Professor Simon Gunn

Professor of Urban History

Simon GunnContact details

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  • Office: Room 26, Marc Fitch House, Salisbury Road

Personal details


I came to Leicester as Professor of Urban History in 2006 having worked in a number of different institutions. I held fellowships at the Institute for Historical Research, London, and the Transnational Institute, Amsterdam before teaching at Manchester, Essex and Leeds Metropolitan, where I became Reader in History. In 2000 I was historical adviser to the BBC TV series, Middle Classes. Since coming to Leicester I have also been visiting professor at Université de Montrèal, Canada and at the Leibniz Institute for Research on Society and Space at Erkner, Berlin. I am co-editor of Urban History journal, published by Cambridge University Press, and a member of the International Committee of the European Association for Urban History. As well as course director for the MA Urban Conservation I am also currently Director of Undergraduate Studies for History.


I teach principally in two areas: the social and cultural history of urban England since 1945, including topics such as housing, family, migration, sexualities, youth culture and social movements; and historiography and historical methods.

Teaching includes:

HS1002 The Shock of the Modern
HS1013 Great Britain: The State We’re In
HS2400 Perceiving the Past
HS3755/6 How Soon is Now? Towards a Social History of Urban England, 1945-1985 (special subject)
HS7253 Conservation, Heritage and the Urban Environment
HS7005 Historical Research Methods
HS7303 Social Theory and History
Doctoral Training Programme for Social Sciences and Arts and Humanities


My main research is on the transformation of the urban landscape and urban society in Britain since the 1960s. What absorbs me is the relationship between mundane material structures – factories, motorways, shopping centres – and the fabric of everyday life, from worlds of work to pop music. My interest is informed by an engagement with the ways modernism, de-industrialization and multiculturalism intersected in British cities during the later twentieth century, a focus shared with the network of architectural, social and urban historians who make up the Society for the Promotion of Urban Discussion (SPUD) which I co-convene with Dr Otto Saumarez Smith at Oxford.

My current research is on the social and environmental effects of mass automobility in post-war Britain, linked to the Leverhulme Trust-funded project, Motor Cities: Automobility and the Urban Environment in Britain and Japan c.1955-1973, run with Dr Susan Townsend at the University of Nottingham. In the project we examine how a new traffic architecture of motorways and underpasses was engineered into post-war cities like Birmingham and Nagoya and its impact on the ways such cities were imagined and experienced. The project has already produced a series of journal articles and we are completing a monograph.

Alongside these substantive areas of research I also have interests in historiography and historical methods, which have resulted in two books and a number of journal articles. In pursuing this strand, the aim is to promote a confident, curious and open brand of history, alert to new directions in disciplines like cultural geography and sociology, and capable of speaking to the fragile conditions of the present.

Recent research grants

Automobility in Transition symposium, VW Foundation, £18,500, with PD Dr Christoph Bernhardt, Leibniz Institute for Society and Space, Berlin, 2015
Motor Cities: Automobility and the Urban Environment in Nagoya and Birmingham 1955-1973, Leverhulme Trust, AAM1011029 £154,757 with Dr Susan Townsend, University of Nottingham, 2011-2015
Manufacturing Pasts: Industrial Change in Twentieth Century Britain, JISC, £75,586, with Dr Rebecca Madgin and Ben Wynne, University of Leicester, 2012-13


I supervise students in the areas of modern urban and social history, including automobility, social class, popular culture, gender and ethnicity. I also have interests in the history of urban policy and planning.

Recent completions include:

  • Inès Hassen, Medium-sized cities in the age of globalization: the example of Reims and Leicester, 1980-2008 (submitted 2016)
  • Matthew Parker, Making the city mobile: the place of the motor car in the making of post-war Birmingham (Leverhulme Trust, 2015)
  • Richard Harrison, Urban planning and the motor car, 1955-1975: responses to the growth of private motoring in Leicester and Milton Keynes, (ESRC, 2015)
  • Stephen Murray, Bankside power station: planning, politics and pollution (2014)
  • Tom Hulme, Civic culture and citizenship: the nature of urban governance in inter-war Manchester and Chicago (ESRC, 2013)

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