Dr Alysa Levene

Reader and Interim Programme Lead for Philosophy, Criminology and Culture

School of History, Philosophy and Culture

Alysa Levene

Role

Alysa completed her PhD at the University of Cambridge and then worked a research officer at the University of Bath before moving to Oxford Brookes University as a Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellow in April 2004. She became a permanent member of staff soon afterwards. 

Her research focuses on the economic, social and cultural history of 'everyday lives' in the British past. She has published on the history of child welfare and the family in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the history of hospitals and healthcare, the history of food, and Jewish communities in the nineteenth century.

Teaching and supervision

Modules taught

  • A People's History of Britain (Year 1): Brings to life the changing social and cultural worlds of the late seventeenth to the early twentieth centuries and how modern Britons were formed.
  • The Making of Modern Britain: Culture, Community and Family in Britain 1660-1918 (Year 2): Explores how individuals, families and communities experienced gender, class, age and sexuality between the seventeenth and twentieth centuries.
  • The History of Food, Politics and Society (Year 3): Is it true that you are what you eat? We’ll explore diet, food habits and the politics of food control to uncover what this tells us about society.

To understand the decision-making and experiences of individuals, we must appreciate the wider contexts they lived in. Alysa's 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. 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.

Supervision

Alysa has supervised PhD students in a range of areas in economic, social and medical history, including child labour, the history of smallpox, religion and the workhouse in eighteenth-century Westminster, the implementation of the New Poor Law in Hertfordshire, and the history of hospitals. Ongoing projects include the history of loneliness, and nineteenth-century religious communities.

Alysa is happy to hear from prospective students working on the history of childhood and the family, poverty, health, food and related issues.

Research

Alysa's research focuses on experiences of daily life in Britain, especially within the context of communities and families. Her particular specialism is the health and welfare of poor families in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century England. Her PhD thesis was an examination of foundlings in London and Florence, and this led to a monograph Childcare, health and mortality at the London Foundling Hospital, 1741-1800: Left to the mercy of the world which was published by Manchester University Press in 2007. A subsequent monograph, The childhood of the poor: welfare in eighteenth-century London came out with Palgrave Macmillan in 2012. Her latest book, Jews in Nineteenth-century Britain: charity, community and welfare was published by Bloomsbury Academic in 2020.

Meanwhile, her book Cake: the short, surprising history of our favourite bakes came out with Headline in 2016 and led to features on Women's Hour and various magazines and food podcasts.

She is currently working on a new and exciting project on women and the home in C20th Britain.

Groups