Dr James Gregory

Dr James Gregory

Associate Professor of Modern British History

School of Society and Culture (Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Business)



Programme Leader MA History

Associate Professor of Modern British History


Ph.D. University of Southampton; M.Phil. Cambridge; B.A. Oxford.

I joined the History team at the University of Plymouth in 2012, and a few years later became the Programme Leader for the MA History and coordinator for ResM students working in history. I have supervised a number of Ph.D. and Research Masters students to completion in subjects ranging from the British nineteenth-century mechanics' institute movement, to education and employment for boys from the Edwardian to interwar period in Britain. More details of my research interests and supervisory experience are in the Research section to this staff page: I welcome Ph.D. and Res.M. applications in modern British history.

My research has ranged over a number of topics in social, cultural and political history, detailed also in my Publications page: including four monographs on vegetarianism, a married couple of aristocratic reformers, capital punishment and abolitionists, and the Chartist movement. Recent essays in edited collections which I have co-edited include work on the publication of Magna Carta, art judgement, popular diplomacy. I have published a number of essays on eccentricity in British culture. I recently published two volumes in 2020 and 2021 on the history of mercy in modern British culture.



Research interests

My research interests

My published research has included:

Reform movements and cultures, ranging from Chartism, to vegetarianism and temperance and medical unorthodox (lifestyle reforms), to anti-violence efforts organized around capital punishment abolitionism.

High political reform (moral, social and cultural) in the context of the reform activities and transatlantic / European reform networks of William Cowper-Temple and Georgina Cowper-Temple.

The meaning and uses of eccentricity in British culture over the ‘long nineteenth century’.

Histories of mercy in Britain and the British world from c.1760.

Interdisciplinary interests are reflected in my membership of the Plymouth University Nineteenth-Century Studies group (PUNCS, established 2014). See https://plymouthuniversitynineteenthcenturystudies.wordpress.com/

Research students

I am happy to be contacted about potential doctoral research in the broad area of British history from c.1760 onwards. 

I have supervised a number of Research Masters, and doctoral candidates to completion, and currently supervise as Director of Studies or 2nd supervisor, a number of ResM and PhD students in the field of modern British history at the University of Plymouth. Plymouth theses can be accessed through the online PEARL database.

Previous doctoral students include:

Sarah J. Dietz, University of Bradford ‘Bradford mills at Marki, Warsaw: a case study of British entrepreneurship in Russian Poland, 1883–1914’
(supervised with Dr G. Bátonyi)
Published as British Entrepreneurship in Poland A Case Study of Bradford Mills at Marki near Warsaw, 1883–1939 (Routledge, 2015)

PhD (HuMPA scholarship), University of Plymouth
Siobhan Sexton ‘The Proust of Painting’: Jacques-Emile Blanche, the Neurasthenic Portrait and the Nervous Elite of Paris 1900' 
(2nd supervisor) 2017

PhD, University of Plymouth, Amy Robson, ‘Dogs and Domesticity: Reading the Dog in Victorian Britain’ (as DoS)  2017

PhD, University of Plymouth, Douglas R. Watson, '‘The Road to Learning’: Re-evaluating the Mechanics’ Institute Movement' (as DoS) 2018

PhD, University of Plymouth, David Goode, 'Boy Work. From Education to Employment in England and Wales, 1901 - 1930' (as DoS) 2019

Research Masters

Previous ResM students include

Glyn Potter, 'Imagining Peace and War: Plymouth 1918-1939' (as DoS) 2018

Mark Millard, 'The English settlement of St Christopher, 1624 - 1629' (as 2nd supervisor) 2017




‘“Some account of the progress of the truth as it is in Jesus”: The White Quakers of Ireland’ Quaker Studies, September 2004, pp.68-94

‘“Local Characters”: Eccentricity and the North East in the Nineteenth Century’, Northern History, March 2005, XL (1), pp.136-186

‘Eccentric Biography and the Victorians’, Biography 3: 2, 22 June 2007, pp.342-361

' "A Requirement of the Age Supplied": Thomas Atkins & Son and the Business of Water Filtering.', Victorian Review 45:2 (2019), pp.216-221


Of Victorians and Vegetarians. The Vegetarian Movement in Nineteenth Century-Britain (London and New York: I.B. Tauris, International Library of Historical Studies, 27 June 2007)

Reformers, Patrons and Philanthropists. The Cowper-Temples and High Politics in Victorian England (London and New York: I.B. Tauris, International Library of Historical Studies, 2010)

Victorians Against the Gallows. Capital Punishment and the Abolitionist Movement in Victorian Britain (London and New York: I.B. Tauris, 2011)

The Poetry and the Politics. Radical Reform in Victorian England (London and New York: I.B. Tauris, 2014)

Libraries, Books and Collectors of Texts, 1600 - 1900 edited with Annika Bautz (Routledge Studies in Cultural History, 2018)

Judgment in the Victorian Age edited with Daniel Grey and Annika Bautz (Routledge 2019)

Union and Disunion in the Nineteenth Century edited with Daniel Grey (Routledge, 2019)

The Royal Throne of Mercy and British Culture in the Victorian Age (Bloomsbury Academic, 2020)

Mercy and British Culture, 1760 - 1960 (Bloomsbury Academic, 2021)


'Long Nineteenth Century Ephemera', ch. 23 in Laura Wright and Emelia Quinn, eds, The Edinburgh Companion to Vegan Literary Studies (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2022)

‘ "[T]he broken stave at the top of the ladder of England’s civilisation": Representing the ending of public execution in 1868', ch. 1 in P. Low, H. Rutherford and C. Sandford-Couch, eds, Execution Culture in Nineteenth Century Britain. From Public Spectacle to Hidden Ritual  (Routledge, 2020)

'The operation and representation of art judgment', ch.9 in Judgement in the Victorian Ageedited by James Gregory, Daniel Grey and Annika Bautz

'The "Fancy for Fine Printing": Collecting Whittaker's Golden Magna Carta', ch.12 in Libraries, Books, and Collectors of Texts, 1600-1900,
edited by Annika Bautz, James Gregory

‘Eccentricity and Empire’, in S. Aymes-Stokes and L. Mellet, eds, In and Out: Eccentricity in Britain (Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars, 2012)

‘A Lutheranism of the Table’: Religion and the Victorian Vegetarians’, in D. Grumett and R. Muers, eds, Eating and Believing. Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Vegetarianism and Theology (London and New York: T&T Clark, 2008), pp.135-151

‘Vegetable fictions in a kingdom of roast beef’: The representation of the vegetarian in Victorian literature’ in N. Hassan and T.S. Wagner, eds, Consuming Culture in the Long Nineteenth Century (Lexington Books, 2007)    

‘After Palmerston: The Mount Temples and Christian Higher Life at Broadlands’, in David Brown and Miles Taylor, eds, Palmerston Studies vol.1 (Hartley Library, University of Southampton, 2007), pp.173-196

‘Eccentric Lives: character, characters and curiosities in Britain c.1760 – 1900’, in Waltraud Ernst, ed., Histories of the Normal and the Abnormal. Social and Cultural Studies of Norms and Normativity (London and New York, Routledge, 2006) pp.73-100

‘“Local characters” and local, regional and national identities in Nineteenth-Century England and Scotland’, in Alyson Brown, ed., Historical Perspectives on Social Identities (Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Press, 2006), pp.45-60. Paperback edition, 2008

Internet Publications

Parody Playbills: The Politics of the Playbill in Britain in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries
James Gregory

The Electronic British Library Journal



Reports & invited lectures

'Grieving for Napoleon: Early British responses to Napoleon’s death, 1821 - 1830', Britain and the World conference, Plymouth, 17 June 2022. 

'"Mercy! Mercy! Dear Americans!" The Display and Discourse of Mercy in the American Revolution', Modern History Research Centre, University of Winchester, 11 May 2022.

'"Britons, ever preëminent in mercy, have outgone common examples, and overlooked the criminal in the captive": discourse and display of mercy during the American Revolution,' Plymouth [online] 19 May 2020.

'Mercy in an Age of Meat-Making Modernity.The Victorian Vegetarian Movement', invited paper at 'Protein Pressures and Carnivorous Crisis:', University of Exeter, 3 September 2018.

‘“Where Britain’s power is felt mankind should feel her mercy too”. The ‘mercy’ of empire in the long nineteenth century', at the international ‘Britain and the Wider World’ conference, Exeter, 21 – 23 June 2018.

‘"[T]he broken stave at the top of the ladder of England’s civilisation": Representing the ending of public execution in 1868. An invited keynote paper on capital punishment history', at the public day conference ‘1868. A Civilizing Moment?’ Newcastle, 6 June 2018.

'Statesmanship and integrity in Britain in the Age of Reform, c.1829 c.1850', at the international conference on 'Integrity Lost, Integrity Gained: social conditions and institutional pressures', Newcastle, 11 April 2014.

'"What's my motivation?" Personal integrity and other "springs of action" in the lives of nineteenth-century reformers', 'Histories of Activism' workshop, University of Northumbria, 16 December 2013.

                                Audiofile at http://integrityproject.org/events/activism-and-integrity/

Plenary speaker, international conference on Excentricité /Eccentricity, Université de Bourgogne, Dijon, 5 - 6 November 2010.

Plenary speaker, PLACE [People, landscape and cultural environment of West Yorkshire] conference, Knaresborough, 27 March 2010.

Conference paper (by invitation), Darwin international conference, University of Bradford, 24 - 26 September 2009.

Conference paper (by invitation), ‘Digitally trawling ‘that great ocean of material’. Researching the Cowper-Temples and other Eminent Victorians in a Digital Age’, at the ‘Languages of Politics: Mapping Britain’s Long Nineteenth Century’ conference, Van Mildert College, University of Durham, 3 April 2009.

Seminar paper (by invitation), ‘A Lutheranism of the Table’: Religion and the Victorian Vegetarians’, at the seminar for the AHRC-funded research project ‘Vegetarianism as Spiritual Choice in Historical and Contemporary Theology’, Department of Theology, HuSS, University of Exeter, 23 May 2007.

Conference paper (by invitation), ‘After Palmerston: The Mount Temples and ‘Christian Higher Life’ at Broadlands’ at the international Palmerston Conference, University of Southampton, 11-13 July 2003.

Conferences organised

23 June 2016 PUNCS interdisciplinary conference, ‘A Time of Judgement’, Plymouth University. 


22 June 2017 PUNCS interdisciplinary conference, ‘Union / Disunion’, Plymouth University. 


Other academic activities

Other conference papers
'Researching a History of Mercy' at the inaugural conference for PUNCS (Plymouth University Nineteenth-century Studies', University of Plymouth 7 March 2015.

Conference paper, ‘Protecting the legacy of Lord Palmerston: writing and reviewing the official life of Lord Palmerston, c.1865 – 1901’, Conference on Modern British History, 19 - 20 June 2007, Glasgow.

Conference paper, ‘A “grotesquely heart-breaking sight”: The vegetarian restaurant in Victorian Britain’, international conference on ‘Food and History: Health, Culture, Tourism and Identity’ University of Central Lancashire, July 2006.

Conference paper, ‘Local Characters: The role of the Eccentric in the Creation of Local and Regional Identity, c.1800–1901’. A paper for ‘Identities’, the second conference of the Centre for Liverpool and Merseyside Studies, Edge Hill, 31 March - 1 April 2005.

‘Sensational Characters: Victorians and eccentric biography’. A paper for ‘Victorian Sensations’, the 5th annual conference of the British Association for Victorian Studies, Keele University, 2 - 4 September 2004.

Conference paper, ‘The Coming Race? Modernity and the Representations of Vegetarianism in Victorian Fictions’ in the ‘New Currents’ strand of ‘Victorian Modernities’, a conference at the University of Reading, 1 May 2004.

Conference paper, ‘“Some account of the progress of truth as it is in Jesus”: The White Quakers of Ireland, 1835–1 854’, ‘Popular Culture and Religion Conference’, University of Northumbria, 12 -14 July 2001.