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Profile summary

  • Emeritus Professor
  • Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences
  • School of Hist, Rel St, Soc, SP&C
  • History
  • david.vincent

Professional biography

David Vincent was an undergraduate at the University of York and gained a PhD at Sidney Sussex College Cambridge.  He became Lecturer in History at Keele University in 1974, leaving as Professor of Social History and Deputy Vice Chancellor in 2003 to take up the post of Pro Vice Chancellor (Strategy and External Affairs) at the Open University.  He is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and the Royal Society of Arts.  Now Emeritus Professor in History, he was a full-time member of the History Department between 2010 and 2014. He was a Visiting Fellow of Kellogg College, Oxford 2004-11, and of Wolfson College, Cambridge, Michaelmas Term 2015.  He is currently a Visiting Fellow on the Technology and Democracy Project, Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH), University of Cambridge.

Research interests

David Vincent’s research interests cover working-class autobiography, British and European Literacy, and the cultural and political histories of secrecy and privacy.  He is the author or editor of seventeen books including, Bread Knowledge and Freedom. A Study of Nineteenth Century Working Class Autobiography (Europa 1979, Methuen 1982);The Autobiography of the Working Class [with John Burnet and David Mayall], 3 vols (Harvester 1984, 1987, 1989); Literacy and Popular Culture.  England 1750-1914(Cambridge University Press 1989, 1993); The Culture of Secrecy: Britain 1832-1998 (Oxford University Press 1998); The Rise of Mass Literacy. Reading and Writing in Modern Europe (Polity Press, 2000). 

His most recent books are: I hope I Don’t Intrude. Privacy and its Dilemmas in Nineteenth-Century Britain (Oxford University Press, 2015) and Privacy. A Short History (Polity Press, Cambridge, 2016).   His chapter on ‘Working Class Autobiography’ has lately been published in Adam Smyth (ed.) A History of English Autobiography (Cambridge University Press, 2016).   He has in press ‘The Modern History of Literacy’ in The Oxford Handbook of the History of Education, edited by John L. Rury and Eileen H. Tamura (Oxford University Press) and is writing a chapter on ‘Dickens and Social Reform’ for the forthcoming Oxford Handbook to Charles Dickens.  He has written on the historical context of the current controversies over government surveillance, including ‘Surveillance, Privacy and History’, History and Policy October 2013. Read this online, and has recently given papers on ‘Privacy and the Liberal State’ and on the draft Investigatory Powers Bill for the Technology and Democracy Project at CRASSH, Cambridge. 

His next major project is provisionally entitled Solitude and Society.  Britain 1800-2016. 

Teaching interests

He has written two units for the third-level module on twentieth-century history, A327, Europe 1914-1989: war, peace, modernity.  These cover the media in the Second World War, and cold-war cultures.  

Research Activity

Research groups

NameTypeParent Unit
British and Irish History GroupGroupFaculty of Arts


Literacy Literacy (2003-12)
Vincent, David
Interchange, 34(2-3) (pp. 341-357)
The Progress of Literacy (2003-04)
Vincent, D.M.
Victorian Studies, 45(3) (pp. 405-431)
The end of literacy: the growth and measurement of British public education since the early nineteenth century (2011-08-01)
Vincent, David
In: Bayly, C. A.; Rao, Vijayendra ; Szreter , Simon and Woolcock , Michael eds. History, Historians and Development Policy: A Necessary Dialogue (pp. 177-192)
ISBN : 978-07190-8576-5 | Publisher : Manchester University Press | Published : Manchester
Government and the management of information 1844-2009 (2011-05)
Vincent, David
In: Gunn, Simon and Vernon, James eds. The Peculiarities of Liberal Modernity in Imperial Britain. Berkeley Series in British Studies (pp. 165-181)
ISBN : 9780984590957 | Publisher : University of California Press | Published : Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA, USA and London, UK
“History must be written imperfectly”: closure and disclosure in British Public Records 1838-2006 (2009)
Vincent, David
In: Flynn, Andrew and Jones, Harriet eds. Freedom of Information. Open Access, Empty Archives? (pp. 9-22)
ISBN : 978-1-85743-420-0 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : London and New York
Reading (2009)
Colclough, Stephen and Vincent, David
In: McKitterick, David ed. The Cambridge History of the Book in Britain Vol. VI (pp. 281-323)
ISBN : 978-1-906518-66-0 | Publisher : Cambridge University Press | Published : Cambridge
Dickens's reading public (2006)
Vincent, David
In: Pattern, Robert L. and Bowden, John eds. Palgrave advances in Charles Dickens studies (pp. 176-197)
ISBN : 1 4039 1286 6 | Publisher : Palgrave Macmillan | Published : London, UK
The Post (2005)
Vincent, David
In: Graff, Harvey J.; Moch, Leslie P. and McMichael, Philip eds. Looking backward and looking forward: perspectives on social science history (pp. 168-175)
ISBN : 0-299-20344-1 | Publisher : University of Wisconsin Press | Published : Madison, USA
Language, print and electoral politics, 1790-1832 (2001-04)
Barker, Hannah and Vincent, David eds.
Parlimentary History Record Series
ISBN : 0 85115 810 2 | Publisher : The Boydell Press/The Parlimentary History Yearbook Trust | Published : UK