. King, P. Carter, P. Jones, N. Carter and C. Beardmore, In Their Own Write: A New Poor Law History From Below (Montreal, 2022).

S. A. King, ‘Space, welfare and agency in England and Wales, 1780s-1840s’, in A. Gestrich, E. Grüener and S. Hahn (eds.), Poverty in Modern Europe: Spaces, Localities, Institutions (Oxford, 2022), 31-55.

S.A. King, ‘The British welfare citizen: Past, present, future’, in G. Gregorini, M. Taccolini and R. Semeraro (eds.), I Volti della Povertá. Temi, parole,fonti per la stria dei sistemi di support sociale tra modernitá e globalizzazione (Milan, 2022), 37-41.

S. A. King, ‘Introduction: Death, Memory and commemoration in the English Midlands, 1600-1900’, Midland History, 47 (2022), 223-31.

S.A. King, ‘Remembering the dead poor in the Midlands, 1750s to 1880s’, Midland History, 47 (2022), 292-312.

S. A. King, ‘“still about the town”: Constructing disability in small town nineteenth century England’, Family and Community History, 25 (2022), 98-120.

P. Carter and S. A. King, ‘The Patients View as History From Below: Evidence from the Victorian Poor, 1834–1871’, in A. Hanley and J. Meyer (eds.), Patient Voices in Britain, 1840–1948: Historical and Policy Perspectives (Manchester, 2021), 154-82.

P. Jones, S. A. King and K. Thompson, ‘Clothing the New Poor Law workhouse in the nineteenth century’, Rural History, 32 (2021), 127-48.

S. A. King, ‘Women, Migration and Textile Work in West Yorkshire, 1800–1851’, Family and Community History, 24 (2021), 4-23.

C. Anderson, J. Kebbell and S. A. King, ‘Introduction: Celebrating the Centenary of the Howard League for Penal Reform and the Howard Journal’, The Howard Journal of Crime and Justice, 60 (2021), 6-18.

N. Carter and S. A. King, ‘“I think we ought not to acknowledge them [paupers] as that encourages them to write”: The administrative state, power and the Victorian pauper’, Social History, 46 (2021), 117-44.

P. Jones and S. A. King, Navigating the Old English Poor Law: The Kirkby Lonsdale Letters, 1809-1836 (Oxford University Press, for the British Academy, 2020)

P. Jones and S. A. King, Pauper Voices, Public Opinion and Workhouse Reform in Mid-Victorian England – Bearing Witness (Basingstoke, 2020)

P. Jones and S. A. King, ‘Fragments of Fury? Lunacy, Agency and Contestation in the Great Yarmouth Workhouse, 1890s-1900s’, Journal of Interdisciplinary History, 51 (2020), 235-65.

S. A. King and C. Beardmore, ‘Contesting the workhouse: Life writing, children and the later New Poor Law’, in L. O’Hagan (ed.), Rebellious Writing: Contesting Marginalisation in Edwardian Britain (Oxford, 2020), 65-94.

R. Abdullah, R. Weston, H. Mansoor, P. Jackson and S. King, ‘Manufacturing transformational change through asset orchestration’, in M. Zakaria, A. Abdul Majeed and M. Hassan (eds.), Advances in Mechatronics, Manufacturing and Mechanical Engineering (Singapore, 2020), 154-60.

S. A. King, Writing the Lives of the English Poor, 1750s-1830s (London, 2019); Winner of the 2019 British Academy Peter Townsend Prize

C. Beardmore, C. Dobbing and S. A. King (eds.) Family Life in Britain, 1650-1910 (Basingstoke, 2019).

S. King, ‘Configuring and Re-Configuring Families in Nineteenth-Century England’, in C. Beardmore, C. Dobbing and S. A. King (eds.) Family Life in Britain, 1650-1910 (Basingstoke, 2019), 229-253.

P. Carter, J. James and S. A. King,Punishing Paupers? Control, Discipline and Mental Health in the Southwell Workhouse, 1836-1871’, Rural History, 30 (2019), 161-80.

S. A. King, Sickness, Medical Welfare and the English Poor 1750-1834 (Manchester, 2018)

H. Mansoor, R. Weston, R. Abdullah, S. King, P. Jackson and P. Foley, ‘A systemic approach to applying asset orchestration theory’, International Journal of Agile Systems and Management, 11 (2018), 315-39.

C. Muldrew and S. A. King, ‘Cash, wages and the economy of makeshifts, 1650-1800’, in J. Hatcher and J. Stephenson (eds.), Seven Centuries of Unreal Wages (Basingstoke, 2018), 267-306.

See all of Steven King's publications...

Press expertise

The Past, Present and Future of the Welfare State

Courtship and marriage

Vaccines and pandemics

Care homes/adult social care

Histories of disability

Histories of medicine

Ageing and old age


U currently run a research project called 'The Age of Less' which argues that development, sustainability and climate gaols can only be achieved by learning from  the lessons of history that  'less' of everything is essential.