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School of History, Philosophy and Culture
Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
+44 (0)1865 483570
I completed my PhD at the University of Cambridge and then worked a research officer at the University of Bath before moving to Oxford Brookes as a Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellow in April 2004. I became a permanent member of staff soon afterwards. My research focuses on the history of child welfare and the family in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and I have published on the history of illegitimacy, child health and childhood more generally. I teach in all of these areas, including a specialist third-year Advanced Study module on the history of childhood and youth. My latest research has been a complete change and I have just published a book on the history of cake, which came out with Headline in 2016.
My teaching is all concerned with experiences of everyday life, from the huge social and economic changes brought about by the industrial revolution, to long-term processes of development and cultural change surrounding marriage, childhood, demography and family life. I believe that to understand the decision-making and experiences of individuals we must appreciate the wider contexts they lived in. In my modules students are encouraged to explore these wider contexts and through them, analyse and challenge common perceptions of how individuals at all levels of society related to those around them.Modules taughtUndergraduateU67506, Everyday Life in Britain (first year)U67921, History Work Based Learning (second year)U67779 Advanced Study in Social and Cultural History: Childhood and Adolescence in the West, 1750-1950 (third-year double Honours module)SupervisionPhD supervisionI have supervised PhD students in a range of areas in economic, social and medical history, and am happy to hear from prospective students working in these areas. At the moment I am supervising projects on child domestic servants, and the implementation of the New Poor Law in Hertfordshire. Previous students have successfully submitted theses on religion and the workhouse in eighteenth-century Westminster, the history of smallpox in eighteenth-century Oxfordshire, and the Making and remaking of the ‘Normal Child’ in England, c. 1880-1914
Like my teaching, my research focuses on experiences of daily life within the context of childhood and the family. My particular specialism is the health and welfare of poor families in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century England. My book The childhood of the poor: welfare in eighteenth-century London came out with Palgrave Macmillan in 2012. My previous monograph, Childcare, health and mortality at the London Foundling Hospital, 1741-1800: Left to the mercy of the world was published by Manchester University Press in 2007.My new book Cake: the short, surprising history of our favourite bakes is out with Headline in 2016.I am currently working on a new and exciting project on networks, religion and community in nineteenth-century Liverpool. This study examines the impact of industrialisation and migration on functional networks, by linking charity and community records with households.
Levene AS, Cake: A Slice of History, Headline (2016) ISBN: 9781472226846 Website
Levene A, Childcare, health and mortality at the London Foundling Hospital, 1741-1800: 'left to the mercy of the world', Manchester University Press (2007) ISBN: 978-0-7190-7354-0 Website
Levene A, Narratives of the poor in eighteenth century Britain, and Volume 3, Institutional responses: the London Foundling Hospital, Pickering and Chatto (2006) ISBN: 9781851968091 Website
Levene A, Webb J, 'Depictions of the “ideal child” in nineteenth-century British literature and legislature' Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth (2018) ISSN: 1939-6724 eISSN: 1939-6724Website
Gowland R, Caffell A, Newman S, Levene A, Holst M, 'Broken childhoods: rural and urban non-adult health during the industrial revolution in Northern England' Bioarchaeology International (2018) ISSN: 2472-8357 eISSN: 2472-8357Abstract During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries England underwent a period of rapid urbanization and industrialization. The detrimental effects of urban living conditions and child factory labor on the health of children during this time has been the subject of considerable debate and investigation by historians. It is generally understood that growing up in a rural environment was more conducive to healthy growth and development than within an industrial town. This study presents the first direct comparison of the bioarchaeological evidence for non-adult health from contemporaneous urban and rural sites from the north of England. Rural skeletal assemblages from this period are rare and most published studies are biased towards urban sites in the south of the country. Contrary to expectations, results revealed equal prevalence rates of metabolic and dental disease at both sites, but skeletons from the rural site had greater evidence of growth disruption and respiratory disease. Evidence for specific infectious disease and medical care in response to trauma were also identified. Our interpretations of rural/urban health during this period must take into account the dire consequences of social inequalities and economic migration. There is a tendency for the latter to be characterized as uni-directional ‒ from country to town ‒ without due consideration of rural industry and child migrant workers. Website
Levene A, 'Poor families, removals and 'nurture' in late Old Poor Law London' Continuity and Change 25 (2) (2010) pp.233-262ISSN: 0268-4160 eISSN: 0268-4160Abstract The consideration of the removals aspect of settlement law - that is, the moving on of paupers or potential paupers to the parish where they"belonged" - has focused almost exclusively on working-age adults and labour migration. This article focuses on how removal law affected families with children in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries in two large London parishes. It finds that children were a sizeable presence among the removed population but that there were notable differences in family type between the two parishes. Furthermore, while most young children were kept with their mothers even if they did not share a settlement, others were removed alone, even after a change in settlement law in 1795 that should have assured their common claim in certain cases. The study sheds light on attitudes to poor children and their families, as well as on the exigencies brought about by economic circumstances and employment opportunities in the parish.Website
Levene A, 'Parish apprenticeship and the old poor law in London' Economic History Review 63 (4) (2010) pp.915-941ISSN: 0013-0117 eISSN: 0013-0117Abstract This article offers an examination of the patterns and motivations behind parish apprenticeship in late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century London. It stresses continuity in outlook from parish officials binding children, which involved placements in both the traditional and industrializing sectors of the economy. Evidence on the ages, employment types, and locations of 3,285 pauper apprentices bound from different parts of London between 1767 and 1833 indicates a variety of local patterns. The analysis reveals a pattern of youthful age at binding, a range of employment experiences, and parish-specific links to particular trades and manufactures.Website
Levene A, 'Between less eligibility and the NHS: the changing place of poor law hospitals in England and Wales, 1929'39' Twentieth Century British History 20 (3) (2009) pp.322-345ISSN: 0955-2359 eISSN: 0955-2359Abstract In 1929, the Local Government Act broke up the apparatus of the Poor Law Guardians and Unions, and transferred responsibility for the care of the poor to local councils. In theory, the period between the passing of the Act and the formation of the National Health Service witnessed a large-scale reclassification of the sick poor as patients rather than paupers. In reality, as this investigation of contemporary judgements of hospital quality and bed and staff numbers in English and Welsh county boroughs shows, the national picture was very varied at the local level. Local and sometimes regional traditions of care, finance and council priorities had a large influence on the ongoing development of a unified medical service which included the poor. In the best case scenario, hospitals were classified by patient type, and the principle of"less eligibility" was discarded. Elsewhere, economic status continued to direct medical treatment, but in almost all cases, the chronic and elderly poor were more likely to remain in low-quality and unmodernized buildings than the acutely sick. The investigation highlights the disjuncture between the changed vision for the sick poor and its patchy enforcement on the ground. Website
Levene A, 'Children, childhood and the workhouse: St Marylebone, 1769-1781' London Journal 33 (1) (2008) pp.41-59ISSN: 0305-8034 eISSN: 0305-8034Abstract This article examines the admission and discharge registers of the sizeable workhouse of St Marylebone in the second half of the eighteenth century to examine the nature and characteristics of child poverty. Indoor relief for children is specifically linked to notions of childhood and the possibility that the young could be shaped to become hardy and responsible adults. The workhouse admissions registers show that children formed a significant presence among entrants, and that in terms of sex ratio, mode of exit and length of stay, they represented quite a different group of paupers from adults. Children were, of course, more likely to leave the workhouse because they were being apprenticed or sent to a parish nurse, but even these options disguise a variety of family forms and hint at flexible ideas from officials on the benefits of family versus institutional care. Case studies of families and individuals who used the workhouse on more than one occasion during the period covered probe these findings further, indicating also that older children may sometimes have used the institution with a degree of agency of their own. The registers thus indicate that children were a group of paupers who took up a great deal of institutional officials' time, and that a flexible set of responses to their care and potential training were in place in this period.Website
Levene A, ''Honesty, sobriety and diligence': master-apprentice relations in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century England' Social History 33 (2) (2008) pp.183-200ISSN: 0307-1022 eISSN: 0307-1022Abstract Master-apprentice relations have long been characterized as problematic and uneasy over the turn of the eighteenth century. Historians have argued that a decline in the usefulness and policing of formal apprenticeships made youths (generally males in their late teens) recalcitrant and insubordinate, with a close sense of communal solidarity. This may have been highlighted in an age of periodic mob violence, for example, in the Gordon Riots and Wilkite disturbances in London. In this article, personal testimonials from youths and masters bound by the London Foundling Hospital are interrogated to test the strength of these notions. Although problems concerning poor personal characteristics, bullying and thieving are identified, the majority of testimonials point ultimately to a large degree of harmony. Approximately half of foundlings bound as apprentices in the early nineteenth century made a testimonial to the hospital to ask for an advertised gratuity at the completion of their term, and approximately three-quarters of these were awarded the full sum. The conclusions suggest that we should regard apprentices as a more homogenous group of young people than is usually appreciated. The foundling apprentices, for example, may have remained tied to a rhetoric of subordination and gratitude to authority which was being discarded among other sections of the wider group. This rhetoric was distinctly different from the aspirational demands of parents, or from the desire for basic training or shifting of financial liabilities of parish officials and pauper children. Even in a time of revolutionary threat and trade dispute, therefore, foundling apprentices remained largely valued for their honesty, sobriety and diligence.Website
Levene A, 'Reasonable Creatures - a Common Sense Guide to Childcare (william Cadogan)' History Today 56 (2007) pp.30-36ISSN: 0018-2753 eISSN: 0018-2753Website
Levene A, Powell M, Stewart J, 'Patterns of Municipal Health Expenditure in Interwar England and Wales' Bulletin of the History of Medicine 78 (2004) pp.635-669ISSN: 0007-5140 eISSN: 0007-5140Website
Levene, A, 'Jewish households and religious identity in mid nineteenth-century Britain' Journal of Family History () ISSN: 0363-1990 eISSN: 0363-1990Abstract This article tests the impact of industrial life, migration and religious ties on family life. Specifically, it examines Jewish households, asking whether they conformed to traditional patterns of nuclearity, and what this suggests about wider kinship or community networks. It shows that Jews accommodated a range of people in their households, from family members to Jewish lodgers, and non-Jewish servants. Jewish lodgers frequently lived with co-religionists, who also often shared birthplaces or occupations. In sum, the data suggest a strong degree of intra-communal solidarity despite high levels of migration, and also emphasise the diversity of household forms in this period. Website
Levene A, 'Family and community' in Cultural History of Childhood and Family in the Age of Enlightenment, Berg Publishers (2010) ISBN: 9781845208264 Website
Levene A, 'Infant abandonment in Europe 1700'1850' in Childhood and violence in the western tradition, Oxbow Books (2010) ISBN: Abstract The violence and neglect suffered by children today is a common subject of media attention and much political hand-wringing, not just in Britain but in other parts of the western world. As yet, however, there has been no attempt to explore this concern historically and look at how the boundary between good and bad parenting may have changed across time. This book attempts to fill the gap by examining the role of violence and neglect in the relations between parents/carers and children from the Bronze Age to the present. By demonstrating how the boundary between acceptable and unacceptable forms of childrearing has shifted through the ages, and not necessarily in a linear direction, it will emphasise how relatively recent our contemporary understanding of good and bad parenting is, and hence the high likelihood that that understanding has not been completely digested.
The book is divided into six, multi-authored chapters. The first four deal with different manifestations through the centuries of what would be today considered violence and neglect: 1) child sacrifice; 2) infanticide and abandonment; 3) physical and mental cruelty; and 4) exploitation. The fifth and sixth chapters look at the various violent and non-violent strategies used by children as coping mechanisms in what to us seems a very harsh world. Each chapter consists of a number of short chronologically or thematically specific extracts, written by nearly 40 historians, sociologists, anthropologists, literary scholars and theologians, and knitted together into a coherent narrative by the editors.Website
Levene A, The childhood of the poor: welfare in eighteenth-century London , Palgrave Macmillan (2012) ISBN: 9780230354807 Abstract Did new modes of thought and a new perspective on ideologies of poverty and childhood affect the treatment of the young poor? Was there a notion of childhood for the labouring classes, and was it distinctive from that of the elite? In TheChildhood of the Poor, Alysa Levene utlilises a wide range of sources examining parish nursing, the workhouse, charity, self help and family support to reveal how children and their families were assisted through hard times. In doing so, she uncovers an overlapping and sometimes contradictory set of assumptions about pauper childhood, family life and the reform of society. Poor children were innocent, valued for their future labour, entitled to parental nurture and an asset to society. However, for those offering assistance 'on the ground' they were also expensive, potentially delinquent and a live expression of the Malthusian poverty trap. This book traces these changing priorities and values over the eighteenth century: a period when childhood took on its most recognisably modern attributes.Website
Levene A, review of Ireland and Medicine in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries, in Journal for Eighteenth-century Studies 35 (2012) pp.254-255ISSN: 1754-0194 eISSN: 1754-0194Website
Levene A, review of Pauper Capital: London and the Poor Law, 1790-1870, in London Journal 35 (2011) pp.309-310ISSN: 0305-8034 eISSN: 0305-8034Website
Levene A, review of Child Workers in England, 1780-1820: Parish Apprentices and the Making of the Early Industrial Labour Force., in Journal of British Studies 48 (2009) pp.228-230ISSN: 0021-9371 eISSN: 0021-9371Website
Levene A, review of Womens Work in Industrial England: Regional and Local Perspectives, in History 93 (2008) pp.290-291ISSN: 0018-2648 eISSN: 0018-2648Website
Levene A, review of Master and Servant: Love and Labour in the English Industrial Age, in Journal of British Studies 47 (2008) pp.701-702ISSN: 0021-9371 eISSN: 0021-9371Website
Levene A, review of Hertfordshire Children in War and Peace, 1914-1939, in Economic History Review 61 (2008) pp.1015-1016ISSN: 0013-0117 eISSN: 0013-0117Website
Levene A, review of Infant Mortality: a Continuing Social Problem. a Volume to Mark the Centenary of the 1906 Publication of Infant Mortality: a Social Problem, in Medical History 52 (2008) pp.545-547ISSN: 0025-7273 eISSN: 0025-7273Website
Levene A, review of Venereal Disease, Hospitals and the Urban Poor: Londons Foul Wards, 1600-1800, in Social History of Medicine 18 (2006) pp.520-521ISSN: 0951-631X eISSN: 0951-631XWebsite
Levene A, Powell M, Stewart J, review of The Development of Municipal General Hospitals in English County Boroughs in the 1930s, in Medical History 50 (2006) pp.3-28ISSN: 0025-7273 eISSN: 0025-7273Website
Levene A, review of Down and Out in Eighteenth-century London., in Journal of British Studies 45 (2006) pp.163-164ISSN: 0021-9371 eISSN: 0021-9371Website
Levene A, review of Blood, Bodies and Families in Early Modern England, in Womens History Review 15 (2006) pp.806-808ISSN: 0961-2025 eISSN: 0961-2025Website
Levene A, review of From Sin to Insanity. Suicide in Early Modern Europe, in Social History of Medicine 18 (2005) pp.331-332ISSN: 0951-631X eISSN: 0951-631XWebsite
I have supervised PhD students in a range of areas in economic, social and medical history, and am happy to hear from prospective students working in these areas. At the moment I am supervising projects on child domestic servants, and the implementation of the New Poor Law in Hertfordshire. Previous students have successfully submitted theses on religion and the workhouse in eighteenth-century Westminster, the history of smallpox in eighteenth-century Oxfordshire, and the Making and remaking of the ‘Normal Child’ in England, c. 1880-1914
Like my teaching, my research focuses on experiences of daily life within the context of childhood and the family. My particular specialism is the health and welfare of poor families in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century England. My book The childhood of the poor: welfare in eighteenth-century London came out with Palgrave Macmillan in 2012. My previous monograph, Childcare, health and mortality at the London Foundling Hospital, 1741-1800: Left to the mercy of the world was published by Manchester University Press in 2007.
My new book Cake: the short, surprising history of our favourite bakes is out with Headline in 2016.
I am currently working on a new and exciting project on networks, religion and community in nineteenth-century Liverpool. This study examines the impact of industrialisation and migration on functional networks, by linking charity and community records with households.