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Harry Smith, BA, MSt, DPhil

Harry Smith, BA, MSt, DPhil

Research Associate

Social and economic history of Britain from the late eighteenth century to the early twentieth; history of Birmingham from the early eighteenth century to the present day; historical methodology and theory.



  • 2014-15: Research Assistant, Oxford University (Victorian Professions project)
  • 2015-present: Research Associate, Cambridge Group for the History of Population and Social Structure (The Drivers of Entrepreneurship and Small Business project)


  • 2009 BA History, Oxford University
  • 2010 MSt History, Oxford University
  • 2013 DPhil History, Oxford University


I am broadly interested in the social and economic history of Britain between 1780 and 1914. My previous work has focused on the history of social groups and the methods by which historians define and study them. In my doctoral work on the history of Birmingham I considered how historians might better conceptualise the industrial middle classes. Since then I have been moving forward chronologically and I have recently worked on the question of whether the professions formed a coherent social group in nineteenth-century Britain. In this previous work I have been interested in tracing, through record linkage and prosopography, the different groups identified when different criteria and sources are used. Conceptualising society in this way, as consisting of multiple overlapping social groups arranged in a complex hierarchy, rather than a simple social ladder, produces a more nuanced understanding of industrial Britain.

Currently, I am involved in the ESRC-funded project 'The Drivers of Entrepreneurship and Small Business'. This project traces the scale and characteristics of business ownership in nineteenth-century Britain. This work ties in with my previous interest in the changing structure of British society, and in particular how employment status overlaps with other aspects of life and socio-economic status. I have particularly focused on the relationship between entrepreneurship and migration, entrepreneurship and demography and also on the geography of entrepreneurship.


  • Smith, H. (2015), 'William Hutton and the Myths of Birmingham', Midland History, 40/1: 53-73.
  • Smith, H. (2010), '"The blessedness of those who are persecuted for righteousness sake": The Role of "Candour" and the Priestley Riots in Birmingham Unitarian Identity, 1791-1815', Midland History, 35/2: 174-90.