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Dr Julia Laite

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

Contact details

Department of History, Classics and Archaeology
Birkbeck, University of London
Room 325
26 Russell Square,

Tel: 020 7631 6370


  • Julia Laite came to Birkbeck in 2009 after holding a postdoctoral fellowship at McGill University and Memorial University of Newfoundland. She an editor for History Workshop Journal and a Director of the Raphael Samuel History Centre. She is a fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

Research and teaching

  • Introduction
  • My research interests are in the area of women’s history, the history of sexuality, and the history of migration in Britain and the British world.
  • My current book project is focussed on a global microhistory of trafficking in the early twentieth century British world. It looks at one case of trafficking, or ‘white slavery’ as it was called, in 1910.  This project, provisionally called ‘The Traffickers:  Sex, Gender and Migration in the Twentieth Century British World’, is supported by a BA/Leverhulme small research grant.
  • I am also currently running a three-year AHRC-funded project, shared with my co-investigator Philippa Hetherington (SEESS, UCL), which examines ‘Trafficking, Smuggling and Illicit Migration in Gendered and Historical Perspective’, and seeks to bring together research on the modern history of trafficking and build a digital resource.
  • My first book, Common Prostitutes and Ordinary Citizens: Commercial Sex in London, 1885-1930 examined the criminalization of prostitution in the metropolis in a period that witness the codification of laws and development of policies that helped to shape the control of prostitution and the experiences of women who sold sex in the twentieth century.
  • I am also very interested in public and policy history, and regularly contribute to present-day debates on prostitution, trafficking, and migration.  I am a founding editor of the blog Notches: (re)marks on the history of sexuality and maintain an interest in digital history.
  • Research interests
  • Modern history of women, gender, and sexuality
  • History of sexual labour
  • History of migration and transnational history
  • History of crime and criminal justice
  • Public history and policy
  • Teaching
  • am the Director of MA programmes, am the MA Co-ordinator for the MA Public Histories, and I contribute to the MAs in History of the British Isles, Gender Studies and Victorian Studies.  I 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 doctoral work on prostitution, trafficking, and migration.  I would be especially happy to supervise work in the field of British migration history, women’s history, and history of sexuality.


  • Books
    Common Prostitutes and Ordinary Citizens: Commercial Sex in London, 1885-1960 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011)
  • Articles and chapters
  • ‘Traffickers and Pimps in the Era of White Slavery’, Past & Present (forthcoming)
  • ‘Between Scylla and Charybdis:  Women’s Migrant Labour and Discourses of Sexual Trafficking in the West,’ (forthcoming, International Review of Social History)
  • ‘London’, in A Global History of Prostitution (Berg, Forthcoming)
  • ‘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
  • ‘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
  • ‘Neilans, Alison (1885-1942),’ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  • Lectures
  • ‘The Trafficker and the Historian:  Writing a global history of crime, sex and migration’, British Crime Historians Sympoisum, Edinburgh, October 2016
  • ‘Capturing the Photographer’s Assistant:  trafficked women, global microhistory, and the politics of historical rescue’, UCL Gender and History Network, Janury 2017
  • ‘One Road to Buenos Aires: Microhistory and Trafficking in the early twentieth century British World’, Modern British History Seminar, Oxford, 2015
  • Prostitution, Women and the Street Offences Act,’ Modern British History Seminar, Institute for Historical Research, London, October 2014'


Professional membership

  • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy