Dr Ewan Gibbs
- Lecturer in Global Inequalities (Economic & Social History)
I am a historian of energy, industry, work and protest with established expertise in oral history methods and archival research. My interests include heritage and memorialisation and uses of history in emotive and politically charged contexts such as the current debate over how to build a fairer and greener economy.
I joined the University of Glasgow in 2020 where I contribute to teaching on both the Global Economy and GLOCAL masters programmes as well as the undergraduate Economic and Social History degree. I am presently developing projects based around understanding energy transitions, decarbonisation and connections between fuel sources, arguments for Scottish independence and economic justice. My monograph, Coal Country: The Meaning and Memory of Deindustrialization in Postwar Scotland, was published by the University of London Press as part of the Institute of Historical Research and the Royal Historical Society's ‘New Historical Perspectives’ series in 2021. It is available to read on an open access basis. I also recently published a journal article on 'Scotland's faltering green industrial revolution', which critiques successes in renewable electricity generation and failures to achieve the antiicpated industrial benefits this transformation promised.
My research has consistently focussed on the link between long-term economic developments and changes in politics and culture. I was awarded an MA (first class honours) in Economic and Social History from the University of Glasgow before completing a masters in Global Economy (with distinction) and then obtaining a doctorate. My PhD studied deindustrialization and working-class politics in the Scottish coalfields, including an emphasis on collective memory and the long-term consequences of colliery closures. Subsequently, I have developed interests in multinational subsidiaries and energy policy. Through these projects, I have gained expertise in archival research by using the records of government, industry, and the trade union movement as well as ad-hoc physical and digital collections compiled by social movements and campaigning organisations. I also have an established track record of using oral history interviews to understand the enduring significance accorded to working lives and industrial closures as well as to analyse the construction of 'usable pasts' by heritage activists.
More recently, I have applied these skills to researching the connection between energy politics and arguments for Scottish independence. I recently completed a project that involves interviewing key informants connected with the evolving case for Scottish independence since the 1960s alongside archival research on political parties, policymaking and relevant trade unions and social movements. Now I am working towards a larger research agenda on decarbonisation through studying workplace, community and policy perspectives on Britain's evolving energy economys ince the 1950s. As a British Academy-Wolfson Fellow, I am engaged in a multi-scalar assessment of how global changes in energy markets and UK-wide shifts in policy affected nations, regions and localities in discrete ways, investigating major changes in energy infrastructure associated with conventional and nuclear power stations, oil refineries and renewable energy. This project assesses what we can learn from these major recent historical expeirences as we face a renewed push towards decarbonisation and acheiving a 'just transition' in the 2020s and 2030s.
- 'Just transition' and decarbonisation
- Energy generation and policy
- Labour and working-class history
- Industrial politics
- Inward investment and divestment
- Protest and activism
- Oral history
- Heritage and commemoration
- Scottish nationalism
- Radical left and Communist politics
British Academic-Wolfson Fellowship Decarbonising the Economy and Society: Policy, Labour and Community in Energy Transitions (January 2022-January 2024)
Arts and Humanities Research Council (Co-Investigator) Mobilizing Community Assets to Tackle Health Disparities (November 2022-June 2023)
Carnegie Research Incentive Grant (Principal Investigator) Energy Nationalisms: Fuel Economies and Scottish Independence since 1945 (May 2021-May 2022)
Carnegie Research Incentive Grant (Co-Investiator) 'Tracks' of the Past: How can a Place-Responsive Pedagogy support new understanding of Industrial Heritage and Economic Change via CfE?’ (March 2018-March 2019)
RSE Small Grant award 2017 Energy Policy and Scottish Coalfield Politics (January 2017-December 2017)
I am part of five supervision teams on funded doctoral projects studying a diverse range of topics related to economic and social life in a petrochmicals town, coalfield politicalidentities during and after deindustrialization, Scotland's community energy sector, working-class environmentalism and the Fair Trade movement in Scotland.
In the future, I would welcome applications from prospective postgraduate students in the following areas:
-Working-class politics and labour movements.
-Energy and industrial policy.
-Multinational investment and divestment.
-Deindustrialization and its long-term impact.
-Changing labour markets.
-Collective memory and heritage in (de)industrial settings.
-Twentieth-century Scottish political history.
Economic and Social History 1A and 1B
Economic and Social History 2A and 2B
After the Golden Age
Researching Economic and Social History 1
Honours courses convening
Scotland since 1914
Oral History for Social Scientists
Contributions to masters courses
The Globalised Economy
Business in the Global Economy
Masters courses convening
Inequalities in the Global Economy
Research affiliations and contribution
Fellow of the Royal Historical Society
Founder and contributor to Scottish Critical Heritage
Selected Conference and Seminar Presentations and Public Engagement
‘Natural Progression’?: Transitions from Coal Mining to Electricity, Nuclear and Oil and Gas in Scotland, England and Wales’, Royal Geographical Society conference, Imperial College, London, 1 September 2023
‘The True Conservationists’: British Energy Trade Union Perspectives on Environmental Politics in the 1970s and the 1980s’, Ordinary Working-Class People network, University of Glasgow, 22 June 2023
‘Special or General Revenue? Spending North Sea Oil Revenues in the 1970s and 1980s’, Energy Ethics Conference, University of St Andrews, 7 June 2023
‘East Fife in Energy History’ talk for People’s History Group, Bayview Stadium, Methil, 20 May 2023
‘Clydeside’s Carbon Capital’ Walking Tour, Glasgow Trades Council May Day Festival 2023 , 6 May 2023
‘Legacies of Scotland’s Coal Mining Past’, public talk for Gallery of Modern Art Glasgow in conjunction with Elizbeth Price’s Kohl exhibition, 23 April 2023
‘Resource Nationalists and Environmentalists: The Energy Politics of Scottish Independence During and Since the 1970s’, invited talk for the Centre for Sustainability, Equality and Climate Action and the Queen’s University Belfast Business School, Queen’s University Belfast, 8 March 2023
'An Energy History of the 1972 Coal Miners' Strike', Lalfur Online Event and AGM 2022, 3 December 2022
'Listening to Coalfield Communities', Scottish Power Alpha Project webinar, 27 November 2022
'The Oil Machine' film showing and Q+A panel, Glasgow Film Theatre, 9 November 2022
Panellist at 'Nostalgia - a reassessment in the era of austerity', Deindustrialization and the Politics of Our Time project, online event, 10 October 2022
'Deindustrialization and the Economic case for Scottish Independence since the 1960s', The Individual and Contextual Effects of Economic Scarcity on Political Integration, University of Duisburg-Essen, 22 September 2022
'Energy Workers in Transition', paper at Affects of Energy Transition workshop, Univesity of Georgetown Qatar, Doha, 5 September 2022
Contributed to Scottish Government: Energy Strategy and Just Transition Plan Summer Engagement Events Spring 1, University of Strathclyde, 14 July 2022
Glasgow: Clydeside's Carbon Capital walking tour held as part of Glasogw Trades Council's May Fest on 23 April and 7 May 2022.
Curated Workers' Stories May Day exhibition from 30 April to 2 May at the New Glasgow Society.
''It’s Not an Ideological Opposition to Splitting Atoms': Anti-Nuclear Politics and Scottish Nationalism since the 1960s', Economic History Society conference, Cambridge, 2 April 2022
Panellist at 'Scotland's Future event: Expert Q+A on Oil, Gas and Energy' held by Herald newspaper, 3 March 2022
'Between Extractivism and Environmentalism: Scottish Nationalist Energy Perspectives During and Since the 1970s', Institute of Historical Research Britain at Home and Abroad since 1800 seminar series, 24 February 2022
Panellist at 'Hard Work, Ye Ken: The Past, Present, and Future of Scottish Labour History', National Library of Scotland, 30 November 2021
I led the Close of Play: Carbon Usage Walking Tour organised with the Glasgow School of Art on 27 November 2021
Discussion chair at screening of Cuba's Life Task at the Glasgow Havana Film Festival, Centre for Contemporary Arts, 19 November 2021
Compare at Workers' Stories Project exhibition, GalGael, Glasgow, 10 November 2021
'Energy and Labour' guest lecture on the 'New Approaches to Energy History' lecture series run by the University of Calgary and the University of Freiberg, 9 November 2021
Contributed slides for an exhibition on workers' struggles in global energy sectors for the SUTC and Friends of the Earth's Just Transition Hub at Govan Parish Church, 8 November 2021
'Glasgow, Clydeside's Carbon Capital', RCC Pop Up Exhibition, Glasgow, 6 November 2021
Organiser and pannellist at 'COP26 and just transitions - what can we learn from Cuba and Scotland', ESRC Festival of Social Sciences, University of Glasgow, 3 November 2021
Contributor to New Book Roundtable at Energy Transitions and Planetary Futures, Energy Ethics 2021 conference, University of St Andrews, 27 October 2021
'Understanding Coal Country: The Meaning and Memory of Deindustrialization in Postwar Scotland', Institute of Scottish Historical Research seminar, University of St Andrews, 23 September 2021
'Oil and Scottish Nationhood', Green Tease: Energy Politics and Just Transition, 4 September 2021
Archiving Our Past for Today's Movement', Glasgow Housing Struggle Archive Workshop, 2 September 2021
'The Energy History of Fife', invited talk, Climate Camp, Cowdenbeath, 31 July 2021
Introductory speaker and contributor, Cities and Energy Transitions, British Academy roundtable, 28 July 2021
''The Economy Must Serve the People': Energy Resources in Scottish Nationalist Perspectives during the 1970s', Who Owned Scotland? conference, Economic and Social History Society of Scotland, 25 June 2021
‘Book launch: Coal Country: The Meaning and Memory of Deindustrialization in Postwar Scotland’, Scottish Oral History Centre, 26 April 2021.
‘Scotland’s Faltering Green Industrial Revolution’, Energy Café, Centre for Energy Ethics, University of St Andrews’, 6 April 2021.
‘Long Waves in Energy History: Competing Fuel Policy Coalitions During Britain’s Long Movement out of Coal-Fired Electricity from the late 1940s to the early 1990s’, Business History Conference, 13 March 2021.
Speaker at ‘Shine a Light on Justice for Miners’, Unite Scotland meeting, 11 March 2021.
Speaker at ‘New Historical Perspectives Book Launch: Coal Country’, Institute of Historical Research, 25 February 2021.
Panellist and organiser at ‘Why do Workers Stories Matter’ held by Workers Stories Collective, 22 October 2020.
'Coal Country: Deindustrialization in Postwar Scotland', University of Edinburgh Scottish History seminar, invited speaker, 30th January 2020
'Coal Country: Making Sense of Deindustrialization in Postwar Scotland', Yunus Centre seminar, invited speaker, 11th December 2019
'Coal Country: The Meaning and Memory of Deindustrialization in Postwar Scotland', Scottish Oral History Centre seminar, invited speaker, University of Strathclyde, 18th November 2019
The Caterpillar Workers Legacy Group: Remembering the Occupation, Mitchell Library, Glasgow, 31st October 2019
Co-organised and panellist, 'Solidarity Beyond Boundaries' panel at Modern British Studies, University of Birmingham, 3rd-5th July 2019
Paper: ''The Unacceptable Face of Labour': Trade Union Solidarity and Division at Caterpillar Tractors, Uddingston c.1960s-1987'
Panel chair and speaker ‘Democracy 101’ conference, UWS Paisley campus, 20th March 2019
Paper: ‘The Double Movement of Industrial Democracy in Scotland since 1918’
Host of dissemination event ‘Tracks of the Past: CfE and Place-Based Education’, UWS Lanarkshire campus, 27th February 2019
''Tracks of the Past': A Place-Based Education Industrial Heritage Project', British Academy Deindustrialisation, Heritage and Memory Network: First Workshop, University of Strathclyde, 28th September 2018
‘Conceptualising Coalfield Deindustrialization: The Territorial and Industrial Governance of Workplace Closure and Labour Market Transition’, invited speaker, Posthumous Conference, Utretcht, 25th May 2018
Introductory speaker and lead organiser, ‘Rethinking Radical Scotland: Cultural and Social Transformation Since 1968’, University of the West of Scotland Paisley Campus, 23rd May 2018
Co-organiser and panellist, ‘(In)visible Stories: An investigation into the status of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Scotland’ conference, University of the West of Scotland Ayr Campus, 14th May 2018
‘Tracks’ of the Past: How can place-responsive pedagogy support new understandings of Industrial Heritage and major Economic Change?’, Children’s Identity and Citizenship Education Europe Association conference 2018, Warsaw, 12th May 2018 (co-presented with Susan Henderson)
''The Chance Tae Move Anywhere in Britain': Scottish Coalfield Restructuring and Labour Migration c.1947-1974’, 'By the People for the People: The Nationalisation of Coal and Steel Revisited', First Conference of the Coal and Steelworkers’ Study Group, 7th December 2017
Media appearances and articles
'Rethinking Place in British Labour History' History Workshop podcast
'Strikes: What have trade unions ever done for me?' Media Storm podcast
'Oil and Water' Dissent magazine Spring 2023
'Scotland's oil funded Margaret Thatcher's transformation of Britain' The National
'Life on the Edge of Oil' Radio 4
'Britain Is Experiencing Its Biggest Strike Wave in a Generation' Jacobin
'Can Scotland be both colony and coloniser?' Herald
'How coal miners and factory workers helped found the environmental movement', Conversation
'A Miner's Life' History Scotland magazine November-December 2022.
Appeared in BBC Radio 4 programne, Future Proofing, 7th October 2022.
Wildcat Oil Strikes and the Energy Crisis, BeLabored
'Scotland's oil frustrations set for repeat over renewables profits' Herald
Quoted in the French magazine Society issue 176, March 2022, by Thomas Andrei in an article on wind energy on Harris.
'In 1972, Britain’s Miners Showed the Power of the Working Class' Jacobin
'Between Extractivism and Environmentalism: Scottish Nationalist Energy Politics During and Since the 1970s' Scotland and Carbon
'Scottish Nationalism's Trade Union Problem' Bella Caledonia
'How has deindustrialisation shaped debates about Scottish independence?' Economics Observatory
'Glasgow, Clydeside’s Carbon Capital' The Drouth
'Legacy of coal extraction will resonate long after fall of last chimney' The National
I appeared on Radio Scotland's Lunchtime Live to discuss the demolition of the Longannet power station chimney on 9th December 2021.
'The endless woes of Ferguson Marine' Prospect
'Last Orders' The Repair
I featured on the Black Black Oil documentary on the past and future of North Sea oil which was broadcast on the BBC Scotland channel on 9 November 2021
'Dear Carbon Place' Herald
'Green Energy, Scotland and COP26' Mile End Institute Podcast
Interview with the Climate Emergency Newsroom
'Ending coal use blighted Scottish communities – a just transition to a green economy must support workers' The Conversation
'A fairer future for Scottish energy' The World Today
'Back to the Future: industrial history and community in the just transition' Local Zero
'Coal's long shadow', Scotland and Carbon
'North Sea oil deal under Margaret Thatcher fuelled apartheid', Times
'Putting energy at the centre of Scoltand's history', The Centre for Energy Ethics
Spotlight episode 14
'British politics still lives in the shadow of coal mines', Jacobin
'How Boris Johnson's smug coal mines quip fatally misunderstands history', National
'The long fall of King Coal' History Matters
'Why some Scottish nationalists believe a potent myth about North Sea oil' Herald
'Coal Country: The stories behind Fife’s lost mines and the flood of Longannet' Courier
'Looking back at the mining history of the Lothians and legacy of pit closures' Edinburgh Live
'The story of the Scottish coal industry's slow death' Sunday National
'Writing working-class history: explorations in 'Coal Country'' On History
'The Calton Weavers, the 1820 Radical War and Scotland's first working-class martyrs' Glasgow Live
I contributed to a section on renewable energy and the 2017 'Battle for BiFab' in The Years That Changed Modern Scotland that was broadcast on the BBC Scotland channel on 26 January 2021.
'Scottish Independence – a Long View' Bella Caledonia
'We’re Still Living in Margaret Thatcher’s Britain' Jacobin
'Ewn Gibbs on Mick McGahey' Lives on the Left
'The last throes of the Red Clydeside traditions' The Scotsman
'The Unmaking of the British Working Class: A Highly Provisional Thesis' New Socialist
'Is Brexit worth Scotland's Independence?' The Atlantic
'The 'Caley' and Scotland's 'Invisible' Workers' Conter
'Remembering Red Clydeside: whose memory is it anyway?' History Workshop
'Coal Culture Wars: (Mis)Understanding the Durham Miners' Gala' Scottish Critical Heritage
I appeared on BBC Reporting Scotland television news on 31st January 2019 discussing the centenary of 'the Battle of George Square' and the forty-hour strike in Glasgow which took place during January and February 1919. The interview was also used on BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme the same day. Appeared on BBC Radio Wales' 'Sunday Supplement' programme on 3rd February 2019 to discuss the centenary and class politics in the 1910s.
'100 years on: the day they read the Riot Act as chaos engulfed Glasgow' Guardian
Scotland’s workforce: Where are most Scots employed in 2017? Scotsman
On 1st November 2016, I was interviewed by both BBC Radio Scotland and BBC Reporting Scotland in relation to calls for an inquiry into the policing of the 1984-5 miners' strike in Scotland. This followed the UK government's refusal to hold an inquiry into events at Orgreave on 18th June 1984 the previous day.
Malcolm Slesser, The Politics of Environment: A Guide to Scottish Thought and Action, Bella Caledonia
Murray Armstrong, The Fight for Scottish Democracy: Rebellion and Reform in 1820 by Murray Armstrong, Journal of Interdisciplinary History, 51 (3) (2021), pp. 473-475
Kirsti Bohata, Alexandra Jones, Mike Mantin, Steven Thompson, Disability in industrial Britain: A cultural and literary history of impairment in the coal industry, 1880-1948, Reviews in History (review no. 2428) DOI: 10.14296/RiH/2014/2428