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Dr Julia Laite

On leave January 2016 to June 2016

B.A. (History), PhD History (University of Cambridge)
Lecturer in British History

Contact details

Department of History, Classics and Archaeology
Birkbeck, University of London
Room 311
26 Russell Square,

Tel: 020 7631 6370


  • Julia Laite came to Birkbeck in 2009 as a lecturer in Modern British History after teaching in Canada and holding a postdoctoral fellowship at McGill University.

Research and teaching

  • Introduction
  • I have always been deeply interested in the kinds of people who were once thought of as ‘invisible’ in history, and I am theoretically and methodologically fascinated by the ways that historians might learn about their lives and experiences. On another level, I believe that examining the way that marginalized, transgressive, and hidden people were thought about and controlled can tell us a great deal about the society and culture in which they lived—and perhaps even give us insight into how best to approach these issues in the present day. In yet another way, I am drawn to find out more about the relationship between people and the discourses about them; how they were at once constrained by their marginal position in society yet at the same time were individuals and agents making do in a complicated world. These interests have fuelled my work on the criminalization of prostitution and the commercial sex industry, and have led me to become very interested in migrant domestic servants, the subject of my new project.
  • Research interests
  • Modern history of women, gender, and sexuality
    History of migration and transnational history
    History of crime and criminal justice
    Urban history and ‘space’
    History and policy
  • Teaching
  • I convene the MA History of the British Isles, contribute to the MAs in Gender Studies and Victorian Studies, and teach on a number of modules at both undergraduate and MA level, usually including:
    History of Britain since 1750 (undergraduate group 1)
    Crime and Criminal Justice in Modern Britain and Europe (undergraduate group 2)
    Sexuality, Society and the State in Twentieth Century Britain (undergraduate group 3)
    Coming to London: Migration and the Metropolis (MA Option)
    Vice and the Victorians (MA Option)
  • PhD supervision
  • I am currently supervising dissertations on the following areas:
    Learning Disability and the Asylum in modern London


  • Books
    Common Prostitutes and Ordinary Citizens: Commercial Sex in London, 1885-1960 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011)
    Articles and chapters
  • ‘Immoral Traffic:  Sex, Mobility, Labour and the Lorry Girl in early Twentieth Century Britain’ Journal of British Studies (forthcoming, 2012)
  • ‘Historical Perspectives on Mining, Industrial Development, and Prostitution,’ Historical Journal 52, 3 (2009) 739-761
  • ‘Taking Nellie Johnson’s Fingerprints:  Prostitutes and Legal Identity in Early Twentieth Century London,’ History Workshop Journal 65, 1 (2008) 96-116
  • ‘The Association for Moral and Social Hygiene, Abolitionism, and Prostitution Law in Britain,’ Women’s History Review 17, 2 (2008) 207-223
  • Review of Capital Affairs: London and the Making of the Permissive Society by Frank Mort, Contemporary British History 26, 1(2012) 134-136
  • Review of The Prostitute’s Body: The Prostitute’s Body: Rewriting Prostitution in Victorian Britain; by Nina Attwood, Journal of British Studies, 51, 2 (2012) 481-483
  • Review of Geographies of Regulation:  Policing Prostitution in Nineteenth-Century Britain and the Empire by Philip Howell, Social and Cultural History 8, 1 (2011) 120-122
  • ‘Conference Report:  Identifying the Person, Past and Present, St. Anthony’s College, Oxford, September 2009’, co-authored with Gayle Lonergan and James Brown, History Workshop Journal 69, 1 (2010) 278-283
  • Review of Women Police:  Gender, Welfare and Surveillance in the Twentieth Century by Louise Jackson, Gender and History 19, 3 (2007): 613-614
  • ‘Neilans, Alison (1885-1942),’ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  • ‘The women who still walk the streets of Victorian Britain,’ Parliamentary Brief (10,2) January 2007: 17-18
  • ‘Paying the price again:  the UK’s new co-ordinated prostitution strategy in historical perspective,’ History and Policy,, November 2006


Professional membership

  • Social History Society
  • North American Conference on British Studies

Honours and awards

  • Ellen MacArthur Award for best dissertation in Social and Economic History, Cambridge 2009

Current activities

  • I am currently working on a new research project that examines migrant domestic labour in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It is a daunting transnational project, and I plan to look at women who migrated as domestic servants from Britain and France to other countries in this period (so far, Canada and Argentina have been chosen as case studies).  I am interested in these women’s experiences as largely invisible and often exploited workers who were also fundamentally important to the growth of global capitalism; in the way that states discussed and controlled their migration, particularly in the context of discourses about sexual danger and human trafficking; and finally, how they navigated—for better or for worse—the increasing restrictions on immigration in this period.