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Professor Matt Cook

Professor of Modern History

Contact details

Department of History, Classics and Archaeology
Birkbeck, University of Lomdon
Room 222
26 Russell Square

Tel: 020 7631 6680

Professor Cook's new book now out

This Birkbeck Voices interview features Matt talking about his recent book Queer Domesticities: Homosexuality and Home Life in Twentieth-Century London (Palgrave Macmillan)


  • Matt Cook is a cultural historian specializing in the history of sexuality and the history of London in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. He has a background in literary and cultural theory and strong interests in cross-disciplinary work and public and community history.  He is Birkbeck Director of the Raphael Samuel History Centre, an editor of History Workshop Journal, and is currently Principal Investigator on a major AHRC-funded project, ‘Sexualities and Localities’.
  • In a lecture marking World AIDS Day 2016, Prof. Cook traced the emotional landscape of Britain at a key turning point in the history of AIDS.
  • In 2014 Matt was awarded a National Teaching Fellowship by the Higher Education Academy for his work at Birkbeck and in archive and community settings. He is a member of the steering committees of the Birkbeck Institute of Gender and Sexuality (BIGS),  Birkbeck Institute of the Moving Image (BIMI), and of archive advisory groups at London Metropolitan Archive and London School of Economics.
  • Matt has advised on a number of community and oral history projects including for the Pink Singers and Stonewall, and the nightclub Duckie. He was an advisor on Heritage England’s Pride of Place project and is currently working with the National Trust on a new LGBTQ guidebook.  He appears regularly on radio, occasionally on TV, and has acted as a consultant on a number of series and documentaries.
  • Matt joined Birkbeck in 2005 and was previously a lecturer in modern history at Keele University.

Research and Teaching

  • Research interests
  • Matt works on the history of sexuality and gender in nineteenth and twentieth centuries, on queer histories and cultures, on the history of London, and on histories of home and family. His most recent books, Queer Domesticities: homosexuality and home life in twentieth century London and Queer Cities, Queer Culture: Europe since 1945 (edited with Jennifer Evans) appeared in 2014. He is currently working on projects on the AIDS crisis, on community and local history, and on writing queer history. Queer Interiors, a collection of essays Matt is editing with Andrew Gorman-Murray (University of Western Sydney) is due out in 2017.
  • Teaching
  • Undergraduate
  • ‘Gender Space and Time’
  • ‘Oral History’
  • ‘Constructing the Capital: London in the Nineteenth Century’
  • ‘Constructing the Metropolis: London in the Twentieth Century’
  • Postgraduate (taught)
  • He offers modules on:
  • ‘Theorising Gender’
  • ‘Queer Histories, Queer Cultures’
  • ‘Sex and City: London, 1850 – 1914’.
  • He has previously taught postgraduate modules on cultures of class and on Victorian literature and culture, and also convened Birkbeck’s ‘Masterclass in Social Research’ in 2014
  • PhD supervision
  • Matt is happy to discuss the supervision of projects on 19th- and 20th-century cultural and urban history, on queer histories and cultures, and on the history of gender and sexuality. If you are interested in pursuing research in any of these areas, you should first read our advice on how to apply for MPhil/PhD research before submitting an application. He is also interested in interdisciplinary projects and is happy to co-supervise with Birkbeck colleagues working in other schools and departments.
  • He has supervised successful doctoral projects on:
  • Queer Catholicism in the nineteenth century
  • The History of Euphoria
  • The Ghanain community in London
  • Literary murder in the nineteenth century sensation fiction and theatre
  • Folk music in post war London
  • Medical treatments for homosexuality in the post world war II period.
  • He is currently supervising projects on
  • Bachelor domesticities in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries
  • Fandom and sexuality
  • Post-war representations of the paedophile
  • A comparative study of post war anarchist communities in Britain and Italy


  • Books
  • Queer Domesticities: Homosexuality and Home Life in Twentieth-Century London. (Palgrave, 2014).
  • A Gay Queer Cities, Queer CulturesSexuality and Urban Life in post-1945 Europe (London: Continuum, 2014) – co-editor (with Jennifer Evans)
  • Queer 1950sRethinking Sexuality in the Post-war Years (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012) – co-editor (with Heike Bauer).
  • History of Britain: Love and Sex Between Men since the Middle Ages (Oxford: Greenwood, 2007) – editor and lead author.
  • London and the Culture of Homosexuality, 1885 - 1914 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003).
  • Articles in refereed journals
  • “Archives of Feeling”: AIDS in Britain, c.1987’, History Workshop Journal (forthcoming 2017)
  • ‘AIDS, Mass Observation and the Fate of the Permissive Turn’, Journal of the History of Sexuality (forthcoming 2017)
  • 'Gay Times': Identity, Locality, Memory and the Brixton Squats in 1970's London’, Journal of Twentieth Century British History, 24, 1 (2013), 84-109.
  • ‘Domestic Passions: Unpacking the Homes of Charles Shannon and Charles Ricketts', Journal of British Studies 51, 3 (July 2012), 618 – 640.
  • ‘Families of Choice? George Ives, Queer Lives and the Family’, in Gender and History, 20 (Spring, 2010), 1 – 20.
  • ‘Orton in the Archives’, in History Workshop Journal, 66 (Autumn 2008), 163- 179
  • ‘A New City of Friends: London and Homosexuality in the 1890s’, in History Workshop Journal, 56 (autumn 2003), 35 – 58
  • Chapters
  • ‘AIDS in London’, in Simon Avery and Kate Graham, Sex, Time and Place: Queer Histories of London, c.1850 to the present (London: Bloomsbury, 2016)
  • ‘Sexual Revolution(s) in Britain’, in Gert Hekma and Alain Giami, eds, Sexual Revolutions (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014)
  • ‘Oscar Wilde’s London’, in Peter Raby, ed. Oscar Wilde in Context (Oxford: OUP, 2013)
  • ‘"Gay" London’, in Matt Cook and Jennifer Evans, eds, Queer Cities, Queer Cultures:  Sexuality and Urban Life in post-1945 Europe (London: Continuum, 2014)
  • 'Love in a Cold Climate: Rex Batten and the Evidence of Experience', in Matt Cook and Heike Bauer, eds, Queer 1950s (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012)
  • ‘Squatting in History: Queer Pasts and the Cultural Turn’, in Sasha Roseneil and Stephen Frosh, eds, Social Research After the Cultural Turn (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011).
  • ‘Queer Domesticities’, in Chiara Briganti and Kathy Mezei, eds, The Domestic Space Reader, (Toronto: Toronto University Press, 2012).
  • ‘Homes Fit for Homos: Joe Orton and the Domesticated Queer’, in Sean Brady and John Arnold, eds, What is Masculinity? Historical Perspectives and Arguments (Basingstoke: Palgave Macmillan, 2011).
  • ‘Wilde Lives: Derek Jarman and the Queer Eighties’, in Joseph Bristow, ed., Oscar Wilde and Modern Culture: The Making of a Legend (Ohio University Press, 2008).
  • ‘Law’, in H.G.Cocks and Matt Houlbrook, eds, The Modern History of Sexuality (Palgrave, 2006).
  • ‘Sex Lives and Diary Writing: the Journals of George Ives’, in David Amigoni, ed., Life Writing and Victorian Culture (London: Ashgate, 2006), 195 – 214.
  • “Words Written Without any Stopping”: Derek Jarman’s Written Work’, in Roger Wollen, ed., Derek Jarman: A Portrait, (London: Thames and Hudson, 1996).


  • Matt regularly participates in TV and radio news and documentaries. Some recent highlights:
  • Radio
  • He appears in the following BBC4 programmes on 'Queer Art in Britain'
  • He presented historical perspectives on gay marriage for BBC Radio 4’s documentary ‘For Better, For Worse’ (April 2016)
  • He was a discussant on Radio 4’s ‘Late Night Woman’s Hour’ programme on sexual and gender identity (October 2015)
  • He was a spcial guest on BBC Radio 4’s Thinking Allowed, 'Gaybourhood and City Life' (August 2014)
  • He  contributed to BBC Radios ‘500 Years of Friendship’ series (April 2014): ‘Comrades and Lovers
  • A Battalion of Pals
  • He discussed the history of transvestism on Radio 4’s Today Programme (22nd January 2013).
  • He talked about his research on community radio stations in Norway and for the UK’s Gaydio (July 2012).
  • Television
  • He appears in on ‘Brixton Faeries: made possible by squatting’ (2014)
  • He participated in a debate on gay marriage for the BBC World News TV channel’s lunchtime (for Europe; early evening in Asia) news programme (5 Feb 2013).
  • Croatian TV channel HRT ( interviewed him for a historical perspective on gay marriage and rights for documentary programme 'Parallels' (May 2013).
  • He was interviewed about my research for ‘Am I Normal?’ (BBC1 2008), ‘Victorians Uncovered’ (Channel 4) and ‘Prince Eddy: The King We Never Had’ (Channel 4, 2005).
  • He has also worked as a historical consultant on documentaries and TV dramas.

Grants and Awards

  • Matt is currently principal investigator on a major AHRC funded project ‘Sexualities and Localities’.
  • Previous awards:
  • National Teaching Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, 2014
  • AHRC Research Fellowship, ‘Queer Domesticities’, 2012.
  • NIACE – £30,000 funding for ‘Love in History’, a Raphael Samuel Centre public history festival in 2011.
  • AHRC match funded research leave, 2005
  • Harry Ransom Humanities Research Centre Fellow, 2004