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Dr Julia Laite

  • Overview



    Dr. Julia Laite joined Birkbeck in 2010 after holding postdoctoral fellowships at Memorial University of Newfoundland and McGill University, Canada. Her research examines the history of migration, gender, sex and sexuality, as well as family history, creative history and public history. She is the author of the Disappearance of Lydia Harvey (2021), Wolfenden's Women (2020), and Common Prostitutes and Ordinary Citizens (2012), and was principal investigator of the AHRC-funded project Trafficking Past.  Her current work examines critical family history and migration, and she recently held a British Academy Rising Star Engagement Award to run a series of Family History Workshops

    Julia is the Birkbeck Director of the Raphael Samuel History Centre, and convenes the MA in Public Histories, and the MA/MSc in Gender and Sexuality. She is part of the editorial collective of History Workshop Journal and is on the advisory board for History Workshop Online. 


    Office hours

    Office hours by appointment


    • PhD, University of Cambridge, 2009
    • MPhil, University of Cambridge, 2003
    • BA History (Hons), Memorial University of Newfoundland, 2002

    Administrative responsibilities

    • Director, Raphael Samuel History Centre
    • Convenor, MA Public Histories
    • Convenor, MA/MSc Gender and Sexuality

    Professional memberships

    • Editor, History Workshop Journal

  • Research


    Research interests

    • History of migration
    • Women's and Gender history
    • Family history, creative history, and public history
    • History of Sex, Sexuality and Sexual Labour

    Research overview

    Julia Laite's research interests include the history of migration, women and gender, sex and sexual labour, and family history and public history.  Her first book, Common Prostitutes and Ordinary Citizens, examined the criminalization of prostituiton in nineteenth and twentieth century London, and she has recently co-authored with Samantha Caslin a critical source edition of the Wolfenden report minutes of evidence, Wolfenden's Women.

    She was the principal investigator of the AHRC-funded project Trafficking Past, with co-investigator Philippa Hetherington, which has built an international network of scholars resarching the history of trafficking, smuggling, and illicit migration in gendered and historical perspective.  She has guest edited a special issue of the Journal of Women's History on this topic with Dr. Hetherington, which will appear in late 2021.

    Her latest book, The Disappearance of Lydia Harvey (Profile, April 2021) is a global microhistory of a case of trafficking in 1910, which reconstructs a multi-vocal story of aspiration and exploitation in the early twentieth century world.  

    Dr. Laite has written about microhistory, digital methodologies, and history from below, and also maintains a strong interest in public history, creative history, and family history. She is currently developing a new project on family history, migration, race and settler colonialism. 



    The Disappearance of Lydia Harvey: One trial, six lives and the dawn of the twentieth century (April, 2021) 

    Co-authored with Samantha Caslin, Wolfenden’s Women:  Prostitution in Post-War Britain  (submitting manuscript to Palgrave in January, 2019)

    Common Prostitutes and Ordinary Citizens: Commercial Sex in London, 1885-1960 (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011)


    Journal Articles

    ‘Schooners and schoonermen, my grandfather and me’, History Workshop Journal (expected publication autumn 2019)

    ‘The Emmet’s Inch: ‘Small’ History in a Digital Age’, Journal of Social History (expected publication 2019)

     ‘Prostitution and Work’, Journal of Women’s History Roundtable, Journal of Women’s History, (2018)

    ‘Traffickers and Pimps in the Era of White Slavery’, Past & Present, Volume 237, Issue 1, 1 November 2017, Pages 237–269

    ‘Between Scylla and Charybdis:  Women’s Labour Migration and Sex Trafficking in the Early Twentieth Century,’ International Review of Social History Volume 62, Issue 1 April 2017, pp. 37-65

    ‘Justifiable Sensationalism: Newspapers, Public Opinion, and Official Policy about Commercial Sex in Twentieth-Century Britain’, Media History 20, 2 (2015) 126-145

    ‘Immoral Traffic: Sex, Mobility, Labour and the Lorry Girl in early Twentieth Century Britain’ Journal of British Studies 52, 3 (2013) 693-721

    ‘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


    Book Chapters
    ‘London’, in Selling Sex in World Cities (London: Berg, 2018)

     Other selected publications

    ‘Know your history?  From Victorians to Housewives, Five Myths Exposed’, The Guardian, 9 December 2014

    ‘Making Men Moral by an Act of Parliament:  Criminalizing Men’s Involvement in Prostitution, Past and Present’, History and Policy, 24 October 2014  

    ‘No “solving” of the Jack the Ripper case will ever satisfy our obsession,’ The Guardian 9 September 2014

    Review of 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

    ‘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

    Research Centres and Institutes

  • Supervision and teaching

    Supervision and teaching


    Dr. Laite supervises doctoral projects related to migration law and policy in modern british history, sex and gender in the modern British world, sexual and intimate labour, and modern British social and cultural history.  She also supervises projects that are methodologically interested in uncovering marginal experiences and voices, and using creative and socially engaged research methods.

    Current doctoral researchers


    Doctoral alumni

  • Publications




  • Business and community

    Business and community


    I am happy to receive enquiries from the media on the following topics:

    • Prostitution and Trafficking
    • Migration history
    • Public history and family history


      Academic Lead, North Kensington Archive and Heritage Project, Heritage Lottery Funded project documenting the community history of those affected by the Grenfell Tower Fire