Precarious Professionals

Gender, Identities and Social Change in Modern Britain
Edited by Heidi Egginton and Zoë Thomas
15 October 2021
156 × 234 mm
362 pp
Paperback: 978-1-912702-60-2
Hardback: 978-1-912702-59-6
PDF: 978-1-912702-63-3

Precarious Professionals uncovers the inequalities and insecurities which lay at the heart of professional life in nineteenth- and twentieth-century Britain. The book challenges conventional categories in the history of work, exploring instead the everyday labour of maintaining a professional identity on the margins of the traditional professions. Situating new historical perspectives on gender at the forefront of their research, the contributors explore how professional cultures could not only define themselves against, but often flourished outside of, the confines of patriarchal codes and structures.

Putting the lives of precarious professionals in dialogue with master narratives in modern British history, the chapters in this volume re-evaluate the relationship between professional identity and social change. The collection offers twelve fascinating studies of women and men who held positions in art and science, high culture and popular journalism, private enterprise and public service between the 1840s and the 1960s. From pioneering women lawyers and scientists to ballet dancers, secretaries, historians, humanitarian relief workers, social researchers, and Cold War diplomats, the book reveals that precarity was a thread woven throughout the very fabric of modern professional life, with far-reaching implications for the study of power, privilege, and expertise. Together, these essays enrich our understanding of the histories and mysteries of professional identity and help us to reimagine the future of work in precarious times.

Table of contents: 

Heidi Egginton and Zoë Thomas

1. Anna Jameson and the Claims of Art Criticism in Nineteenth Century England
Benjamin Dabby

2. Women, Science and Professional Identity, c.1860-1914
Claire G. Jones

3. Brother barristers: Masculinity and the Culture of the Victorian Bar
Ren Pepitone

4. Legal Paperwork and Public Policy: Eliza Orme’s Professional Expertise in Late-Victorian Britain
Leslie Howsam

5. Marriage and Metalwork: Gender and Professional Status in Edith and Nelson Dawson’s Arts and Crafts Partnership
Zoë Thomas

6 ‘Giggling Adolescents’ to Refugees, Bullets, and Wolves: Francesca Wilson Finds a Profession
Ellen Ross

7. Women at Work in the League Secretariat
Susan Pedersen

8. Ninette de Valois and the Transformation of Early-Twentieth Century British Ballet
Laura Quinton

9. Archives, Autobiography, and the Professional Woman: The Personal Papers of Mary Agnes Hamilton
Heidi Egginton

10. Women Historians in the Twentieth Century
Laura Carter

11. Feminism, Selfhood, and Social Research: Professional Women’s Organisations in 1960s Britain
Helen McCarthy

12. The ‘Spotting a Homosexual Checklist’: Masculinity, Homosexuality, and the British Foreign Office, 1965-1970
James Southern

Christina de Bellaigue