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Dr Frances Houghton

Profile summary

Professional biography

I joined the OU as Lecturer and Staff Tutor in History in 2023, following teaching and research posts at the University of Manchester. Prior to that, I gained my PhD from the University of Edinburgh in 2015, where I held posts as a Teaching Fellow in British Social History in 2015 and 2016. During this period I also worked as a Lecturer and Tutor on the Lothians Equal Access Programme for Schools, helping to widen access to the University of Edinburgh among local school students in Scotland.

In 2016, I joined the University of Manchester as Lecturer in Modern British History, before taking up a Simon Research Fellowship at the university between 2019-22. Bringing my research interests in the cultural and military history of Britain at war after 1939 to the Open University, I am a new member of the History Department’s Centre for War and Peace in the Twentieth Century.

Research interests

My research interests lie in the social, cultural, emotional and medical history of Britain’s armed forces during and after the Second World War. I have published on veterans’ life-writing; cultural memories of war; naval humour; race and ethnicity in the Royal Navy; and POWs’ memoirs.

My research focus is interdisciplinary, exploring memory; identity; self-fashioning; narrative representation; and life-writing among British military and medical personnel. My first book, The Veterans’ Tale: British Military Memoirs of the Second World War (CUP, 2019) examined ageing soldiers’ lived and remembered experiences of battle between 1939 and 1945. I have been awarded the following prizes for this book:

  • Society for Army Historical Research Templer First Book Prize
  • University of Manchester Research Staff Strategy Group Excellence Award for ‘Best Outstanding Output’ 
  • Shortlisted for Royal Historical Society’s Whitfield Prize

In my new project, I am working on the history of masculinity, medical care and emotions in the Royal Navy during the Second World War. Currently I am writing my second book on this topic.


Teaching interests

I am a member of the module team for A225, The British Isles and the Modern World, 1789–1914, and A327, Europe 1914-1989: War, Peace, Modernity. I also manage a team of Associate Lecturers on the interdisciplinary module A113Revolutions.

Impact and engagement

I am interested in using my research to develop public knowledge and understanding of the cultural legacies of the Second World War in Britain. I have acted as historical consultant for the BBC’s Antiques Roadshow programme and written articles for popular historical magazines:

‘Is the story of “the Few” more myth than reality?’, ‘Head-to-Head Debate’ in History Today (July 2020), 8-9.

‘The Last Battle: Bomber Command’s Veterans and the Fight for Remembrance’, The Historian, 144 (Winter/Spring 2020), 6-10.

Between 2020 and 2021, I worked with the Imperial War Museum on their project, Connecting, Sharing, Learning: Sustaining Relationships Between Collections and Older Communities During the COVID-19 Pandemic, which delivered virtual programming and digital collections to help alleviate social isolation among elderly care home residents during the pandemic.

I have also published blogs discussing racial discrimination and national belonging in the Royal Navyanti-vaxxers and the RN during the Second World War; transnational medical cooperation in 1942; and the (in)famous libel trial of Broome v. Cassell in 1972.

External collaborations

In 2022, I joined the Steering Committee for the major Heritage Lottery Fund and University of Oxford project Their Finest Hour: Crowdsourcing the Public’s Heritage of the Second World War. I was appointed as a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society in 2020. Additionally, I am a member of the Social History Society, Friends of Millbank, Society for Nautical Research, Imperial War Museum Subject Specialist Network, Second World War Research Group, and the Second World War Research Network.

Between 2012-14, I served as a reader for the James Tait Black Prize (non-fiction) in Edinburgh.


Towards a More Inclusive Modern British History? Reflecting on Barriers, Challenges, and Opportunities in Twenty-First Century UK Higher Education (2024-03)
Houghton, Frances
Modern British History, 35(1) (pp. 50-54)

Under the ‘Best Possible Protection’? Violence and Medical Care in British Warships and Hospital Ships during the Second World War (2023)
Houghton, Frances
Humanity: An International Journal of Human Rights, Humanitarianism, and Development, 14(3) (pp. 420-434)

‘Alien Seamen’ or ‘Imperial Family’? Race, Belonging and British Sailors of Colour in the Royal Navy, 1939–47 (2022-10)
Houghton, Frances
The English Historical Review, 137(588) (pp. 1429-1461)