Centre for European and International Studies Research


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Dr Robert James

  • Qualifications: BA History (Hons) First Class (University of Portsmouth), MA History (Distinction) (University of Portsmouth), PhD in History (University of Portsmouth)
  • Role Title: Senior Lecturer in History
  • Address: Milldam, Burnaby Road, Portsmouth PO1 3AS
  • Telephone: 023 9284 2277
  • Email: robert.james@port.ac.uk
  • Department: School of Social, Historical and Literary Studies
  • Faculty: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences


Rob joined the University in 2006 after completing his AHRC-funded doctorate on the film and reading choices of the working classes in 1930s Britain. His research focuses on late-nineteenth and twentieth-century Britain, particularly on people’s leisure habits and society’s responses to them.

He is a founder member of the University of Portsmouth’s Port Towns and Urban Cultures research project (http://porttowns.port.ac.uk/) and is actively involved in the variety of activities it undertakes, including collaborating with community groups, synthesising historical data and digital technologies, and developing international networks.

Rob is committed to sharing his research as widely as possible. He has presented to academic and professional audiences, as well as given many public talks. Rob has also collaborated with external partners, most recently the University of the Third Age, Portsdown Branch. The collaboration involved assessing ‘The impact of the Battle of Jutland on the People of Portsmouth,’ recording the details of the men lost in the First World War sea battle, and adding the information on to an online map, which is hosted by the Port Towns and Urban Cultures website.

Teaching Responsibilities

  • Society and Culture in Twentieth Century Europe (Level 4)
  • History at University (Level 4)
  • Problems and Perspectives (Level 4)
  • Introduction to Historical Research (Level 5)
  • ‘The Way to the Stars’: Film and cinema-going in Britain, c. 1900-c. 2000 (Level 5)
  • Into the Archives (Level 6)
  • Archival Research Project (Level 6)
  • Special Subject 2: Cinema-going in Wartime Britain, 1939-1945’ (Level 6)
  • Undergraduate/Postgraduate dissertation supervisor (Levels 6 & 7)
  • Personal tutor at Levels 4, 5 & 6



  • Co-Leader of the Social and Cultural History (with Dr Karl Bell).


  • History
  • Film History
  • Cultural Studies


Rob’s research interests centre on British society’s leisure habits from the late-nineteenth to twentieth centuries. He is author of Popular Culture and Working-Class Taste in Britain 1930-39: a round of cheap diversions? (2010 cloth; 2014 paperback), co-editor (with Roy Vallis) of Hollywood and the World (2014), and (with Brad Beaven and Karl Bell) of Port Towns and Urban Cultures: International Histories of the Waterfront, c. 1850-2000 (2016). He has also published on film censorship, cinema-going and popular taste, public libraries and reading habits, and sailor’s leisure cultures in Britain in the late-nineteenth to mid-twentieth centuries.

As part of his role in the Port Towns and Urban Cultures research group Rob is currently investigating leisure provision and consumption in the port towns of Portsmouth, Liverpool and Hull in the first half of the twentieth century. The project examines the growing number of leisure activities on offer in the towns, and assesses the responses of the towns’ civic leaders, the local press, sailors and local inhabitants towards them. He is also in the process of launching a new research project on the role of cinema managers in Britain during the twentieth century.

Rob welcomes proposals from PhD candidates on any aspect of British leisure history in the later nineteenth to twentieth centuries. He would also welcome research projects that evaluate social interactions in coastal communities.


Current PhD supervision includes:

  • Mick Hayes, ‘An investigation of changes in commercial advertising messages in Britain over the course of the Second World War’ (first supervisor)
  • David Bangert, ‘Perceptions of future war in the British press 1870-1915’ (second supervisor)
  • Adrian Parry, ‘Combat effectiveness and the learning process in the Great War – a case study of the 29th Divsion’ (second supervisor)
  • Elisabeth Libero, ‘Navigating a British South Atlantic, 1800-1815’ (third supervisor)

Completed PhDs that he has supervised include:

  • Simon Smith, ‘We sail the ocean blue: British Sailors, Imperialism, Identity, Pride and Patriotism c. 1870-1939’ (second supervisor)
  • Hilary Morris, ‘Empire, Quantification, and Public Health: British Military and Naval Medicine, 1700-1830’ (third supervisor)
  • Louise Moon, ‘Sailorhoods: Sailortown and Sailors in Portsmouth, c.1850-1900’ (third supervisor)
  • Melanie Bassett, ‘The Royal Dockyard Worker in Edwardian England: Culture, Leisure and Empire’ (third supervisor)

Research profile

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