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    United Kingdom

Accepting PhD Students

PhD projects

I am open to PhD applications, with a British or Irish focus, in the fields of:
- Oral history
- Working class community (including deindustrialisation)
- Gender history
- Social history of Belfast since Partition


Research activity per year

Personal profile


Sean's teaching interests include working class family and community, oral history, gender history, consumerism, the social history of modern Britain and the social history of modern Belfast. In recent years, he has been involved heavily in unearthing the hidden history of Northern Ireland's mother and baby institutions and Magdalene laundries.

Research Statement

Sean's first monograph on the history of the car was part of the shift in British social history away from the study of production towards the analysis of consumption and consumers. Subsequent projects continued this interest. These analyzed the origins of men's consumer magazines, the social and business history of mail order catalogues, working class experiences of consumer credit and debt, and the history of `joyriding.' His research has been supported by grants from the ESRC, the Leverhulme Trust (twice), and the AHRC. Sean's most recently published monograph was The Politics of Consumer Credit in the UK, 1938-1992 (Oxford University Press, 2018). He is currently completing a monograph for Palgrave Pivot on the history of joyriding.  January 2021 saw the publication of a research project that was commissioned by the Department of Health (NI), examining the history of mother and baby homes and Magdalene laundries in Northern Ireland. This research (with co-investigator Leanne McCormick of UU) details the Northern Ireland experience of institutions that have provided so much concern and trauma in the Republic of Ireland. The report garnered very significant public interest and was a key stepping stone to the decision by the NI Executive that a full public inquiry will be established to examine these institutions further.  In April 2023, Sean was appointed Co-Chair of the Truth Recovery Independent Panel that will continue this examination of mother and baby institutions, Magdalene laundries and Workhouses to produce an extensive independent report and an archive of oral and archival evidence that will be deployed by a full public inquiry that will examine these institutions and the pathways and practices associated with them. 


Dr Sean O'Connell teaches on the following programmes / modules:



HIS3012Working Class communities in tthe UK 1900-1970
HIS2063Recording History 


MHY7089 - Module on Difficult Oral Histories

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions


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Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

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