Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences

History of Road Safety Symposium

This event has now finished. Please see our events website for details of upcoming events at Brookes.


Who this event is for

  • Everyone


Headington Campus, Gipsy Lane site


Organised by Mike Esbester as part of the AHRC-funded project, ‘;Living in Safety: The Culture of ‘Safety’ and Accident Prevention in Everyday Life in Britain, c.1900–2000’, this symposium has benefitted from the generous financial support of the Arts and Humanities Research Council of the UK and from the Economic History Society’s Initiatives and Conference Fund.


Thursday 30 June

09.30-10.00: Refreshments, Welcome and Introduction

10.00-12.00:Session 1 - Constructing Dangerous Roads

Nicholas Oddy (Glasgow School of Arts, UK): ‘Cyclists’ This Hill is DANGEROUS.

Massimo Moraglio (Berlin Institute of Technology, Germany): Risky Roads. Bicycles and motor vehicles destroying urban sociability in the early 1900s: the Turin case study.

Jean Orselli (Ingénieur général des Ponts et chaussées en retraite, France): ‘Physiological, ethological and historical’ dimensions in dangerous safety prescriptions: The case of‘left driving’ versus ‘right driving.’

12.00-1.00: Lunch

1.00-3.00: Session 2 - Road Un/safety in 20th-Century Britain

Craig Horner (Manchester Metropolitan University, UK): Chauffeurs and scapegoats: attitudes to safety in Edwardian automobility.

Peter Bartrip (Oxford University, UK): Handcross Hill and after: accidents, ‘disasters’ and the development of long-distance coach services in Britain, 1900s-1930s.

Bill Luckin (University of Bolton, UK): Tracking the Silent Dead: Road Traffic Victims in the 20th Century.

3.00-3.30: Break

3.30-5.30:Session 3 - Road Safety Policies

Donald Weber (Amsab-Institute of Social History, Ghent): Safety vs Efficiency: The Technocratic Turn in Belgian Road Safety Policy, 1920-1940.

Stève Bernardin (Université Paris I, France): "Getting Votes for Traffic Safety". From Public Relations to Political Theory (1946-1958).

Fabrice Hamelin & Marine Moguen-Toursel (IFSTTAR – Institute of Science and Technology for Transport, Development and Networks, France): Exploring the Link between Research and Public Policy in Road Safety over the Long Term.

Evening: Informal meal in Oxford

Friday 1 July

09.00-11.00:Session 4 - Constructing Safe Practices

Barbara Schmucki (University of York, UK): "You can't argue with a car." Concepts of pedestrian safety in the 20th century.

Peter Norton (University of Virginia, USA): Redefining Moments: Changing Traffic Safety Paradigms in the United States, 1920-1990.

Mathieu Flonneau (Université Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne, IRICE/CRHI, France): The paradoxical reassurance of the Parisian streets in a long-term prospect: The invention and the success of a public politicy.

11.00-11.30: Break

11.30-1.30:Session 5 - Technologies of Restraint

Mike Esbester (Oxford Brookes University, UK): Re-training road users: the technology of safety education in twentieth-century Britain.

Jameson Wetmore (Arizona State University, USA): Restraining the Disobedient Driver.

Robert Gifford (Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety, UK): How parliament came to love seat belts.

1.30-2.30: Lunch

2.30-3.30:Concluding discussion

Where next in the history of road safety?



Mike Esbester, mesbester@brookes.ac.uk