Martin Hewitt is a historian of nineteenth century British history and culture. He studied Modern History at Oriel College, Oxford (BA 1983), before completing an MBA at the University of Warwick (1984), an M.A. in History at the University of New Brunswick (1986), and returning to Oxford to study for a DPhil in History at Nuffield College. He has taught at the L.S.E., the University of Hull, Leeds Trinity University, and Manchester Metropolitan University. He was Head of History and then History, Politics and Philosophy at MMU (2008-12), Head of the School of Music, Humanities and Media at the University of Huddersfield (2012-16), and PVC and Dean of Arts, Law and Social Sciences at Anglia Ruskin University (2016-2018). Since 2018 he has been Research Professor in History at Anglia Ruskin.
Between 1994 and 1999 he was the founding editor of the Journal of Victorian Culture, and from 2000 to 2008 he served as the Honorary Secretary of the British Association for Victorian Studies. He has been a Visiting Fellow or Professor at the Humanities Research Centre, Australian National University, the Institute of Advanced Studies, Loughborough University, Université de Cergy-Pontoise, La Trobe University, and the Université Paris VII – Denis Diderot.
Martin served as co-chair of the Manchester Histories Festival (2009-12), as a member of the Steering Group of the Manchester Histories Strategy (2008-12) and of the Manchester Blue Plaques Advisory Panel (2010-12). He was a trustee for the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival (2013-16).
His research has concentrated on four overlapping areas: popular science cultures, nineteenth-century urban history, Victorian cultural institutions, and Victorian Studies as an interdisciplinary field. He has also published and presented on Victorian diaries and autobiography. His essay ‘Why the Notion of Victorian Britain Does Make Sense’, was awarded the Donald Gray Prize in 2006, and The Dawn of the Cheap Press in Victorian Britain. The campaigns against the taxes on knowledge, 1849-1869 (2013), was honourably mentioned for the 2014 Colby Prize.
Darwinism’s Generations: the reception of Darwinian evolution in Britain, 1859-1909
This project operates at two levels. Its immediate focus is an exploration of the generational patterning of the reception of Darwinian evolutionary thought in Britain during the 50 years after the publication of On the Origin of Species in 1859. It will also operate as a ‘proof of concept’ case study for the Victorian Generations project outlined below. To date responses have been collected for over 800 individuals whose generational identities can be ascertained, drawn from science, religion, literature, politics, history, anthropology, sociology, philosophy and philology, across classes and genders. Examined through this schema the conventional picture of the reception of Darwin can be reframed, illuminating the strength of the influence of generational identities in the patterning of responses, and in turn the durability of anti-Darwinian positions, the persistence of a multi-layered demographics of engagement, and the extent to which the shift towards a Darwinian orthodoxy and then its eclipse proceeded not by conversion but by generational succession.
The Victorians (OUP Very Short Introductions)
This is a commission for a 30,000 word reinterpretation of period designed for a general readership, to comprise of six short chapters and a key list of further readings. The chapters will examine the twentieth century legacies and persistences of the Victorian period, and in particular the powerful connotative power which ‘Victorian’ came to acquire; the extent to which it does make sense to talk about a Victorian ‘period’, and the ways in which the period might be sub-divided; the conventional characteristics of the period generally wrapped up in the concept of ‘Victorianism’ exploring the balance of caricature and reality which underpin them; the structural configurations and consistencies which helped to give the period its identity; will look at the Victorians as individuals, reworking the conventional ‘eminent Victorians’ approach, and presenting exemplary generational biographies; and finally will look at the global interrelationships which framed and refracted a Victorian world.
The intention is that this will be determinedly not a textbook, but an attempt to capture and encapsulate the distinctiveness of the Victorian period; not in any sense a new Victorian England: Portrait of an Age, but an interpretation which shares the ambition of G.M. Young’s classic text to communicate with nuance but also clarity the personality of the period as it has been uncovered and understood by modern scholarship.
Routledge Nineteenth Century British Society
Martin is co-editor with Professor Susie Steinbach (Hamline University, St Paul, Minnesota) of a large digital resource for the nineteenth century social history of Britain, as one of the Routledge Historical Resources series, which offer access to primary source material, selected secondary literature from the Routledge back-catalogue, along with specially commissioned subject introductions, thematic essays, video essays, and an image bank. Scheduled launch date 2021.
This project is the broader context of the Darwin study detailed above, with resonances with a long-standing interest in questions of periodization; it seeks to develop a model of generational formation and influence appropriate to the nineteenth century, and to explore the extent to which Victorian history was powerfully structured by generational influences. The project deploys and will help to refine a generational schema which addresses some of the drawbacks both of the dominant sociological model developed by Karl Mannheim, and its application. As part of this work, Martin is involved in the Wellcome Trust funded network, ‘Generations: what’s in the concept and how should it be used?’.
Tyndall Correspondence Project
Martin will be co-editor with Ian Hesketh (University of Queensland) of Volume 17, (December 1881-November 1885) of the Correspondence of John Tyndall project (Pittsburgh University Press), general editor Professor Bernie Lightman, York University Canada.
Public Lecturing in Victorian Britain
This is an interest of very long-standing, part of a wider interest in cultures of orality which will be pursued by the first Belcher Colloquium on Victorian Talk in June 2020, and will hopefully ultimately result in a substantial study of this ubiquitous by still only unevenly researched aspect of nineteenth century cultural life.