Dr Shane Ewen, Professor

Dr Shane Ewen


Shane Ewen is an urban historian specialising in 19th and 20th century urban space, identity, environmental disasters and governance. He is the author of What is Urban History? (Polity Press, 2015), which maps the growth and contours of the field for a wide readership. He is co-editor of Urban History (Cambridge University Press). He is also a Director of the Urban History Association in North America, is the UK Representative on the European Association for Urban History, and is also on the Conference Committee for the UK Urban History Group. He is currently Co-Investigator on a 4-year Arts and Humanities Research Project, Forged by Fire: Burns Injury and Identity in Britain, c.1800-2000.

Having received his MA and PhD from the University of Leicester's Centre for Urban History, Shane had his first lectureship at the University of Edinburgh, followed by a Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellowship. He moved to Leeds Beckett in 2006 and teaches urban history, and social and cultural history more generally, on both undergraduate and postgraduate programmes.

His early interest was in the professionalization of urban fire services, which he published in 2010 in Fighting Fires: Creating the British Fire Service, c.1800-1978 (Palgrave). He has since gone on to develop an interest in transnational urban history, particularly researching the role played by individuals like George Montagu Harris, one of many transnational municipalists who fostered more intensive international relationships within local government during the first-half of the twentieth century. He co-edited, with Pierre-Yves Saunier, Another Global City: Historical Explorations into the Transnational Municipal Moment, 1850-2000 (Palgrave, 2008), which has helped shape the field of research. He also has ongoing interests in urban environmental history and socio-technological disasters, with articles published on Victorian reservoir disasters appearing in 2014 in Environment & History and the Journal of Historical Geography.

Shane's most recent book, What is Urban History? (Polity, 2015) maps out the growth and development of the sub-field of urban history for those who are new to it or teach urban history. It takes a global and comparative approach to urban history and covers multiple cities across the world (including London, Paris, New York, Chicago, Mumbai, Rio de Janeiro, Mexico City and Shanghai, amongst many others). The book takes a thematic approach, explaining the main strengths of existing and current research, including space and social identity, governance, governmentality, urban materiality, modernity, the environment, and transnational history.

Shane is Co-Investigator on a major research project, Forged by Fire: Burns Injury and Identity in Britain, c.1800-2000, which is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (2016-2020). His partners are Jonathan Reinarz (Principal Investigator) and Rebecca Wynter, from the University of Birmingham. This project is examining the evolving relationship between the geography of burns incidents (in the home, the workplace, in spaces of recreation, on the battlefield) and social and cultural identity, paying particular attention to issues of class, gender, race, age and heroism.

Current Teaching

  • BA History:
    • Streetlife: Urban Culture and Society since c.1850
    • War, Welfare and Society: Britain 1900-1950
    • Society and Culture in Modern Britain, 1780-1914
  • MA Social History:
    • European Urban Landscapes and Cultures since 1945

Research Interests

The Forged by Fire project team is working closely with partners in the British fire and rescue service, burns charities and other voluntary bodies to raise awareness about the history of burns identities, and to map a historical geography of incidents across a 200-year period. You can get regular project updates via the website or on Twitter at @BurnsHistory. If you want to get involved with the project, get in touch.

Shane has an ongoing interest in the relationship between policy-making and history as it shapes the organisation and delivery of public services. He has written extensively about the fire service, has ongoing interests in other blue light services (police and ambulance) and has given public lectures at the Home Office, the Trades Union Congress, and Wortley Hall, the trade union movement's stately home.

Shane is actively involved in teaching urban history across Leeds, and works closely with other public sector bodies to do this, including the Leeds Library, Leeds City Libraries and Leeds Museum Services. He runs an annual event, Researching Urban History Day. In 2016 this event was held at the Leeds Library on Commercial Street. The 2017 event will be held at Leeds City Museum on Millennium Square.

Shane has four PhD students at the moment, working on related topics (urban governance of waterworks in the Washburn Valley, space and identity of historic cities, the bombing raids on north-eastern towns during the First World War, and the lesser gentry of Leeds in the early modern period). His students have a good track record of securing external funds. He would welcome discussions with potential students interested in working on related topics.

Dr Shane Ewen, Professor

Ask Me About

  1. History
  2. Urban

Selected Outputs

  • Ewen S (2016) Watching the Town: Protecting Leicester from Fire and Crime. In: Rodger R; Madgin R ed. Leicester: A Modern History. Lancaster, UK: Carnegie Press, pp. 98-114.

  • Ewen S; Couperus S (2015) Whose ‘urban internationale’? Intermunicipalism in Europe, c.1924-36: the value of a decentred, interpretive approach to transnational urban history. In: Kenny N; Madgin R ed. Cities Beyond Borders: Comparative and Transnational Approaches to Urban History. Routledge, pp. 149-172.

    View Repository Record

  • Ewen S (2013) A Service Forged in the Flames: The Blitz Wartime Fire-Fighting and the National Fire Service. In: Chapson M; Larkham P ed. The Blitz and its Legacy: Wartime Destruction to Post-War Reconstruction. pp. 47-60.

  • Ewen S (2009) Urbanisation. In: Iriye A; Saunier P-Y ed. The Palgrave Dictionary of Transnational History. Palgrave Macmillan,

  • Ewen S (2015) What is Urban History?. Cambridge: Polity Press / Wiley.

  • Ewen S (2010) Fighting fires: Creating the British Fire Service, 1800-1978. Palgrave MacMillan.

  • Saunier P-Y; Ewen S (2008) Another global city: Historical Explorations into the Transnational Municipal Moment 1850-2000. Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan.

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