Professor Lynn Abrams
- Chair in Modern History (History)
I am primarily an historian of gender and gender relations from the late 18th century to the present in Britain (including Scotland) and Europe. Within this field my interests range from the emergence of a modern female self in the late twentieth century to the history of masculinities in Scotland. I have also researched and published in the field of oral history theory and practice, the history of childhood and child welfare, the history of knitted textiles and the history of everyday life in twentieth century Scotland with particular focus on housing. I have published books on gender in Shetland, on women in nineteenth century Europe, on oral history theory and on high-rise housing in Glasgow (see publications tab). My current research projects address postwar womanhood in Britain and, separately, the history of knitted textiles in Scotland.
This project will offer an analysis of the modes by which women in post-war Britain constructed a self built on new ways of living and thinking. Focusing on the so-called 'transition generation' of women born in the 1940s and growing up in the 1950s and 60s this project adopts a multi-faceted approach to understand how women charted a new way of being female before the Women’s Liberation Movement and ‘second wave’ feminist ideology of the 1970s. New ways of fashioning the self through dress and lifestyle choices, new ways of moving in space and time (through travel, work and within the home) and new ways of understanding the female psyche are combined through the prisms of three central themes: technologies, mobilities and psychologies.
I contend that this cohort of women developed the aspirational model of womanhood that then emerged after 1970 as the norm amongst women in the global north. The key research questions are these:
- How did this generation or cohort of women, in the late 1950s and early 1960s, come to reject - without a mature ideology - traditional or conventional female roles in order to chart out alternative lives for themselves?
- What were the economic, social and cultural conditions that facilitated these women's journeys towards autonomous selfhood?
- What did these new female selves look like? What were their choices and opportunities? How did they live their lives?
- How do those women retrospectively construct their selves of the 1950s and 60s in oral and written narratives and how do their present selves reflect on their past selves?
Scotland is internationally renowned for its woollen textiles and certain variants on knitting styles have global recognition, eg. Fair Isle and Sanquhar colourwork patterns, Shetland knitted lace, textured Gansey techniques from coastal communities. However, knowledge of the production and dissemination of these and other traditions, and their sustainability and adaptation in economic and cultural terms, over the last 200 years is extremely limited. This project’s aim is to transform understanding of a) creativity: the relationship between materials, designs, techniques, and skills used to produce knitted textiles across Scotland; b) authenticity: why and how knitted textiles have become synonymous with Scottish heritage and c) sustainability: how knitting has survived—through adaptation—as both an indigenous craft and industrial practice from the late-eighteenth through late-twentieth centuries, and what is required for its survival in the twenty-first century and beyond.
Professor Abrams' inaugural lecture 8 May 2014:
- AHRC Research Grant: ‘Fleece to Fashion: economies and cultures of knitted textiles in Scotland’ (2019-2022) Co-I Dr Sally Tuckett (CCA) International Co-I Professor Marina Moskowitz (University of Wisconsin, Madison)
- Scottish Government: Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry commissioned research (2017-19)
- Leverhulme Research Grant (PI), 'Housing, Everyday Life and Wellbeing, Glasgow c.1950-1975' (CI Prof.A.Kearns) AHRC ‘Making and Selling Singer’ (with West Dunbartonshire Council/Museums and Libraries)
- RSE Networks (with Marina Moskowitz): Knitting in the Round, 2014-15
- RSE Workshop Grant (with Dr Alex Shepard): Scottish Masculinity in Historical Perspective
- AHRC CDA: The History of lace knitting in Shetland (CDA holder Roslyn Chapman)
- RSE Workshop grant with Dr Marina Moskowitz: Hand-Knitted Textiles and the Economies of Craft in Scotland
I am pleased to supervise research projects that fall broadly within my areas of research expertise on women's and gender history, oral history, the social and cultural history of modern Scotland.
Current and selected recent PhD topics
Katie Barclay, 'Middle Class Marriage in Scotland, 1750-1850'. Now in post at researcher on University of Adelaide. Thesis was published as Love, Intimacy and Power: Marriage and Patriarchy in Scotland, 1650-1850 (Manchester University Press, 2011) and was winner of the Women's History Network prize for best first book in women's or gender history and the Kerr Hume Prize for best book in Scottish History 2012 (awarded 2007)
Rosalind Carr, 'Gender, National Identity and Political Agency in Eighteenth-Century Scotland'. Now in post Birkbeck, University of London. Thesis was published as Gender and Enlightenment Culture in Eighteenth Century Scotland (EUP, 2014). (Awarded 2009).
Amy Tooth Murphy, 'Reading the Lives between the Lines: Lesbian Literature and Oral History in Britain, 1945-1970'. Now in post Royal Holloway, University of London. (awarded 2013).
Eilidh Macrae, ' Women, Body and Physical Recreation in Britain c.1930-c.1790'. Now in post University of the West of Scotland. (awarded 2013)
Tanya Cheadle, 'Scotland’s Sexual Progressives: Re-imagining Intimate Relations at the Fin-de-Siècle' . Now in post University of Glasgow. Thesis published as Sexual Progressives : Reimagining Intimacy in Scotland, 1880-1914 (MUP. 2020) (Awarded 2014).
Catriona MacLeod , 'Women and Work in 18th Century Glasgow' (awarded 2015), Now in post, University of Glasgow.
Roslyn Chapman 'The History of the fine lace knitting industry in nineteenth and early twentieth century Shetland' (awarded 2015). Now in post, University of Glasgow.
Jonathan Moss, 'The Experience of Women in the British Labour Movement c1968-c1981' Now in post, University of Sussex. Thesis published as Women, Workplace protest and Political identity in England, 1968-1985 (MUP 2019) (awarded 2016)
Jade Halbert, 'Marion Donaldson and Scottish fashion’, now in post University of Huddersfield (awarded 2018)
Lin Gardner, 'History of Singer: case study of women's work and the sewing machine'. Now in post, University of Glasgow (awarded 2019)
Hannah Telling, ‘The Legal Regulation of Male Violence in Nineteenth Century Scotland’ (awarded 2020)
Mairi Hamilton, ‘Domestic Abuse in Nineteenth century Scotland’ (current)
James Dougan, Gender, ‘Mental health and De-industrialisation in postwar Scotland’ (with Mental Health Foundation Scotland)(current)
Charlotte James Robertson, ‘History of Women’s Aid in UK: race and international dimensions’ (current)
Amanda Gavin ‘Childhood and Abuse in Care in postwar Scotland’ (current)
Impact and Public Engagement
My research has translated into a series of public engagement and knowledge exchange initiatives (two of which were Impact case studies for Glasgow History in REF 2014: gender history and history of hand knitting). I developed relationships with a series of external organisations in the public, heritage and business sectors (housing associations, museums, entrepreneurs, charities). As convenor of Women’s History Scotland 2008-2015 we published the first edition of The Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Women (2015, 2nd edition 2018) which drew on the expertise of scores of researchers, many of them independent, and inspired communities up and down the country to research the women in their locality. My research on child welfare has been utilised by television documentary makers and the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry. Current research on knitted textiles is partnered with a number of small businesses, a community trust and heritage organisations to ensure that our findings are both informed by and in turn inform current practice in the sector.