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Dr Alastair J Reid

Dr Alastair J Reid

Fellow and Director of Studies in History

Girton College
Cambridge CB3 0JG
Office Phone: 01223 3 38931


Alastair Reid was born in Glasgow in 1953, and educated at Glasgow Academy and at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, where he also held a research fellowship from 1979 to 1983. Since 1983 he has been a Fellow and Director of Studies in History at Girton College, Cambridge, and since 2010 Visiting Professor of History and Policy at King's College London.

Subject groups/Research projects

Economic, Social and Cultural History:

Departments and Institutes

Girton College:

Research Interests

His main research focus has been on the history of British trade unions, advocating a new paradigm which emphasizes the distinctiveness of industrial sectors, the influence of long waves in organizational growth and the importance of continuities in popular liberalism. This has been developed in a general survey, United We Stand, and a case study of the shipbuilding industry, The Tide of Democracy.


He supervises undergraduates on a wide range of topics in modern British social and cultural history, for Paper 11 in Part I and for dissertations in Part II.

Other Professional Activities

Between 1986 and 1998  he was co-founder and editor of a project to record video Interviews with Historians, completing almost 30 interviews with subjects ranging widely from Geoffrey Elton to Eric Hobsbawm, edited versions of which are available to purchase in DVD format at

In 2002 he was co-founder and editor of the History & Policy website which became the backbone of one of the UK's leading examples of public engagement in the arts and humanities. He directed the project as a whole during its institutionalization at King's College London in 2012 and was also joint founder of its Trade Union Forum, which continues to bring together historians and trade union officials to improve today's policy-making through a better understanding of the past.


    • Modern British History

    Key Publications

      United We Stand: A History of Britain's Trade Unions (Allen Lane, 2004; Penguin, 2005)

      The Tide of Democracy: Shipyard Workers and Social Relations in Britain, 1870-1950 (Manchester University Press, 2010)

            Other Publications

            Social Classes and Social Relations in Britain, 1850-1914 (Macmillan, 1992; Cambridge University Press, 1995)

            A Short History of the Labour Party (11th edition, Macmillan, 1996; 12th edition, Palgrave, 2005), with Henry Pelling

            as editor

            Currents of Radicalism: Popular Radicalism, Organised Labour and Party Politics in Britain, 1850-1914, with Eugenio F. Biagini (Cambridge University Press, 1991)