Zoe Thomas

Colleges, School and Institutes


I studied for my BA and MA in History at Lancaster University and then moved to Royal Holloway to undertake an AHRC-funded History PhD (awarded 2017). During my PhD I taught modern British history, modern European history, and liberal arts modules at King’s College London, Royal Holloway, the University of Roehampton, the University of East London, and the University of Westminster. After finishing my PhD I had a frenetic year between 2016-2017 as a Teaching Fellow at the University of Birmingham and as the Coordinator of the Centre for Gender, Identity and Subjectivity in the History Department at the University of Oxford whilst also undertaking an Early Career Research Fellowship at the John Rylands Research Institute (University of Manchester), a Paul Mellon Centre Post-Doctoral Fellowship, and becoming a Visiting Scholar at the Oxford Centre for Life-Writing, Wolfson College and the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. I became a permanent lecturer at the University of Birmingham in September 2017.

Research interests

My first monograph was titled Women Art Workers and the Arts and Crafts Movement and was published by Manchester University Press in 2020. This book offers the first comprehensive history of the network of women who worked at the heart of the English Arts and Crafts movement from the 1870s to the 1930s. Challenging the long-standing assumption that the Arts and Crafts simply revolved around celebrated male designers like William Morris, it instead offers a new social and cultural account of the movement, which simultaneously reveals the breadth of the imprint of women art workers upon the making of modern society. I emphasise how women navigated authoritative roles as 'art workers' by asserting expertise across a range of interconnected cultures: from the artistic to the professional, intellectual, entrepreneurial and domestic. I also stress the critical importance of the spaces around which women conceptualised alternative creative and professional lifestyles.

Alongside my articles listed below (under Publications) I have co-edited two collections in recent years: Suffrage and the Arts (2018) and Precarious Professionals: Gender, Identity and Social Change in Modern British History (forthcoming 2020). These collections have made two key interventions: the first re-established the central role that artists played in shaping the British suffrage campaigns, and the second argues that the development of professional society in modern Britain cannot be adequately understood without close scrutiny of gender and precarity.

Most recently, I have begun to turn my attentions to my second book project, provisionally titled, Collaborating Couples: Intimacy, Power, and Work in the Anglophone World, 1850–1950, which is currently funded by a British Academy Small Grant. This project will offer the first critical study of the professional and intimate histories of romantically attached couples who collaborated in the same field of work between 1850 and 1950 throughout the Anglophone world.

Willingness to take PhD students


PhD projects

I am happy to supervise doctoral researchers on topics relating to my research specialisms. Feel free to get in touch.