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Gillian Lamb

Dr Gillian Lamb

Lecturer in Modern British History


I am a historian of modern Britain and joined King’s in 2023 as a Lecturer in Modern British History. Prior to King’s I was working at the University of Oxford where I was teaching modern history. I completed my BA in History at King’s before moving to the University of Oxford for my MPhil which looked at the politics of the poll tax protests in 1980s’ Scotland. I then held an AHRC-Jesus scholarship for my DPhil on nineteenth century welfare and child migration, which I also completed at the University of Oxford. During my final year of my DPhil I held a Scouloudi fellowship from the Institute of Historical Research in London. I am interested in working-class histories, migration, childhood, and public history and am on the steering committee for the Centre for the History of Childhood at the University of Oxford. I recently worked on a project jointly funded by the National Trust and the University of Oxford that created a freely downloadable digital toolkit on the history of childhood aimed at helping heritage professionals incorporate more of these histories into their sites.

Research interests and PhD supervision

  • Social history
  • Emigration
  • Working-class life cycles
  • History of Childhood
  • Welfare
  • Poverty

My research focuses on nineteenth and twentieth-century Britain. My current book project uses innovative life course analysis to examine the social mobility experienced by disadvantaged children from two Victorian institutions. It explores the impact that institutionalised welfare had on children’s lives during a period in which family life could be punitive, neglectful and abusive.

My book argues that welfare intervention was motivated by a desire to protect children from harm and provide them with a better future. Through detailed quantitative analysis of life-long outcomes, the research shows that children who entered residential care experienced higher social mobility than their non-institutionalised siblings.

It shows that this effect was even more marked when children made the choice to emigrate. This exploration of the lives and voices of emigrant children provides important insights into the motivations that underpinned working-class emigration in this period as well as into the opportunities for mobility that empire provided. Its conclusion that children who entered residential care in the second half of the nineteenth century benefited from intervention marks a fundamental reassessment of the purpose and effect of Victorian welfare. An article based on this work is under review.


I teach modern British history and am a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

Expertise and public engagement

I have worked on public history projects with various heritage organisations.

Selected publications

G. Lamb and S. Pooley (eds) Histories of Childhood: Uncovering New Heritage Narratives

G. Lamb, ‘‘Their mother is a violent drunken woman, who has been several times in prison’: ‘saving’ children from their families, 1850-1900’ in S. Pooley and J. Taylor (eds) Children’s experiences of Welfare in Modern Britain (University of London, 2021), pp. 49-72.

G. Lamb, ‘If ah’ve goat’ i choose between putting shoes on ma bairn’s feet and payin’ this bill, ah’m puttin’ shoes on ma bairn’s feet’ – poverty and the poll tax’, Journal of Contemporary British History 34/3 (2020), pp. 458-488.