Skip to content

Toggle service links

Coronavirus: Course registration is open, but please be aware it may take us longer to respond than usual. Find out about our coronavirus response and current contact hours.

You are here

  1. Home
  2. Dr Donna Loftus

Dr Donna Loftus

Profile summary

Professional biography

I am Associate Dean for Curriculum, Qualifications and Partnerships in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences and a Senior Lecturer in the History department.

I joined the OU in 2000 after research and teaching posts at the University of Portsmouth and the University of Chichester including a British Academy funded project, ‘Autobiography and the Victorian middle-class’. I have continued to develop research and teaching on nineteenth-century British socio-economic and cultural history. Working at the OU has enabled me to pursue interests in inter-disciplinarity, opening up traditional topics to new methods, questions and approaches, and helping make British history relevant to a broad range of students.

Research interests

My research interests are centred on responses to, and perceptions of, industrial and urban life in nineteenth-century Britain. In particular, it focuses on the relationship between political economy, social investigation and the everyday experience of business and work.

‘Life writing and Victorian culture’
This research considers how middle-class men emerged as a historical force in the nineteenth century.  It focuses on the way economic and social transition were understood through life writing and the different types of temporalities used to explain continuity and change.

‘Capital and labour: Manufacturing consensus’
This project examines the use of capital and labour as mechanisms for describing capitalism and organising industry in nineteenth-century England. It explores the co-existence of the free market, self-help and social mobility alongside more rigid ideas of community and class.

‘Work in Nineteenth Century London’
A third aspect of research, initially funded through the Open University’s Research Development Fund and the Economic History Society, explores the nature of work in London, the links between production and consumption and the status of the small master who is neither capitalist nor artisan. This area of research is currently being developed into a study of the everyday logic of the late nineteenth century metropolitan manufacturing economy.


Teaching interests

I teach the social and cultural history of Britain in relation to the wider world. I am currently Chair of a new course in production 'The British Isles and the Modern World, 1789 to 1914'. I wrote ‘Men, women and Empire’ for the third level History course Empire: 1492 to 1975 and ‘The ‘new imperialism’ - Africa and the Victorians’, for the second level History course Exploring History: Medieval to Modern 1400-1900.

I am also interested in method and interdisciplinarity. I worked with Art Historians to produce teaching material on ‘Art of Benin: changing relations between Europe and Africa’ for the undergraduate foundation course The Arts Past and Present. I have also worked with colleagues in Literature to produce a case study on Victorian Manchester, exploring different responses to industrialisation, for the Level 1 Module Voices and Texts.

I am currently supervising  PhD students on aspects of nineteenth century social and cultural history. I would be interested in hearing from students considering a thesis on culture and society (including class and class relations), the market and social reform in nineteenth century Britain.

Impact and engagement

I am a menber of the Social History Society and one of the convenors of the strand on 'Economies, culture and consumption'.


Time, history and the making of the industrial middle class: the story of Samuel Smith (2017-02)
Loftus, Donna
Social History, 42(1) (pp. 29-51)

Work, poverty and modernity in Mayhew's London (2014-12-01)
Loftus, Donna
Journal of Victorian Culture, 19(4) (pp. 507-519)

Investigating work in late nineteenth-century London (2011-04)
Loftus, Donna
History Workshop Journal, 71(1) (pp. 173-193)

Capital and community: limited liability and attempts to democratize the market in mid-Nineteenth Century England (2002)
Loftus, Donna
Victorian Studies, 45(1 Special) (pp. 93-120)

The self-made man: businessmen and their autobiographies in nineteenth century Britain (2000)
Loftus, D.
Business Archives, 80 (pp. 12-30)

Industrial regulation, urban space and the boundaries of the workplace: mid-Victorian Nottingham (1999)
Gray, Robert and Loftus, Donna
Urban History, 26(2) (pp. 211-229)

Markets and culture (2018-02-02)
Loftus, Donna
In: Handley, Sasha; McWilliam, Rohan and Noakes, Lucy eds. New Directions in Social and Cultural History (pp. 109-128)
ISBN : 978-1-4725-8080-1 | Publisher : Bloomsbury | Published : London

Entrepreneurialism or gentlemanly capitalism (2012-03-27)
Loftus, Donna
In: Hewitt, Martin ed. The Victorian World. Routledge Worlds
ISBN : 9780415491877 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : Abingdon, UK

Self-made men and the civic: time, space and narrative in late nineteenth-century autobiography (2011)
Loftus, Donna
In: Baggerman, Arianne; Dekker, Rudolph and Mascuch, Michael eds. Controlling Time and Shaping the Self. Developments in Autobiographical Writing since the Sixteenth Century. Egodocuments and History (3)
ISBN : 9789004195004 | Publisher : Brill | Published : Leiden

Limited liability, market democracy, and the social organization of production in mid-nineteenth century Britain (2009)
Loftus, Donna
In: Henry, Nancy and Schmitt, Cannon eds. Victorian Investments: New Perspectives on Finance and Culture (pp. 79-97)
ISBN : 9780253220271 | Publisher : Indiana University Press | Published : Bloomington

The self in society: middle-class men and autobiography (2006-03)
Loftus, Donna
In: Amigoni, David ed. Life Writing and Victorian Culture. The Nineteenth Century (pp. 67-86)
ISBN : 754635317 | Publisher : Ashgate | Published : Aldershot, UK

Industrial conciliation, class co-operation and the urban landscape in mid-Victorian England (2000-04)
Loftus, Donna
In: Morris, Robert J. and Trainor, Richard H. eds. Urban Governance: Britain and Beyond Since 1750. Historical Urban Studies Series (pp. 182-198)
ISBN : 9780754600152 | Publisher : Ashgate | Published : Aldershot