Dr Tom Allbeson

My research concerns contemporary British and European history with specialisms in urban history, post-conflict societies, the cultural history of photography and collective memory. I have taught history, cultural studies and visual culture to undergraduate, postgraduate and lifelong learning students at Durham, Edinburgh and Napier Universities.

Before starting at Swansea University in September 2015, I was a postdoctoral fellow in the Centre for Advanced Studies and the Department of History at the University of Nottingham. Prior to that, I held a postdoctoral fellowship at the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities at the University of Edinburgh.

My undergraduate degree from the University of Edinburgh was in English Literature and Philosophy. I have a postgraduate degree in visual studies and a PhD in cultural history both from Durham University. In addition, I have 10 years’ professional experience working for the Heritage Lottery Fund, a major funder of museums and the historic environment in the UK.

I am currently writing a book on photography and the European city, c.1945–61. This cultural history of urban photography examines France, Britain and West Germany during the postwar reconstruction, assessing how the mediation through photography of architecture, urban space and everyday life shaped ways of seeing and thinking about cities in Western Europe. Considering publicly-circulating aerial photography, architectural photography and photojournalism in photo-books, professional journals, popular magazines and official publications, I argue that photography had a vital role in remaking European cities at the midpoint of the twentieth century.

Publications

  1. Visualizing Wartime Destruction and Postwar Reconstruction: Herbert Mason’s Photograph of St. Paul’s Reevaluated. Journal of Modern History 87(3), 532-578.
  2. Photographic Diplomacy in the Postwar World: UNESCO and the Conception of Photography as a Universal Language, 1946–1956. Modern Intellectual History 12(2), 383-415.
  3. & War, Photography, Business: New Critical Histories. Journal of War & Culture Studies 9(2), 94-114.

Teaching

  • HI-M81 Power, Conflict and Society in the Modern World

    This course examines key themes, ideas and processes that have defined 'modern' history. These include the rise of nation states and nationalism, the increasing totalisation of warfare, the rise and fall of revolutionary ideologies, understandings of human rights, the penal system, and the persistence of violence. This is a wide-ranging comparative course that explores the historical theories and concepts behind such areas, while bringing in case studies to illustrate them. Each theme is dealt with across two seminars. The first seminar introduces students to the debates/theories/concepts for the theme, taking a historical and comparative perspective; the second seminar takes the form of a case study, allowing students to pursue the topic in greater depth and in line with the expertise of the tutor for that theme. Students will develop a broad knowledge of the most significant ideas and developments in modern history and will be challenged to compare and contrast both national contexts and historical periods in order to consider what makes this history modern. Seminar themes may change from year to year.

  • HIH121 Europe of Extremes: 1789 - 1989

    The nineteenth century saw the rise of a western European civilization, characterized, as Eric Hobsbawm has noted, by capitalist economics, liberal politics, and the dominance of a middle class that celebrated morality and science. In the twentieth century this civilization faced unprecedented challenges from new political ideologies, and from a working class demanding the right to govern in its own name. The result was an eruption of violence not seen on the continent for centuries; in its wake, the Cold War divided the Europe with an Iron Curtain, and saw the continent become the client of two world superpowers ¿ the USA and the Soviet Union. This team-taught module relies on the specialist knowledge of its tutors to examine economic, political and social themes in the history of nineteenth and twentieth-century Europe.

  • HIH122 Making History

    History is an imprecise art and what historians say and write about the past is not the same as what actually happened in the past. Most people's knowledge about the past doesn't come from professional historians at all but rather from 'public history'. Public history is the collective understandings of the past that exist outside academic discipline of history. It is derived from a diverse range of sources including oral traditions, legends, literature, art, films and television. This module will introduce you to the study and presentation of the past. It will consider how the content, aims and methods of academic and public history compare and contrast and you will engage in your own small research project to investigate this. The module will also teach you about the fundamentals of studying and writing history at university. You will learn about essay writing, group work and critical analysis and employ these skills to understand and assess history today, both as an academic activity and as public knowledge.

  • HIH124 Modern British History

    This module explores the broad sweep of the history of the United Kingdom since its modern creation in 1801. It brings together different approaches from political, economic, social and cultural history to consider the different ways the history of a nation can be studied. At the module's heart are questions of what constitutes a nation and the extent to which British society can be considered to be unified.

  • HIH226 Post-War Reconstruction: Europe 1945 - 1956

    The module begins by examining the conditions on the continent at the end of the war in 1945 and then concentrates on the social and political reconstruction of both East and West Europe. A number of countries will be used as case studies, including Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, the two Germanies and Austria. The course will end with the burning rubble in Budapest in 1956.

  • HIH237 The Practice of History

    The purpose of the module is to encourage you to think more deeply about how historians work and, in particular, about how we as historians can locate and use primary historical sources effectively as a means of interpreting and understanding the past. During the module we will learn about the survival of historical evidence, how it is organised and made accessible to historians to undertake their research, and how to effectively locate and interpret it in your studies. We will consider how the process of doing historical research changes over time, in particular with the impact of recent developments like digitization. At the core of the module will be the work you undertake with others in your seminar group using a range of primary sources which your seminar tutor will introduce to you. As part of the module assessment you will also undertake your own primary source based research project using items from these collections. The module is designed strengthen your analytical skills and to help prepare you for the more extensive uses of primary evidence which you will encounter in final year special subjects and dissertation.

  • HIH274 Conflict & Memory: Europe in the Twentieth Century

    Collective memories of conflict and death were powerful historical forces in twentieth-century Europe. This module considers how popular and scholarly understandings of the past shaped debate, attitudes and decisions from the start of the First World War to the end of the Cold War. It addresses the pronouncements of politicians and the output of artists, as well as public debate about the work of historians. Co-taught by lecturers with expertise in comparative history, the module covers a range of countries and conflicts spanning Europe¿s turbulent twentieth century. Case studies to be examined in detail include the commemoration of conflict after 1918, the role of historical narratives in the articulation of ideologies of the interwar period, the development of a collective memory of the Holocaust, and the salience of memory and commemoration during the Cold War. Students will develop an appreciation of the different concepts, approaches and sources historians use to explore collective memories. The module will also explore cultural and political aspects of the current ¿commemorative fever¿ which has gripped Europe in the twenty-first century

  • HIH3300 History Dissertation

    The History dissertation is a free-standing, 40-credit module that runs across both semesters of Level Three. Candidates conduct research upon a subject of their choice, devised in consultation with a member of staff teaching for the degrees in History, and concerning a topic that falls within staff research and teaching interests.

  • HIH3343 War & Photography: Britain, 1914-89 (Part 1)

    Since the announcement of its invention in 1839, the medium of photography has influenced human activity in fields as diverse as science and leisure, politics and personal relationships. Nowhere has its impact been more dramatic, however, than in the representation of the devastating wars of the twentieth century. Addressing the photography of armed conflict in Britain from the start of the First World War to the end of the Cold War, this module takes a critical approach to a range of photographic imagery made and circulated in times of conflict including reconnaissance, press, amateur and even fine art photography. It examines the changing significance of photographic technology in the prosecution of war, as well as the increasing importance of news images in shaping public attitudes to conflict. Photographs are partial and unreliable documents, but in this they are no different from ego-documents, journalistic reports, political treaties or any other source which historians examine. Historical research with photographs involves refining existing skills of working with primary sources, as well as developing a sophisticated understanding of what sort of source a photograph can be and a new set of interpretive skills. Through its clear focus on `war photography¿ in twentieth-century Britain, this module combines an insight into the history of photography with a broader exploration of the value and importance of photographs to historical research.

  • HIH3345 War & Photography: Britain, 1914-89 (Part 2)

    Since the announcement of its invention in 1839, the medium of photography has influenced human activity in fields as diverse as science and leisure, politics and personal relationships. Nowhere has its impact been more dramatic, however, than in the representation of the devastating wars of the twentieth century. Addressing the photography of armed conflict in Britain from the start of the First World War to the end of the Cold War, this module takes a critical approach to a range of photographic imagery made and circulated in times of conflict including reconnaissance, press, amateur and even fine art photography. It examines the changing significance of photographic technology in the prosecution of war, as well as the increasing importance of news images in shaping public attitudes to conflict. Photographs are partial and unreliable documents, but in this they are no different from ego-documents, journalistic reports, political treaties or any other source which historians examine. Historical research with photographs involves refining existing skills of working with primary sources, as well as developing a sophisticated understanding of what sort of source a photograph can be and a new set of interpretive skills. Through its clear focus on `war photography¿ in twentieth-century Britain, this module combines an insight into the history of photography with a broader exploration of the value and importance of photographs to historical research.

  • HIHD01 Heritage Dissertation (Written)

    Students produce a dissertation on a heritage topic, chosen and developed in conjunction with their supervisor in line with the standard College MA requirements.