Rebecca Goldsmith

PhD Candidate

Rebecca Goldsmith is a PhD student studying the Labour Party and the politics of class in mid-twentieth-century Britain, supervised by Dr Geraint Thomas. She completed her MPhil thesis on popular political culture at the 1945 general election, under the supervision of Dr David Cowan, at the University of Cambridge 2020-2021, supported by a Stanley Baldwin studentship. Her doctoral research is jointly funded by the Open-Oxford-Cambridge AHRC and the Isaac Newton Trust, Cambridge. This research is further supported by a Prize Research studentship from the Centre for History and Economics in Cambridge.

My doctoral project sets out to recover the contingent processes underlying shifts in working-class support for the Labour party in the mid-twentieth century. Rather than assuming any 'natural' alignment between Labour and the working classes, it uses archived Mass-Observation material to study official and vernacular understandings of the relationship between politics and class, between the formal political sphere and popular classed experiences of everyday life. My research considers how far, and on what terms, 'working class' came to be seen as a political identity. Where studies influenced by the 'new political history' have detailed Labour's official strategies for constructing a national cross-class platform, my research not only considers divergence in the local political sphere, but crucially also foregrounds how individuals on the ground made sense of their political behaviour.

More broadly, I am interested in histories of (popular) political culture, place, identity and everyday life. Both my MPhil and doctoral research feature extensive use of archived social-science material; I am consequently also interested in both the history of social science and the potential for cross-disciplinary methods (such as corpus linguistics).

  • Part I, Paper 6 (old Tripos)
  • Part IA, O7 Modern Britain and Ireland, 1750 to the present (new Tripos)
  • Part IB, Historical Thinking 

'A vernacular retelling of Labour's class politics: Mass-Observation in Bolton in the late 1930s', 13th Annual London Graduate Conference in the History of Political Thought (theme: 'Classes and Masses in the History of Political Thought'), 30 June - 1 July 2022.

'Class, gender and Labour's politics of experience in 1940s Britain', Social History Society Annual Conference, 6-8th July 2022.

'Mass-Observation, Labour and the politics of class in 1930s Bolton', New York-Cambridge Training Collaboration, 8-10th July 2022.

'Back to the Future? New perspectives on classic questions', Mile End Institute 'Does British Political History have a Future?' conference, 11-12th July 2022.

'Labour, the politics of class and everyday life in the late 1930s', as part of a panel on 'Class, gender and race: new perspectives on the history of the Labour Party' with Dr Colm Murphy (QMUL) and Dr Lyndsey Jenkins (QMUL), North American Conference on British Studies, 10-13th November 2022.

'Democracy in Modern European History', Autumn School organised by the Leibniz Institute for Contemporary History in Munich and the DAAD Cambridge Research Hub for German Studies, 9th-13th October 2023.

'Constructing Citizens, Portraying the People', Early Career Workshop organised by scholars the University of Radboud, Nijmigen, 18th January 2024 (virtual attendance).

'Class and vernacular politics in wartime Britain', Cambridge History Faculty Modern British History Seminar, 7th March 2024.

'Mass-Observation and popular politics at the 1945 General Election', IHR Parliament, Politics and People Seminar, 30th April 2024.


Tags & Themes


Key publications

'Mass-Observation and Vernacular Politics at the 1945 General Election', Twentieth Century British History 34:4 (2023), 703-725,

‘Towards the vernacular, away from politics? Political history after the “new political history”’, Political Quarterly 94:2 (2023), 272-278,

Review of Class of '37: Voices from Working-class Girlhood by Hester Barron and Claire Langhamer, Twentieth Century British History 34:2 (2023), 385-6,

'The Labour Party in 1930s Bolton: Thinking "Historically" about Labour's present', Journal of the History of Ideas Blog (September 2022),