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Cambridge AHRC Doctoral Training Partnership - Student Profiles



I specialised in nineteenth-century British history during my undergraduate and Master’s degrees at the University of Oxford. An undergraduate module on middle-class children’s awareness of politics, 1830-1870, developed my interest in the gendered nature of juvenile political socialisation. My MSt dissertation, ‘Constructing the Girl Citizen in England, 1870-1910’, explored girls’ engagement with ideas of politics and citizenship, through the family, civic events and periodical literature. It identified a perceived increasing need to construct and contain the ‘girl citizen’ in this period.

My doctoral research seeks to extend this analysis to girls’ schooling experiences, and explore how politicised educational theory, practice and curriculum intersected with other socialising influences - religious and associational culture, the home and workplace. It will question how girls received, appropriated and perhaps subverted their political education. Schoolgirls’ political consciousness could develop through accepting or rejecting their politicised schooling.

My research intends to nuance existing scholarship focused largely on boys’ political socialisation. Responding to a historiography of girls’ education divided along class lines and marginalising politicisation, it demonstrates the need to consider schoolgirls’ experiences beyond static class models. It will engage with broader methodological debates in the history of childhood and social scientific theories of juvenile political development. 


Other academic interests

  • History of childhood
  • Space, place and spatial history 
  • Ideas of citizenship, national identity and political participation 
Department: History
Supervisor: Dr Ben Griffin
College: Corpus Christi
AHRC subject area: History
Title of thesis: The Political Socialisation of Schoolgirls in Late Victorian and Edwardian England
 Helen  Sunderland