Dr Eve Worth
Lecturer in Modern British History
I am a social and women’s historian of Britain since 1945. My first book The Welfare State Generation: Women, Agency and Class in Britain since 1945 was published by Bloomsbury in their New Directions in Social and Cultural History series in 2022. The book uses an original life history methodology, and, by centring women’s experience, it reorients our understanding of major themes in recent history: including an updated periodisation of welfare state development; a new metanarrative of work and its relationship to feminism, and a reconceptualization of the causes of social mobility in post-war Britain.
Social mobility is a significant strand of my research and my work on this theme is part of the revival of social mobility as a valuable topic of historical study. In 2019, I co-edited a special issue of Cultural and Social History entitled ‘Rags to Riches? New Histories of Social Mobility in Modern Britain’. I have recently published an article on women’s social mobility in Twentieth Century British History which emerged from a small Wellcome Trust exploratory grant. I am in the early stages of a new project ‘The Power of the Private Sector? Women’s Social Mobility in Britain since the 1980s’. This project aims to analyse the influence of the financialisation and globalisation of the economy in the late twentieth century on the mechanisms and experience of women’s social mobility. My approach to social mobility challenges ideas of individual aspiration and instead shifts the focus to structural inequalities.
My research is interdisciplinary, and I have collaborated with sociologists, anthropologists and social policy scholars. Prior to joining Exeter, I brought the historical and gendered perspective to an interdisciplinary team working on the major ERC funded project ‘Changing Elites in Britain since 1850’ in the Department of Social Policy and Intervention, Oxford. Mixed methods research from the women’s elite schooling aspect of this project recently appeared in The British Journal of the Sociology of Education and was featured in national newspapers including The Times and The Daily Telegraph.
My research interest lies in the social and women’s history of contemporary Britain. Each element of my research focuses on the production of gendered (in)equalities and how they intersect with other structural inequalities. The voices of women form the foundation of my research. I am particularly interested in women’s experience of social mobility and class, ranging from working class to the increasing public role of elite women in Britain since 1945. This approach is also a prism through which to examine women’s changing relationship to employment and education. My research engages in key questions relating to the rise and fall of collective institutions in post-war Britain, including the welfare state and trade unions. I work interdisciplinarily across the humanities and social sciences, and my research has particular social policy resonances.
I worked with Prof Aaron Reeves (Oxford, Social Policy) and Prof Sam Friedman (LSE, Sociology) on the interdisciplinary project ‘Changing Elites in Britain since 1850’. I am currently writing up research on women elites from this project. I continue to collaborate with Prof Christina de Bellaigue at the University of Oxford on social mobility and, crucially, the understudied history of downward mobility. I am contributing to the Citibank Global Knowledge and Insight team’s research on social mobility and the role of business. At Exeter, I participate in the Centre for Social Mobility at the School of Education.
I am a Lecturer in Modern British History and I also teach on the Liberal Arts core modules Being Human in the Modern World and Think Tank. Prior to joining the University of Exeter in September 2022, I held two postdoctoral research fellowships at the University of Oxford. From 2017 to 2020 I was the inaugural Jenny Wormald JRF in Women’s History at St Hilda’s College, and from 2020 to 2022 I was a fellow in the History of Elites at the Department of Social Policy and Intervention. I have a DPhil in History from the University of Oxford. I am an Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society.