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Professor Rohan McWilliam


Faculty of Arts, Humanities, Education and Social Sciences
Humanities and Social Sciences
Areas of Expertise:
Research Supervision:

Rohan McWilliam is Professor of Modern British History and Course Leader for ARU's BA (Hons) History. He teaches British and United States history.

[email protected]

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Rohan was President of the British Association for Victorian Studies from 2012-15, the main organisation in the UK that promotes research into 19th-century Britain and serves on its executive.

His publications draw on political, social and cultural history but he's also an advocate of interdisciplinary approaches that engage with literature, film, political science and sociology among other subjects.

Rohan is also Director of the Labour History Research Unit at ARU, which has organised conferences and publications that explore the politics of the Left in modern Britain.

As well as this, he's the editor of two book series, Becoming Modern: New Nineteenth Century Studies (University Press of New England) and New Directions in Social and Cultural History (Bloomsbury), which is organised on behalf of the Social History Society.

He serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Victorian Culture where he is reviews editor, as well as the London Journal. He also serves on the board of the London Record Society.

Currently, Rohan is at work on a history of the West End of London since 1800. The first volume appeared in 2020, published by Oxford University Press.

He also recently edited a book about the Victorian publisher Edward Lloyd who helped create the popular press in Britain and brought out cheap fiction in the 1840s, including the first appearance of Sweeney Todd.

Research interests

  • The West End of London and the history of pleasure districts
  • Victorian studies
  • Modern British and United States history
  • Labour history
  • The history of popular culture
  • Historiography
  • Theory and history

Areas of research supervision

Rohan is available to supervise postgraduates in post-1800 British history.

His recent successful PhDs students include:

  • Eilidh Innes, 'The Many Lives of John Hollingshead: Bohemianism, Journalism and Theatre Management in Victorian London' (2021)
  • Gareth Davis, Profit and Pleasure: English Change Ringing and its Impact om the Soundscape of Cambridge, 1724-1913 (2022)


Rohan currently teaches on the following modules:

  • Britain in the Nineteenth Century
  • Leisure and Popular Culture in Britain, 1800-1900
  • The Growth of the USA, 1776-1900
  • The United States in the 20th Century
  • The Making of the Modern City (History MA)


  • DPhil, University of Sussex, 1990
  • MA, University of Sussex, 1983
  • BA (Hons), University of Sussex, 1982

Memberships, editorial boards

  • Past President, British Association for Victorian Studies
  • Editorial Board, Journal of Victorian Culture
  • Editorial Board, London Journal
  • Member, Social History Society
  • Member, Sherlock Holmes Society of London
  • Member, North American Victorian Studies Association

Selected recent publications

McWilliam, R., 2023. Reynolds's Newspaper and Victorian Populism, 1850-1879. In: Conary, J., Shannon, M., (Eds.), 2023. New Reynolds Studies (Abingdon: Routledge).

McWilliam, R., 2022. 'A Pantomime and a Masquerade': The West End of London in the Age of Charles Lamb. The Charles Lamb Bulletin, new series 174, pp. 44-58.

McWilliam, R., 2021. The Electric Pleasure District: The West End of London in the Age of Empire, 1880-1914. London Journal, 46(3), pp. 1-20.

McWilliam, R (with Jonathan Davis), 2021, ‘Neil Kinnock: A Reassessment’. In: Yeowell, N (ed.), Rethinking Labour's Past (London: Bloomsbury), pp. 231-4.

McWilliam, R., 2020. London's West End: Creating the Pleasure District, 1800-1914 (Oxford: Oxford University Press).

Lill, S. L., McWilliam, R. (Eds.), 2019. Edward Lloyd and his World: Popular Fiction, Politics and the Press in Victorian Britain (Abingdon: Routledge).

McWilliam, R., 2019. Fancy Repositories: The Arcades of London's West End in the Nineteenth Century. London Journal, 44(2), pp. 93-112.

McWilliam, R., 2018. Man about Town: Victorian Night Life and the Haymarket Saturnalia, 1840-1880. History, 103, pp. 758-776.

Davis, J., McWilliam, R. (Eds.), 2017. Labour and the Left in the 1980s (Manchester: Manchester University Press).

Hardley, S., McWilliam, R., Noakes, L. (Eds.), 2017, New Directions in Social and Cultural History (London: Bloomsbury).

McWilliam, R., 2014. Elsa Lanchester and Bohemian London in the 1920s. Women’s History Review, 23(2), pp. 171-187.

McWilliam, R., 2014. E. P. Thompson, Eric Hobsbawm and the Remaking of Nineteenth Century British History. Social History, 39(2), pp. 149-159.

McWilliam, R., 2011. Melodrama. In: Gilbert, P. (Ed.), 2011. Blackwell Companion to the Sensation Novel (Oxford: Blackwell).

McWilliam, R., 2011. Political Cultures. In: Hewitt, M. (Ed.), 2011. The Victorian World (Abingdon: Routledge).

McWilliam, R., 2011. Jonathan Miller’s Alice in Wonderland (1966): A Suitable Case for Treatment. Historical Journal of Film, Television and Radio, 31(2), pp. 229-246.

McWilliam, R., 2010. Unauthorised Identities: The impostor, the fake and the secret history in nineteenth century Britain. In: Finn, M., Lobban, M. and Bourne Taylor, J. (Eds.), 2010. Legitimacy and Illegitimacy in Nineteenth-Century Law, Literature and History (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan), pp. 67-92.

Recent presentations and conferences

'Theatrical Celebrity and the Coming of the Picture Postcard', public lecture to launch the Queen Mary University of London Centre for the study of the Nineteenth Century and its Legacies, November 2022

The Gaiety Girl and the Matinee Idol: Constructing Celebrity and Sexuality in the West End of London, 1880-1914', Prothero Lecture/Royal Historical Society, June 2022

'The Electric Pleasure District: The West End of London in the Age of Empire', third London Journal lecture, June 2021

'A Pantomime and a Masquerade: The West End of London in the Age of Charles Lamb', The Ernest Crowsley Memorial Lecture, January 2021

'Pleasure at Her Majesty's: The West End Theatre and its Audiences, 1890-1914', British Association for Victorian Studies conference, University of Exeter, August 2018

'Edward Lloyd and his World', British Association for Victorian Studies conference, Bishop Grosseteste University, August 2017

'The Gatti Family and the Victorian West End: Food, Theatre and Entrepreneurship in the Making of London’s Pleasure District', British Association for Victorian Studies conference, Cardiff, August 2016

Keynote: 'The Cultural Work of the West End of London', Victorians Like Us, University of Lisbon, October 2015

'The Imperial West End: The Local and the Global in London's Pleasure District', North American Victorian Studies Association, Hawaii, July 2015

Keynote: workshop on my West End project, North American Victorian Studies Association, Venice, May 2013

Media experience

Edward Lloyd and his World was the subject of an article in The Times and a Times Leader column: 24 June 2019. It was covered in The Guardian and The Daily Telegraph.

Article about Edward Lloyd in The Conversation.

'Labour in the 1980s: Not the disaster we once thought', The Conversation (online magazine); Dec. 2017.

Interviewed by Vanessa Thorpe for The Observer article about the television series, Victoria: 'BBC and Netflix to battle it out with rival royal dramas', Observer 21 August 2016 p. 16.

Interviewed on Sky news about Jeremy Corbyn, 14 August 2016.

Rohan McWilliam, 'It's Cavaliers and Roundheads as Labour battle lines are drawn', The Conversation.

Articles about Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Leadership, Observer September 2015.

Briefed Wall Street Journal about the Labour Leadership, September 2015.

Appeared on the Radio 4 programme, ‘Voices of the Industrial Past’ (May 2014): spoke about E.P. Thompson.

Appeared on the BBC Radio 4 series ‘Random Edition’ (December 2011): spoke about the death of Prince Albert.

Appeared on the BBC Radio series, ‘Making History’ (October 2011) talking about Victorian republicanism.

Appeared on BBC Radio 3 Programme, ‘Nightwaves’ (2010): discussion of the work of Henry Mayhew with presenter Philip Dodd, writer Iain Sinclair and historians Laurence Goldman and Jerry White.

Appeared on ITV Programme, ‘Forensic Casebook’ (2008); spoke about the Tichborne case.

Appeared on the BBC Radio 4 series ‘Random Edition’ (2008): spoke about attempts to assassinate Queen Victoria.

Appeared in BBC documentary about Prince Albert in the 'Reputations' series (2003).


Appeared on Radio Cambridge and Radio Essex news programmes discussing current affairs.

Rohan has also written articles for a number of newspapers and periodicals including The Observer, The Sunday Telegraph, The Essex Chronicle, Tribune and History Today.