Dr Henry Irving
Henry is a Senior Lecturer in Public History and the level lead for the MA Social History.
Henry Irving joined the School of Cultural Studies and Humanities as Senior Lecturer in Public History in 2015. He completed his PhD at the University of Leeds and has previously worked for the University of London, the University of Bradford, and the Workers’ Educational Association.
Henry is a specialist in twentieth century British history. His research interests centre on the Second World War, with a particular focus on the public’s response to wartime conditions, legislation and propaganda. He is currently writing a book on the history of wartime recycling that draws together these three themes. He is also a member of the AHRC-funded project ‘The Publishing and Communication History of the Ministry of Information 1939-45’ at the Institute of English Studies.
Alongside his teaching and research, Henry is committed to making public history. He is the communications officer for the Social History Society, an advisory board member of the Centre for the History of People, Place and Community, an active member of the Yorkshire Museums and Academics network and a regular contributor to History and Policy. He occasionally tweets @drhenryirving.
Henry teaches across the ‘Working with History’ and ‘British History’ strands of Leeds Beckett’s BA history programmes. He is particularly proud of the work produced on the final year module ‘Community History Workshop’, which sees students produce work for external partners. Last year’s project was focused on the life and memory of David Oluwale and led to the creation of the 'Remembering David' website.
He is also the level lead for the MA Social History, convening the modules ‘Researching Cultures’, ‘Rethinking the Past’ and ‘Dissertation Workshop’.
Henry’s research focuses on the British Home Front during the Second World War. He is an expert on Britain’s wartime Ministry of Information, working with Professor Simon Eliot (Institute of English Studies, University of London) on an AHRC-funded project titled ‘The Publishing and Communication History of the Ministry of Information 1939-45’. This project involved detailed research into the methods used to disseminate official messages, press censorship, and the use of opinion polling to measure the effect of campaigns. Preliminary results are available on the MOID Digital website and will be published in a forthcoming book.
Henry’s work on the Ministry of Information provides the foundations for a related project on the social history of recycling in the Second World War. He is using a wide-range of local archives and individual testimonies to uncover this overlooked aspect of life on the Home Front. His findings complicate existing interpretations of the ‘people’s war’ by suggesting that active participation was understood in different ways. He has used this history to inform contemporary environmental debates through knowledge exchange, working with Leeds City Council and ZeroWasteLeeds to share his findings beyond the academy.
He has previously written on the political debates that surrounded the prolonged use of state controls between 1945 and 1955. This allowed him to explore a diverse range of case studies: from the control of vacuum flasks to the post war rationing of bread. His work in this area demonstrated that a lack of definition in debates about ‘controls’ allowed technical measures to be transformed into potent rhetorical devices by a political class keen to exploit their symbolic meaning.
Henry is also part of a team of researcher working with the History of Parliament Trust to create an Oral History archive of life stories from former MPs.
Ask Me About
Irving H; Cresswell R; Doyle B; Ewen S; Roodhouse M; Tomlinson C; Wiggam M (2020) The Real Lessons of the Blitz for Covid-19.
Irving H; Townend J (2016) Censorship and National Security: Information Control in the Second World War and Present Day.
Irving H (2020) The ‘War on Waste’: using urban history to inspire behavioural change. Urban History
Irving H (2019) ‘We Want Everybody’s Salvage!’: Recycling, Voluntarism, and the People’s War. Cultural and Social History, 16 (2), pp. 165-184.
Irving H (2016) Towards ‘A New Kind of Book’: Publishing and the Ministry of Information, 1939-46. Publishing History: the social, economic and literary history of book, newspaper, and magazine publishing, 75 pp. 53-76.
Irving H (2016) Paper salvage in Britain during the Second World War. Historical Research, 89 (244), pp. 373-393.
Irving H (2014) The Birth of a Politician: Harold Wilson and the Bonfires of Controls, 1948–9. Twentieth Century British History, 25 (1), pp. 87-107.
Irving H (2018) Recycling to win the Second World War.
Hammett J; Irving H (2020) 'A place for everyone, and everyone must find the right place': recruitment to British Civil Defence, 1937-44. In: Maartens B; Bivins T ed. Propaganda and Public Relations in Military Recruitment. Abingdon: Routledge, pp. 96-113.
Irving H (2019) The Ministry of Information on the British Home Front. In: Eliot S; Wiggam M ed. Allied Communication during the Second World War: National and Transnational Networks. London: Bloomsbury,
Irving H (2019) ‘Propaganda Bestsellers’: British Official War Books, 1941-46. In: Johnston C ed. The Concept of the Book: The production, progression and dissemination of information. London: Institute of English Studies,