Dr Lesley Whitworth is deputy curator and senior research fellow in the University of Brighton Design Archives.
Her research focuses on twentieth-century Britain and extends from changes in shopping processes and practices; histories of consumer education; domestic material environments; retail and display design; to the emergence of the industrial design profession.
Dr Lesley Whitworth is a twentieth-century social historian whose primary focus is the shaping of material environments. She is interested in the evolution of shopping habits particularly with reference to issues of class, gender and locality.
Allied to this is an interest in retail spaces and practices; the reception of products; and the early development of the design profession in the British context. She was a founding member of the University’s ‘Gender and Built Space’ research group, and initiated the Material and Consumer Culture Network of the European Social Science History conference.
Her research has engaged with aspects of institutional history, an interest fostered by her curatorial role with the University of Brighton Design Archives and her research relationship with the Business History Unit, LSE. This has led to publication in the areas of Design Council history, Mass-Observation history, Co-operative history, and an ongoing investigation of the relationship between the design reform community and the radical independent think-tank, Political and Economic Planning (PEP) after 1931.
Recent work has been predominantly concerned with the (UK) Council of Industrial Design / Design Council's history of consumer engagement, following participation in the major ESRC-AHRC funded Cultures of Consumption network. Many aspects of this research have now been published.Dr Lesley Whitworth gained first class honours in the pioneering history of design degree at the University of Brighton in 1988. She studied for her doctorate at the Centre for the Study of Social History at the University of Warwick, with support from the Economic and Social Research Council (1993-1996). Having worked at Coventry University and at Goldsmiths Hall, with the Library and Archive of the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths, she returned to Brighton to take up one of two new founding posts in the University’s Design Archives, where she is Senior Research Fellow and Deputy Curator. She is presently also a Visiting Research Fellow at the Business History Unit of the London School of Economics.
Between 2003 and 2005 Lesley Whitworth completed a project within the ESRC-AHRC funded Cultures of Consumption research programme. She has been an officer of the Design History Society, Women’s Committee of the Economic History Society, and Social History Society, and has co-organised a number of workshops, symposia and seminar series. She organised the third in the international, inter-disciplinary ‘Living in a Material World’ conference series (University of Brighton, 2001) and recently inaugurated the Material and Consumer Culture Network of the European Social Science History Conference. She has presented her research in France, Holland, Austria, Finland, Belgium, Ireland, Estonia and the US.
Lesley Whitworth is interested in supervising research which engages with issues of design, or design-related propaganda, in domestic, educational, retail and industrial settings in the twentieth century; and investigations of consumption from the same period which foreground issues of gender, class and locality.
Assesses the model offered by a 1940s’ experiment in public engagement through a state sponsored educational and design-promotional organisation
How did the British Co-operative movement respond to changes in economic, social, cultural and political spheres during the Twentieth century?
Contextualises holdings within the university's Design Archives against a generally gloomy picture for the preservation of business-related records
Pioneering, short-lived Council of Industrial Design initiative derived its inspiration from inter-war women’s groups and formations of housewives
Issues of audience, reception, language and visual imagery through the prism of the post-war Council of Industrial Design’s consumer education work
Intended to re-investigate the accepted thinking about the connection and cause and effect of public transport development and city enlargement
Whitworth, Lesley (2013) Selling the University of Brighton Design Archives to retail historians Business Archives: Sources and History, 106. pp. 31-48. ISSN 0007-6538
Breakell, Susan and Whitworth, Lesley (2013) Émigré designers in the University of Brighton Design Archives Journal of Design History, 28 (1). pp. 83-97. ISSN 0952-4649
Whitworth, Lesley (2012) Collective responsibility: the public and the (UK) Council of Industrial Design in the 1940s In: Edquist, Harriet and Vaughan, Laurene, eds. The design collective: an approach to practice. Cambridge Scholars. ISBN 9781443840279
Whitworth, Lesley (2009) Promoting product quality: the Co-op and the Council of Industrial Design In: Black, Lawrence and Robertson, Nicole, eds. Consumerism and the Co-operative movement in modern British history: Taking stock. Manchester University Press, Manchester, pp. 174-196. ISBN 9780719076848
Whitworth, Lesley (2008) The Design Archives at the University of Brighton: a resource for business historians Business Archives: Sources and History (96). pp. 69-82.
Whitworth, Lesley (2007) Getting beneath the surface of things: mass observation and material culture Mass Observation Online.
Whitworth, Lesley (2007) Women and the Making of Built Space in England, 1870-1950 Ashgate Publishing Company. ISBN 9780754651857
Whitworth, Lesley (2005) Inscribing design on the nation: the creators of the British Council of Industrial Design Business and Economic History Online, 3. ISSN 0849-6825
Whitworth, Lesley (2004) Men changing allegiance: from workshop to shopper in 1930s Coventry In: Lahtinen, Anu and Vainio-Korhonen, Kirsi, eds. History & Change. SKS (Finnish Literature Society), Helsinki. ISBN 951-746-580-7
Whitworth, Lesley (2003) Accounting for the Customers? A Tale of Public Transport in 1930s Coventry In: Suburbanizing the Masses: Public Transport and Urban Development in Historical Perspective. Ashgate , pp. 211-230. ISBN 0 7546 0775 5
Guest Editor, Journal of Design History, 16:3 (2003), special issue 'Anxious Homes'.
‘Collective Responsibility: The public and the (UK) Council of Industrial Design in the 1940s’ in Harriet Edquist and Laurene Vaughan (eds), The Design Collective: An Approach to Practice (Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars, 2012).
‘Introduction: Making Space and Re-making History’, (with Elizabeth Darling), in Elizabeth Darling and Lesley Whitworth (eds), Women and the Making of Built Space in England, 1860-1950 (Aldershot and Burlington: Ashgate, 2007).
Commissioned contributor, Mass-Observation Online, Whitworth: ‘Getting Beneath the Surface of Things: Mass-Observation and Material Culture’, launched Spring 2007.
‘Anticipating Affluence: Skill, Judgement and the Problems of Aesthetic Tutelage' in Lawrence Black and Hugh Pemberton (eds), An Affluent Society? Britain's Post-War 'Golden Age' Revisited (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2004).
'Men Changing Allegiance: From Workshop to Shopper in 1930s Coventry', in Anu Lahtinen and Kirsi Vainio-Korhonen (eds), History & Change (Helsinki: SKS / Finnish Literature Society, 2004).
‘Accounting for the Customers? A Tale of Public Transport in 1930s Coventry', in Colin Divall and Winstan Bond (eds), Suburbanising the Masses: Public Transport and Urban Development in Historical Perspective (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2003).
J. Purcell, Domestic Soldiers: Six Women's Lives in the Second World War (London: Constable: 2011), in Cercles: Revue Pluridisciplinaire du Monde Anglophone, Spring 2012
A. Kervanto Nevanlinna (et al), Industry and modernism: companies, architecture, and identity in the Nordic and Baltic countries during the high-industrial period, (Helsinki: Finnish Literature Society: 2007), in Business History, 51: 6 (2009). J. Benson and L. Ugolini (eds), Cultures of Selling: Perspectives on Consumption and Society since 1700 (Aldershot: Ashgate: 2006), in Economic History Review, 60:2
Initiator of the Material and Consumer Culture Network of the European Social Science History conference (major European meeting place for historians and social scientists; typical attendance 2,000). Co-convenor with Harm Nijboer and Hester Dibbits of the Maertens Institute, Amsterdam, of its first programme at the next ESSH conference in Lisbon, 2008.
Organiser of the 2001 international, inter-disciplinary ‘Navigating the Material World’ conference (University of Brighton), the 3rd in the ‘Living in a Material World’ conference series originated at Coventry School of Art and Design.
"Women and the Making of Built Space brings women into new relationships with the built environment, in vivid vignettes of class, architectural and modern history."
(Sally Alexander, Professor of Modern History, Goldsmiths College, University of London [Book jacket, 2007])
Of 'An Affluent Society? Britain's Post-War 'Golden Age' Revisited,' Professor Fred Leventhal (Boston) wrote: "Illuminating essays on political culture, consumerism, industrial design, youth marketing and economic policy offer a persuasive reinterpretation of Britain's new 'golden age'. This is a valuable scholarly addition to the literature on the period." - it has also been reviewed by Joy Cushman in The Economic History Review, volume LVIII, 2005, p612, and on EH.NET.
Reviews of 'Suburbanizing the Masses: Public Transport and Urban Development in Historical Perspective' include: Gregory Lee Thompson in Technology and Culture, 46:3 (2005), pp662-664, and Colin Chant in Journal of Transport History, 25:2 (2004), pp140-159.
Stefan Schwarzkopf, 'They do it with Mirrors: Advertising and British Cold War Consumer Politics,' Contemporary British History Vol 19, No 2 June 2005, p145.
Selina Todd, 'Young Women, Work, and Family in England,' 1918-1950 Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005, pp 9, 134, and 218.
National Consumer Council, Consumer Empowerment and Competitiveness London: National Consumer Council, 2004, p2.
Matthew Hilton, Consumerism in Twentieth-Century Britain: The Search for a Historical Movement Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003, p202.
Economic History Review Review 1999 Vol. 52 Issue 3 pp 563-567 (Blackwell) ISSN 0013-0117, Bowden, S and Offer, A. eHousehold Appliances and systems of provision:' a reply.
2003 - 2007