Dr Henry Irving, Senior Lecturer

Dr Henry Irving

Senior Lecturer

Henry is a Senior Lecturer in Public History, level lead for the MA Social History and a British Academy Innovation Fellow.

Henry is a specialist in twentieth century British history. His research interests centre on the Second World War, especially the public’s response to wartime conditions, legislation and propaganda. He is 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 based 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.

Current Teaching

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 ‘Public History Project’, which sees students produce work for external partners. As module leader, he oversaw the Leeds Blitz and the Remembering Oluwale: A Timeline projects.

He is also the level lead for the MA Social History, leading the following modules:

  • Researching Cultures
  • Rethinking the Past
  • Dissertation Workshop

Research Interests

Henry’s research focuses on the British Home Front during the Second World War.

He is an expert on the history of recycling and is writing a book about wartime recycling schemes. His research shows that the wartime system had mixed success and his conclusions challenge existing interpretations of the ‘people’s war’ by suggesting that active participation was understood in different ways.

Henry uses this history to inform contemporary environmental debates. In 2023, he awarded a British Academy Innovation Fellowship to apply his knowledge of recycling history to current policymaking. The project – ‘From Salvage to a Circular Economy’ – involves a partnerships with the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP). He has previously worked on similar projects with Leeds City Council and ZeroWasteLeeds.

Henry is also 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 MOI Digital website and will be published in a forthcoming book.

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.

Dr Henry Irving, Senior Lecturer

Ask Me About

  1. Censorship
  2. History

Selected Outputs

  • 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,