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Personal profile


My primary areas of interest relate to experiences of major transitions in political economy, in particular how industrial policy interventions shape long-term changes of labour market restructuring act to reshape politics, consciousness and identities. My background is in historically informed critical social science approaches to deindustrialisation. The focus of my research related policy-making processes and application to complex changes in social structures and economic performance. This includes emphasis not only on the processes and effectiveness of policy but also consideration of how transitions in energy generation and employment structures contribute to shifting conceptions of locale and nation. These interests intersect with my research background in oral history and the study of memory, considering both how individuals construct life-story narratives and the importance of the recollection of collective experiences for establishing meaning and senses of place.

Area of academic expertise - outline


My expertise relate to the study of industrial policy-making and application, with a long-term perspective on how policies shape labour markets and have been received, altered and opposed within communities impacted by them. My research focuses on the experience of the coalfield contraction in Scotland between the 1940s and 1980s, emphasising the phased but qualitative nature of the loss of industrial employment. This research relates detailed discussion of the activities of policy-networks operating at Scottish and UK level to the experience of workers and communities. Through detailed analysis of archival sources I construct a multi-faceted analysis incorporating the voices of policy-makers of varying levels of seniority, industry management and workers and their organisations. My extensive experience in leading oral history projects has allowed me to further develop these perspectives, emphasising the longue durée nature of labour market transitions and the less tangible but fundamental impact that processes of policy deliberation and implementation have on culture and memory. I have made contributions to the study of political economy, industrial policy, nationalism, political activism and memory studies which is reflected in a growing wealth of publications. Furthermore I have also acquired experience in public history having worked with both public sector and community stakeholders in developing museum exhibitions and archives using oral histories and other sources related to the history of work, labour and activism.


Current research activities

I am presently engaged in two significant research projects. I was awarded a Small Grant by the RSE to allow me to visit the National Archives, Kew, to consult documents relating to energy policy-making and coalfield manpower planning between the 1940s and 1980s. My research focus will be on the transition to multi-fuel power generation which accelerated markedly during the 1960s as the Harold Wilson government prioritised developing oil, gas and nuclear over coal. This episode was formative in cementing arguments for Scottish devolution within the labour movement as colliery closures and mining job losses mounted. Thus, this research will reveal key centralised and devolved dimensions of energy policy-making. On completing my archival visits I will submit a monograph proposal which makes significant advances upon my thesis in terms of adding new empirical material and developing a more comprehensive theoretical framework incorporating how formulations of social justice in employment practices related to political consciousness and national frames of reference.


Furthermore, I am also engaged in an oral history project with the Caterpillar Workers’ Legacy Group. The group was formed by former trade union activists involved in the occupation of the Caterpillar factory at Tannochside factory in 1987. This protest against the closure of the plant and the loss of 1,200 jobs lasted for over 100 days and was a major political event that had ramifications across Scotland and important international connections. The oral histories I have collected will be used in conference papers and two projected journal articles; the first will be a contribution to the history of the occupation itself and the second a discussion on the memory and meaning of the occupation as mobilised by the Legacy Group and varying political and media actors. Furthermore, my research has a significant public history impact. The Legacy Group are using my oral histories as part of an exhibition at Bellshill running over April and May 2017 and they will also be used within a larger exhibition in Lanarkshire. Following this, a smaller travelling exhibition will travel the UK and finally, upon the completion of the Group’s activity the testimonies will form part of a publicly accessible archive to be stored within Lanarkshire.

Desired research direction

Moving forward I wish to incorporate a greater emphasis upon migration and the international dimensions of historical and contemporary experiences of work and labour. I have taken steps towards this through a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship grant application which was supported by UWS via a match funding commitment. If funded this project will centre on the experience of international migration into the UK coalfields, through a study of Black Commonwealth, Chilean and Eastern European workers and their families. The emphasis will be on how these workers experienced processes of acceptance and othering within the colliery workforce and in coalfield communities. My commitment to the study of movements of labour and considering constructions of solidarity and difference is also reflected in being named alongside Duncan Sim and Murray Leith on a Carnegie grant bid to study returnee Scottish migrants from England. This research will consider how elements of economic opportunity or belonging shaped rationales and narratives for decisions to both leave Scotland and come back. Furthermore I intend to undertake future collaborative research on the particular experience of Scottish miners who migrated to the English Midlands during the 1960s but who continue to maintain distinctive collective associations and identities. This work will possibly be conducted in collaboration with the Miners and Steelworkers’ Study Group of which I am a member. The group will be formally launched at a conference hosted by the National Coal Mining Museum of England towards the end of this year.

Target collaborative organisations

Coal and Steelworkers' Research Group, Centre for Business History in Scotland, Leverhulme

External positions

Researh Associate, Centre for Business History in Scotland

2017 → …


  • HC Economic History and Conditions
  • deindustrialisation
  • labour markets
  • FDI
  • ownership
  • deindustrialization
  • moral economy
  • public ownership
  • nationalisation
  • D204 Modern History
  • Scotland
  • devolution
  • deindustrialisation
  • deindustrialization
  • activism
  • trade unions
  • work
  • labour
  • HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
  • trade unions
  • social movements
  • activism
  • moral economy
  • employment
  • accidents
  • danger
  • coal
  • miners' strike
  • HT Communities. Classes. Races
  • coalfields
  • mining
  • coal
  • working class
  • class consciousness
  • narratives
  • memory
  • nostalgia
  • moral economy
  • HX Socialism. Communism. Anarchism
  • Communism
  • CPGB
  • McGhaey
  • Daily
  • anit-impeiralism
  • internationalism
  • anit-colonialism
  • Scotland
  • nationalism

Fingerprint Fingerprint is based on mining the text of the person's scientific documents to create an index of weighted terms, which defines the key subjects of each individual researcher.

de-industrialization Social Sciences
economy Social Sciences
precarious employment Social Sciences
business history Social Sciences
industrial nation Social Sciences
industrial economy Social Sciences
economic planning Social Sciences
narrative Social Sciences

Network Recent external collaboration on country level. Dive into details by clicking on the dots.

Research Output 2014 2018

precarious employment

Who owns a factory?: Caterpillar tractors in Uddingston, 1956-1987

Gibbs, E. & Phillips, J. 13 Sep 2018 In : Historical Studies in Industrial Relations. 39, p. 111-137 27 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

social infrastructure
labor market
coal mining
Open Access

Who’s “Normal”?: Class, Culture and Labour Politics in a Fragmented Britain

Gibbs, E. 1 Mar 2017 In : Renewal. 25, 1, p. 86-91 6 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Open Access
capitalist society


EBHA Honourable Mention

Ewan Gibbs (Recipient), Jun 2015

Prize: Other distinction

business history

Activities 2013 2018

NW Posthumus Conference: Global Inequality Trends and Theories

Gibbs, E. (Invited speaker)
25 May 2018

Activity: Invited talk

Scottish Educational Research Association Annual Conference 2018

Gibbs, E. (Speaker), Henderson, S. (Speaker), Bianchi, V. (Invited speaker)
22 Nov 2018

Activity: Participation in conference

CiCea International Conference 2018and 2nd Joint Conference with CitizED

Gibbs, E. (Speaker)
13 May 2018

Activity: Participation in conference

Factory Occupations in British Labour History

Gibbs, E. (Invited speaker)
8 Jun 2018

Activity: Invited talk

Masculinities in Twentieth Century Britain

Gibbs, E. (Speaker), Rory Scothorne (Speaker)
1 Jun 2018

Activity: Participation in workshop, seminar, course

Press / Media

Scotland’s workforce: Where are most Scots employed in 2017?

Ewan Gibbs


1 media contribution

Press/Media: Expert Comment