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Dr Julia Laite

B.A. (History), PhD History (University of Cambridge)
Reader 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 is a historian of migration, sexual labour, and gender in modern Britain and the British world and has a strong interest in public history. She is the principal investigator on the AHRC-funded Trafficking Past Project, which explores sex, work and migration in the modern world (2017-2020). Her 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. Her current book project, The Trafficked Girl, tells the story of one case of trafficking in 1910 through the eyes of the perpetrators, the police, and the victim. She has published in History Workshop Journal, Past & Present, the Journal of British History, and the Historical Journal. She writes for The Guardian, and has blogged for Notches and The Many Headed Monster. Her open-access publications can be found here.
  • Julia is currently the academic lead on a Heritage Lottery Funded project to archive and document the local arts community’s response to the Grenfell Tower Fire, and oversees other public history initiatives as the Birkbeck Director of the Raphael Samuel History Centre. Julia has recently been given a British Academy Rising Star Engagement Award to run a series of workshops on migration, crime and family history. She has held grants and fellowships from the British Academy, the Independent Social Research Foundation, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. She is a member of the editorial collective of History Workshop Journal and will be guest editor for a special issue of the Journal of Women’s History.  Julia joined Birkbeck in 2010, after doing her PhD at the University of Cambridge and holding postdoctoral fellowships at McGill University and Memorial University of Newfoundland.

Research and teaching

  • 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
  • Julia is the MA Co-ordinator for the MA Public Histories and contributes to the MAs in History of the British Isles, Gender Studies and Victorian Studies.  She teaches on a number of modules undergraduate level including the Modern World, the Contemporary World, and other modules on British History.
  • PhD supervision
  • I am currently supervising doctoral work on prostitution, crime, 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)
  • ‘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
  • ‘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
  • ‘Neilans, Alison (1885-1942),’ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  • Lectures
  • ‘Capturing the Photographer’s Assistant:  trafficked women, global microhistory, and the politics of historical rescue’, UCL Gender and History Network, Janury 2017
  • The Trafficker and the Historian:  Writing a global history of crime, sex and migration’, British Crime Historians Sympoisum, Edinburgh, October 2016
  • ‘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