Dr Adrian Bingham

Adrian Bingham

Contact Details

Reader in Modern History
B.A., D.Phil. (Oxon.)
20th c. British political; social and cultural history; popular press; gender; sexuality


+44 (0)114 22 22582

Jessop West room 2.03

Office hours: Tuesdays 10:00-11:00 and Thursdays 10:00-11:00


I joined the History Department at Sheffield in September 2006. Before this I read history at Merton College, Oxford, and stayed there to study for my D.Phil. In 2002 I took up a Leverhulme Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Centre for Contemporary British History (CCBH), Institute of Historical Research, University of London. I remained at the CCBH to hold a three-year British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship.

My main research interests are in the political, social and cultural history of twentieth-century Britain. I have worked extensively on the national popular press in the decades after 1918, examining the ways in which newspapers both reflected and shaped attitudes to gender, sexuality and class. My first monograph explored press debates about femininity and masculinity in the inter-war period. My second book, Family Newspapers? Sex, Private Life and the British Popular Press 1918-1978, explored the role of the press as a source of information and imagery about sex, morality and personal relationships. I am also interested in the history of press regulation, and conducted a project examining the Calcutt Report of 1990 and the establishment of the Press Complaints Commission.

Beyond my work on the press, I am interested in popular attitudes to politics; cultural hierarchies, particularly the category of the ‘middlebrow’; the circulation of knowledge about sex; and the social and cultural changes in Britain in the 1950s and 1960s.


I am currently working on various projects involving historical approaches to journalism. With Professor Martin Conboy I am currently writing Tabloid Century, a thematic history of the twentieth century press to be published by Peter Lang. I am also working on a collaborative project analysing sexual instruction in the periodical press since the 17th century. In 2009 I founded, with Professor Conboy, the Centre for the Study of Journalism and History.

I am also in the early stages of a project exploring popular attitudes to politics in modern Britain, focusing in particular on understanding which political issues were perceived to connect with ‘everyday life’.

I am involved in the Stories of Activism project, which explore Sheffield's rich history of activism and collects campaign stories, memories and objects from 1960 to the present.

Please see the video below (as part of the department's Schools History Network) to see me talking about my research and using modern newspapers as sources.



Research Supervision

I am keen to supervise postgraduate students working on the political, social and cultural history of modern Britain, particularly those with interests in the media and popular culture; gender, sexuality and class; and popular political engagement and social activism.

Current Students

Aaron Ackerley - Economic Discourse during Depression: A Study of Newspapers in Interwar Britain.

Leo Bird - Comedy in British Culture and Society, 1945-60.

Lucy Brown - Men and Women in Love: Marriage, Sexuality, and Emotional Intimacy in Britain c.1955-1975.

Thomas Dowling - In Spite of History: New Leftism in Britain 1956 - 1979..

Sarah Kenny - Youth Culture in the North of England: A Study of Sheffield and Manchester, 1962-1985.

Steve McKevitt - What Happened to The Future: Did we Sacrifice Lives of Leisure for a Tyranny of Consumption?

Ross Paulger - Gendering the Sexual Revolution: The Role of the Anglo-American Quality Press, 1960-1980.

Hilary Hall (Fraser) - In Full Color or Black and White? White Ethnicity and American Citizenship in the Newspaper Comic Strip, 1900-1932.

Cydney Sturgess (Germanic Studies) - The New Woman, Media Culture and Lesbian Networks: the Emergence of Lesbian Identities in Germany and the Netherlands between 1918 and 1939.

Completed Students

Patrick Glen - Sometimes Good Guys Don’t Wear White: Morality in the Music Press, 1967-1983

Laura King (AHRC-funded) - Fatherhood and Masculinity in Britain, 1918-1960 – now Research Fellow, University of Leeds

Sarah Rawlins - Gardening and Identity in Inter-War Suburban Britain

Helen Smith - A study of working-class men who desired other men in the north of England 1895-1957

Further information on research opportunities within the department.



Family Newspapers? Sex, Private Life and the British Popular Press 1918-1978 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009)

This book provides the first detailed historical study of the modern popular press’s coverage of sex and private life, from the start of the mass newspaper reading boom in 1918 to the triumph of the Sun’s sexualised journalism in 1978. By examining the production, content, and reception of these newspapers, the book provides valuable new insights into the sexual culture of modern Britain, in particular highlighting the 1950s as a key decade of change.

Gender, Modernity, and the Popular Press in Inter-War Britain (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004)

This book uses the popular press to explore the attitudes and identities of inter-war Britain, and in particular the reshaping of femininity and masculinity. It provides a fresh insight into a period when women and men were coming to terms with rapid social change. It argues that most editors and journalists assumed that society – and gender relations – had been irrevocably changed by the shattering experience of the Great War, and that the main task ahead was to understand and come to terms with, rather than condemn, ‘modernity’.


Book Chapters


'Enfranchisement, Feminism and the Modern Woman: Debates in the British Popular Press, 1918-1939’, in The Aftermath of Suffrage (2013), eds. J. Gottlieb and R. Toye.

This chapter explores how the popular daily press integrated new female voters into their political discourse after 1918. It demonstrates that newspapers addressed considerable amounts of material to female readers, emphasising both the duties of citizenship and also the power that women now wielded in the political system. The perception that politics had been dramatically changed by female enfranchisement was reinforced by a wider contemporary belief in an inexorable momentum towards equality. This rhetoric of transformation disguised, however, the persistence of gendered stereotypes and also encouraged the belief that the women’s movement was no longer necessary.

'Representing the people? The Daily Mirror, class, and political culture in inter-war Britain', in Brave New World: Imperial and Democratic Nation-building in Britain between the Wars (2012), eds. Laura Beers and Geraint Thomas.

This chapter examines the mid-1930s reinvention of the Daily Mirror, which transformed a right-wing paper for middle-class women into the first modern tabloid, a brash, left-of-centre paper aimed at a working-class readership. It shows, in particular, how the Mirror expressed discontent with the political status quo in the late-1930s and demanded a greater voice for its working-class constituency; at the same time it developed a distinctive critique of appeasement and offered a persuasive reworking of patriotism as the international situation deteriorated. The paper was able to update established populist traditions for a modern, mediated mass democracy.

'"Putting literature out of reach"? Reading popular newspapers in mid-twentieth century Britain', in The History of Reading, Vol.2: Evidence from the British Isles, c.1750-1950 (2011), eds. Katie Halsey and W.R.Owens.

This chapter explores the ways in which ideas about reading practices shaped the layout and content of newspapers. It outlines how the desire to make the reading experience as easy, convenient and interesting as possible strongly influenced the evolution of the popular newspaper in the opening third of the twentieth century, and led to the forging of a template from which there has been little variation in subsequent decades. It also examines readership surveys from the period to argue that newspapers offered broader horizons beyond normal routines, provided an agenda for everyday conversations, and encouraged a sense of engagement in a national community.



Journal Articles


‘“The Monster”? The British Popular Press and Nuclear Culture, 1945-early 1960s’, British Journal of the History of Science (Dec 2012).

This article examines the coverage of nuclear weaponry in the two most popular newspapers in Britain, the Daily Express and the Daily Mirror, in the period from 1945 to the early 1960s. Although both papers supported British possession of the bomb, claiming that it was essential for the maintenance of great power status, their reporting was more complex and critical than the existing scholarship has tended to assume. This article argues that sceptical voices in the press often disrupted official narratives and that journalists emphasized the potential dangers involved in the nuclear arms race.

‘Ignoring the first draft of history? Searching for the press in studies of twentieth-century Britain’, Media History, 18/3-4 (2012), pp.311-326.

Until recent years, historians of twentieth-century Britain have made relatively little use of the popular press as a source. This has started to change, encouraged by the process of digitisation, but substantial gaps remain in our understanding of the impact of the press. This article examines how popular national newspapers have been used in political narratives, and in discussions of social and cultural change. The article argues that not only have entrenched stereotypes prevented historians from properly understanding the nature of popular newspapers, they have also led to them misinterpreting broader developments in British politics, society and culture.

‘The “K-Bomb”: social surveys, the popular press and British sexual culture in the 1940s and 1950s’, Journal of British Studies, 50/1 (2011), pp.156-179.

This article examines the ways in which the British national press discussed the findings of the two Kinsey sex surveys (1948 and 1953), Mass-Observation’s ‘Little Kinsey’ survey (1949), and Geoffrey Gorer’s 1951 study of ‘English character’. It argues that certain newspapers, such as the Sunday Pictorial, the People and the Daily Mirror, used the prestige of social science to legitimize ‘modern’, more explicit styles of writing about sex for a mass-market family audience, well before the emergence of a more ‘permissive’ culture in the 1960s


Full list of publications by Adrian Bingham


Module Leader - History Workshop, HST120/HST121 (First year compulsory module)

In the History Workshop you will learn the craft of the historian by working with closely with one of our academics on a particular area of their research while simultaneously developing the skills you’ll need to make the step up to university-level historical study.

Module Leader - Media and Popular Culture in Twentieth-Century Britain, HST288 (Second year module)

This module will explore the ways in which the press, the cinema, and radio and television broadcasting shaped politics, society and culture in twentieth century Britain. The first half of the module will examine the historical development of each of the major media forms and discuss the different types of content that they provided. The second half will explore a number of key issues, such as the impact of the media on the evolution of modern democracy, the media´s role in reflecting and shaping identities such as class, gender and ethnicity, and the media's contribution to the emergence of a consumer society.

Module Leader - Permissive Britain? Social and Cultural Change, 1956-74, HST3095/3096 (Third year optional module)

This module explores British society and culture as the nation moved from an era of austerity and rationing to one of unprecedented affluence. This was a period of intellectual ferment when traditions and authorities were challenged, personal morality was re-evaluated, and new freedoms were claimed. The transition to a more individualistic, pluralistic and multicultural society caused considerable debate and disquiet. Key topics to be studied include the impact of affluence and consumerism on class and gender relationships; the emergence of a national youth culture based around music and fashion; changes and continuities in sexual behaviour in the wake of the introduction of the contraceptive pill; the increasingly heated debates about immigration and race. Students will assess the significance of the reforming legislation that relaxed the censorship regime, decriminalised homosexuality, enabled easier access to abortion, liberalised the divorce system and abolished capital punishment. They will examine the arguments of those who championed, and those who resisted, 'permissiveness'.

Lecturer - Worlds of Consumption, HST3305 (Third year optional module)

Today we take it for granted that what we consume in some way defines who we are. Even the deliberate rejection of consumption—as practised for instance by advocates of voluntary simplicity—is regarded as a 'lifestyle choice'. We understand, too, that consumption is an intensely political topic connected to questions of identity, morality, status, and economic opportunity. How did it come to be so? This module explores this and related questions historically with the aim of illuminating the complexity and variety of consumption in the human past. We tackle consumption in an array of historical settings: chronologically we cover the period from 1400 to the present day; geographically we explore case studies from the Americas, Europe, Africa, and Asia, studying consumption’s global and local, as well as its national, dimensions. Studying this unit will give you the chance to engage with the main themes arising from the historical study of consumption and will foster your ability and confidence in formulating analyses of a topic covering a significant period of time, approached in a comparative way, and studied at an advanced level.

Module Leader - Stories of Activism in Sheffield, 1960 to the Present, HST6052 (Postgraduate module)

This module will enable students to explore modern political and social activism by studying specific campaigns in Sheffield. Students will get the opportunity both to examine local campaign materials (being collected in a new archive) and to hear the stories of activists themselves by conducting an oral history interview. Potential areas of study include trade unionism, employment and labour rights; women’s issues, environmentalism, community-building; and peace, refugees and human rights. Students will learn how to analyse local activism using perspectives from the broader literature on democratic culture and social movements.

Module Leader - Media and Political Culture in Modern Britain, HST680 (Postgraduate module)

This module explores the ways in which the media have shaped and reflected political culture in Britain since 1945. Students will examine and assess the different political traditions of the press and the broadcast media which led to the former producing unapologetically partisan coverage and the latter striving for impartiality and balance. Themes to be studied include: the treatment of party politics and general elections; the reporting of extra-parliamentary campaigns and social movements; the coverage of war, foreign policy and political violence; and the media´s role in generating political disengagement and apathy.

Public Engagement

I am involved in the Stories of Activism project, which explore Sheffield's rich history of activism and collects campaign stories, memories and objects from 1960 to the present.

I am part of the team leading the ‘Sheffield 1914: Lives and Headlines’ project. This is a centenary project commemorating the outbreak of the First World War from a local perspective, making use of newspaper archives to document the impact of inter/national politics on Sheffield lives, communities and industries.

I am a Senior Editor, and member of the Management Committee, of History & Policy, which works for better public policy through an understanding of history by connecting historians, policy makers and the media.

As part of the department's Schools History Network we contribute to local schools' teaching by holding events for local pupils and their teachers, introducing children to advances in historical knowledge, and enabling teachers to brush up on their scholarship concerning historical events. Staff have given talks to students at local schools, but we also hold events within the department to which local pupils and teachers are invited and schools have also offered placements for our MA students.

As part of the Schools History Network the department have made a series of videos for use in the classroom. Below is a short video of myself talking about using modern newspapers as sources.


Further information on the Schools History Network

More Schools History Network videos

Professional Roles

Royal Historical Society - Fellow

History & Policy - Senior Editor

Media History - Editorial Board

Twentieth Century British History - Member of International Editorial Board




Director of Learning and Teaching (2010- ): This involves overseeing the undergraduate taught programmes in the department, monitoring student feedback, ensuring the smooth running of quality assurance processes, and assessing the overall shape of teaching provision.

Allocations (2006-9): Overseeing the student module allocation process.