Dr Clare Griffiths

Clare Griffiths


Senior Lecturer in Modern History
M.A. and DPhil (Oxon.)
Political and cultural history of 20th century Britain; the Labour Party; agricultural history; landscape; popular literature c.1920-1950

+44 (0)114 22 22573
Jessop West room 2.14
Office hours: Autumn 2015/16 - Tuesday 2-4pm


I joined the Department in 1999. I studied Modern History at Merton College, Oxford. Before moving to Sheffield, I taught at the University of Reading, as Lecturer in the Department of History, and in Oxford, as Thompson Junior Research Fellow and College Lecturer at Wadham College, Oxford.


Clare Griffiths Books


My work concentrates on the political and cultural history of Britain, particularly on the period c.1918-1950. Much of my work to date has been concerned with the history of the British left, including the political culture and organization of the Labour Party, its electoral history and the making of policy. I have a special interest in the politics of rural Britain – the subject of my first book. (Labour and the Countryside: The Politics of Rural Britain 1918-1935). I have also worked extensively on the history of agriculture and the countryside in the modern period. My recent work has examined various aspects of British cultural life in the mid-twentieth century, including politics in fiction, the modelling and visual representation of rural landscapes, and ideas about heritage and commemoration.

My forthcoming publications include a study of the Fabian socialists G.D.H. and Margaret Cole, the outcome of a project which has attracted funding from the British Academy and the Arts and Humanities Research Council. I have also working on a number of aspects of landscape and its representations in the modern period, including research on landscapes of leisure, and on the countryside during the Second World War.


Research Supervision


I am happy to discuss research projects in the general area of modern British history and, in particular, on the history of the Labour Party and the labour movement; political organisation and policy; rural, agricultural and landscape history; literature and publishing, especially c.1910-1950s; and visual culture. PhDs completed under my supervision include: a study of the Independent Labour politician Fenner Brockway; an oral history of the East Yorkshire Regiment during the Second World War; and the early history of the Folk Song Movement.

Current research students

Phillip Back - Opportunism and opportunity: the evolution of purpose in Scotland’s Country Parks.

Vivian Yang - Female Emancipation in a Colonial Context: Chinese Women in Singapore 1900-1942.

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

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

Laura Bracey - Women Workers in the Light and Heavy Metal Trades in Sheffield, c.1742-1867.

Andrew Chesworth - 'The Return to Reality': The Return and Rehabilitation of Britain's Far East Prisoners of War 1942-1952.

Adam Page - Under the Nuclear Umbrella: Material Cultures of Apocalypse and the Politics of Survival in Britain, 1935-1952.

Jon Webster (Information Studies) - The History, Development and Cultural Impact of Libraries in the North Riding of Yorkshire 1775-1914.

Bernard Wilkin - Allied Propaganda in Occupied France and Belgium during the First World War.



Further information on research opportunities within the department.



Labour and the Countryside book coverLabour and the Countryside: the politics of rural Britain, 1918-1939 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), ISBN 978-0199287437

Clare Griffiths Classes, Cultures and Politics book cover(co-edited with James J. Nott and William Whyte) Classes, Cultures and Politics: essays on British History for Ross McKibbin (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), ISBN 978-0-19-957988-4



Book Chapters


‘Heroes of the Reconstruction? Images of British farmers in war and peace’, in Paul Brassley, Leen Van Molle and Yves Segers (eds.), War, Agriculture and Food: Rural Europe from the 1930s to the 1950s (London and New York: Routledge, 2012), pp.209-228

‘Making farming pay: agricultural crisis and the politics of the national interest, 1930-1’, John Shepherd, Jonathan Davis and Chris Wrigley (eds.), Britain's Second Labour Government 1929-31 - a reappraisal (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2011), pp.133-149

'Socialism and the Land Question: public ownership and control in Labour Party policy, 1918-1950s', in Matthew Cragoe and Paul Readman (eds.), The Land Question in Britain, 1750-1950 (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010) pp. 237-256

'The dramas of local government: personal ethics and public service in Winifred Holtby's South Riding', in James Moore and John Smith (eds.), Corruption in Urban Politics and Society, Britain 1780-1950 (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2007) pp. 131-153.

'Farming in the public interest: constructing and reconstructing agriculture on the political left', in Paul Brassley, Jeremy Burchardt and Lynne Thompson (eds.), Regeneration or Decline? The British countryside between the wars (Woodbridge: Boydell and Brewer, 2006), pp. 164-175.

'Dubious democrats: party politics and the mass electorate in twentieth-century Britain', in B. Moore and H. van Nierop (eds.), Twentieth-Century Mass Society in Britain and the Netherlands (Oxford: Berg, 2006), pp. 30-44.

' "Ville" et "campagne" dans la rhétorique politique britannique entre les deux guerres', in Emmanuel Roudaut (ed.), Villes et campagnes britanniques. Confrontation ou (con)fusion? (Valenciennes: Presses Universitaires de Valenciennes, 2003), pp. 73-89.

''Red Tape Farm'? Visions of a socialist agriculture in 1920s and 1930s Britain', in J.R.Wordie (ed.), Agriculture and Politics in England, 1815-1939 (London: Macmillan, 2000), pp. 199-241.



Journal Articles


'Savoir gérer un parti: organisation et professionnalisation du parti travailliste britannique des années 1920 aux années 1940', Politix, 21, 81 (2008), 61-80

'G.D.H.Cole and William Cobbett', Rural History, 10, 1 (1999), pp. 91-104.

'Remembering Tolpuddle: rural history and commemoration in the inter-war Labour movement', History Workshop Journal, 44 (1997), pp. 145-69.


Module Leader - Disunited Kingdom: Cultures and Communities in Twentieth-Century Britain, HST290 (Second Year optional module)

Ideas about national identity normally focus on the things which unite a country and are held in common. Notions of 'Britishness' in the modern period have often emphasised the coherence and traditional nature of British culture and the resilience of the political system, yet, throughout the twentieth century, there were many influences which raised questions about the nation, its character, and the sources of power within it. Through lectures and seminars, this module offers an opportunity to engage with some of the important debates about social, cultural, political and economic development in Britain during the twentieth century. The themes of the course include: changing experiences of class; industrial action and popular protests; nationalist movements and new versions of national identity; the rise of interest groups; the rural / urban divide; regionalism and devolution; challenges to the political system; race, religion and multiculturalism.

Module Leader - Remembering the Fallen: British commemorations of the First World War, HST2015 (Second Year document module)

The commemorations associated with the marking of Armistice Day have become an enduring focus for remembrance in Britain: the mass silence, the symbol of the poppy, the creation of war memorials. Through engagement with a variety of types of primary source material, this module examines British responses at the end of the First World War, the forms of memorialisation which were adopted, and their legacy. The unit introduces students to techniques of source criticism and evaluation in the study of early twentieth-century British history, exploring themes of memory, national identity, and public and private responses to war and bereavement.

Module Leader - Britain at War: Nation, Community and Identity, 1939-1945, HST396/397 (Third year optional module)

This special subject focuses on British society and culture during the Second World War. The war years were a time of national planning and economic organisation on an unprecedented scale, forcing redefinitions of the rights of the individual and the needs of the wider community. The experiences of evacuation, of the Blitz, and of rationing shaped a 'Home Front' which has become part of our national mythology. The war years have also come to be identified with profound changes in notions of society and the role of the state. Alongside the military effort, there was a remarkable ferment of debate looking to the future: debates about 'Reconstruction', in housing, physical planning, welfare provision and education. The war has been seen as a radicalising influence on society, making possible the landslide Labour victory at the 1945 general election, and promoting a political consensus which paved the way for the establishment of the welfare state.

There are major questions to be explored about the notion of political consensus, about changing relationships between the individual and the state, understandings of citizenship, and constructions of identity. In this module we will make use of a wide range of sources, including government reports, the press, Mass Observation, personal diaries, film and art work from the period, to explore these questions, investigating the nature of the Home Front, the realities of national morale, and the hopes for reconstruction.

The module aims to nurture students' skills in source criticism and the use of evidence in constructing an argument. Students will gain experience in dealing with primary sources, including the use of visual materials (art work, graphic design and film). They will be encouraged to develop skills in research and criticism, and the delivery of the module provides opportunities for them to enhance their communication skills, in oral discussion and written presentations.

Module Leader - The Historical Novel, HST 6034 (Postgraduate)

Scholarly interest in the role of narrative within academic historiography has reinvigorated debates about the relationship between history writing and historical fiction. Across varied genres of romance, epic sagas and crime, historical novels have excited public interest in history, whilst postmodern experiments with the form have used it to demonstrate the essential elusiveness of the `truth´ about the past. This module introduces key themes in the development of historical fiction during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Students have the opportunity to study some prominent examples of this type of literature, engaging with the historiographical and literary criticism surrounding these works.

Lecturer - The Transformation of Britain, 1800-present, HST119 (First Year optional module)

This module explores the central political, social, economic, cultural and diplomatic developments that have transformed Britain since 1800. Unlike most of its European neighbours, Britain did not experience dramatic moments of revolution, constitution-building, invasion or military defeat; indeed the belief that the nation was set on a course of gradual evolutionary progress was central to many versions of British identity. This course examines how, when and why change occurred in Britain. Key themes include the transition to mass democracy; the impact of industrialisation; shifts in social relationships based on class, gender and ethnicity; and the rise and fall of Britain as an imperial power.

Public Engagement

I have established links with the Museum of English Rural Life (MERL) in Reading, making substantial use of its collections in my research. In 2008-9, I was the Sir John Higgs Fellow at the Museum, working on images of the farmer in the 1940s and 1950s. One of the outcomes of this research was an exhibition, 'Farming for the New Britain: images of farmers in war and peace' (September-December 2010), which I co-curated. You can read about the making of the exhibition in my article for Rural History Today. (Please select the July 2011 downloadable issue).

I have also given a number of public talks at MERL, and was co-organiser of an HLF-funded conference on the place of the countryside in modern British culture: 'Representing Rurality: culture and the countryside in the twentieth century'. I also contributed to the Museum's symposium marking the 60th anniversary of The Archers.


In the Media

I have written for various newspapers and magazines, including History Today, BBC History, and New Statesman. My articles for the Times Literary Supplement include reviews of exhibitions at Tate Britain, the British Museum, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, and many other galleries around the country. My article on David Hockney is available on open access.

I have also given talks about my research to a wide variety of audiences, including lectures at day conferences for A-level students and talks for branches of the Historical Association. Media appearances include the BBC's Countryfile and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's Rear Vision where I discussed the Australian Labor Party comparatively with other struggling labour parties.

Professional Roles

Agricultural History Society - Editorial Board and Membership Committee

British Agricultural History Society - Executive Committee


University Administrative Roles


I am Director of Graduate Studies in the Department, chair the department's postgraduate committee and am a member of the Department's Research Committee and the Executive Board. I am also on the steering committee for the University's new Centre for Visual Studies. Additionally, I am currently external examiner for two MA programmes.