"Accidents and Emergencies: Risk, Welfare and Safety in Europe and North America, c. 1750–2000"

We are pleased to announce the release of three podcasts recorded at:

"Accidents and Emergencies: Risk, Welfare and Safety in Europe and North America, c. 1750–2000"

9–11 September 2013, Oxford Brookes University

Co-organised with the University of Portsmouth, UK



1. Bill Luckin (University of Bolton, UK)

A hidden history: Drink, travel and accidents in the nineteenth century

(Introduced by: Mike Esbester)

[1hr8min, no slides]


2. Arwen Mohun(University of Delaware, USA)

Writing the history of risk: Questions, methods and reasons why

(Introduced by: Tom Crook)

[55min,  15 slides]


3., Concluding Roundtable:  "Histories of risk in policy and practice"

An open discussion led by Glen O’Hara (Oxford Brookes), with

John Rimington (former Director-General of the UK Health and Safety Executive)

Neal Stone (British Safety Council)

Tim Carter

David Eves (Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents)

[59min, 10 slides]


Further Links

British Safety Council

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents


About the Conference

Funded by Oxford Brookes University’s Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences; the Oxford Brookes Centre for Health, Medicine and Society: Past and Present; the Centre for European and International Studies Research at the University of Portsmouth; the Economic History Society of the UK; and the Wellcome Trust.

This conference brought together people interested in the history of risk, safety and accidents, including academics from a range of disciplines and policy-makers and practitioners. It aimed to take stock of the present by focusing on modern Europe and North America from roughly 1750 onwards, with a view to:

  • rethinking the history of risk, welfare and safety;
  • encouraging a more integrated approach to their empirical study and conceptualisation;
  • opening up new historical and sociological perspectives through which we might better grasp the present.


Please see below for the full conference programme.

The conference was organised by Dr Mike Esbester (University of Portsmouth) and Dr Tom Crook (Oxford Brookes University).


People interested in the history of risk, safety and accidents might be interested in a newly-formed network to explore these topics: H-Risk-and-Safety. Part of the H-Net group, it aims to promote an interdisciplinary, intellectual exchange about the history of risk, accidents and safety. For more information and to sign up, please see: http://www.h-net.org/~risk/


Full Programme

 Monday, 9th September, 2013

12-2pm: Delegates arrive; lunch and refreshments available (BG05)


2-2.30pm: Introduction: Tom Crook and Mike Esbester (BG10)


2.30-4pm: Plenary keynote – Bill Luckin, University of Bolton, UK

“A hidden history: Drink, travel and accidents in the nineteenth century”

(Chair: Mike Esbester) (BG10)


4-4.30pm: Refreshments (BG05)


4.30-6pm: Parallel sessions 1 & 2

1. Industrial risks, technology and workplace accidents (Chair: Mike Esbester) (BG10)

“Workplace accidents, serious injuries and the introduction of steam and iron to nineteenth-century naval shipbuilding”: Richard Biddle, University of Oxford, Wellcome Trust Unit for the History of Medicine, where he’s working on the project ‘From Sail to Steam: Health, Medicine and the Victorian Navy’.

“Genie of the Lamp: John Buddle and the Davy Lamp in the North-Eastern coalfields, 1816-1836”: Mia McCabe is researching innovations in coal mining technology in the North East under the sponsorship of the AHRC and in collaboration with the North of England Institute of Mining and Mechanical Engineers.

“Emergency and welfare: coalmining, disability and the poor law, 1880-1948”: Mike Mantin, Research Fellow at Swansea University for the Disability and Industrial Society project, a collaborative Wellcome Trust-funded initiative between five British Universities.


2. Infrastructural technologies and the management of risk (Chair: Ryan Vieira) (BG11)

“Acculturating industrial risk in France, 1790-1840”: Thomas Le Roux, Researcher at the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS).

“Dread, danger and drains: Sewer gas and the Victorian city”: Tom Crook, Lecturer in Modern British History, Oxford Brookes University


6-7.30pm: Wine reception (BG05)


Tuesday, 10th September, 2013

9-9.30am: Refreshments (BG05)


9.30-11am: Parallel sessions 3 & 4


3. Shock, trauma and sensation: representing accidents and emergencies (Chair: Tom Crook) (BG10)

“Rethinking the origins and early stages of risk society: accidents, chance and risk in early nineteenth-century Britain”: Ryan Vieira is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, Berkeley, where he’s completing a manuscript on the history of procedural modernization in the Victorian House of Commons.

“Remembering and forgetting sites of reform in New York”: R.J. Wilson, Senior Lecturer in Modern History and Public Heritage, University of Chichester.


4. Preventing accidents: health and safety education (Chair: Fran Dodsworth) (BG11)

“The Discipline of Safety: Preventing Accidents in Britain after 1913”: Mike Esbester, Lecturer in History, University of Portsmouth.

“Accident Prevention in Early Twentieth-Century Québec and the Construction of a Masculine Technical Expertise”: Magda Fahrni is Professeure agrégée (Associate Professor) in the Department of History at the Université du Québec à Montréal.

“Traffic Safety Education in Poland under Socialism: The Story of Institutional Inertia”: Mariusz Jastrząb is Assistant Professor of Economic and Social History, Kozminski University, Warsaw, Poland


11-11.30am: Refreshments (BG05)


11.30am-1pm: Plenary keynote – Arwen Mohun, University of Delaware, USA

“Writing the history of risk: Questions, methods and reasons why”

(Chair: Tom Crook) (BG10)


1-2pm: Lunch (BG05)


2-3pm: Parallel sessions 5 & 6


5. Disease prevention and risk management (Chair: Tom Crook) (BG10)

“Prevent, eradicate and avoid: epidemics and the state in nineteenth-century northern Portugal”: Alexandra Esteves has a PhD in Contemporary History from the University of Minho-Portugal and is a Professor at the Catholic Portuguese University.

“Preventing accidents, prioritising health: disinfectants, disease and the plurality of risk”: Rebecca Whyte recently completed her PhD in History at the University of Cambridge. Her current role is as a Policy Officer within the Directorate of the Chief Nursing Officer, Scottish Government.


6. Policing risk (Chair: Glen O’Hara) (BG11)

“The genealogy of police in England, c. 1780-1856: Institutionalisation as a form of insurance”: Francis Dodsworth, The Open University.

“The vigilant city: CCTV, traffic and emergency response in Postwar London”: Ben Taylor is currently in the second year of doctoral research at the Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine under the supervision of Professor David Edgerton.


3-3.30pm: Refreshments (BG05)


3.30-4.30pm: Plenary session (BG10)


7. Risk management in the post-war era (Chair: Tim Carter)

“The safety professional: development of a key player in health and safety”: Andrew Hale, Emeritus Professor of Safety Science, Delft University, Netherlands and Richard Booth, Emeritus Professor of Occupational Safety & Health, University of Aston in Birmingham, UK.

“Evolving Safety Tools and Performance in Europe: Case Studies from Europe’s Railways 1970 – 2010”: Ernest Godward and Torben Holvad, from the European Railway Agency, Valenciennes, and Andy Woodcock and Jane Dobson, from Interfleet Technology, London.


4.30-5pm: Refreshments (BG05)


5-6pm: Parallel sessions 8 and 9


8. Pollution and the environment (Chair: Thomas Le Roux) (BG10)

“‘Maximum Supervision’: Risk, Safety and Public Water in Post-War Britain”: Glen O’Hara, Reader in History and Public Policy, Oxford Brookes University

“Nuclear risk governance in a transnational area: The case of the upper Rhine valley (France, Germany, Switzerland)”: Teva Meyer is a PhD candidate at the French Institute of Geopolitics (University Paris-8), where he currently teaches seminars on environmental conflicts, energy geopolitics, cartography and international relations in northern Europe.


9. Auto-mobility and accidents (Chair: Mike Esbester) (BG11)

“Death on the streets: Preliminary thoughts on the legal and medical discussion on traffic accidents in Germany, 1920-1950”: Peter Itzen, University of Freiburg, Germany.

“Developments in road safety research stratified by research discipline:

A quantitative approach”: Marjan Hagenzieker has worked at the SWOV Institute for Road Safety Research since 1987, where she is a scientific advisor and coordinator of its PhD research, and also is Associate Professor of Road Safety at the Delft University of Technology, Netherlands.

8pm: Conference meal: The Big Bang restaurant, Castle Quarter, Oxford City Centre (with the Art Theman Jazz Collective)


Wednesday, 11th September, 2013

9-9.30am: Refreshments (BG05)


9.30-11am: Parallel sessions 10 & 11


10. Selling risk and safety (Chair: Tom Crook) (BG10)

“Competing strategies for corporate governance in Swedish property insurance 1913-1939”: Josef Lilljegren is a PhD student studying insurance history at the Department of Geography and Economic History, Umeå University, Sweden.

“Service, savings, and safety: Jerome Lederer’s ‘ounce of prevention’ for aviation, c. 1920-1950”: Melissa Gottwald is an archivist for Embry-Riddle’s Aviation Safety and Security Archives, where she has worked since 2008.

“From rule to risk based regulation: The differentiated development of Dutch gambling markets as institutionalized risk environments”: Sytze F. Kingma, VU University Amsterdam, Department of Organization Sciences.


11. Post-war occupational health and safety (Chair: Mike Esbester) (BG11)

“Risk, Responsibility and Robens: The Reform of the British System of Occupational Health and Safety Regulation, 1961-1974”: Christopher Sirrs is a doctoral candidate at the Centre for History in Public Health (CHiPH) at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

“A Systems-based Approach to Health and Safety Regulation: Analysis, Experience and Results of the 1974 Reform of UK Administration”: John Rimington was a career civil servant and Director-General of the UK Health and Safety Executive from 1983-95; James McQuaid is a mechanical engineer with a research career specialising in industrial safety.

“Changing Public Attitudes and the Legitimacy of Health and Safety Regulation”, Paul Almond, Professor of Law, University of Reading.


11-11.30am: Refreshments (BG05)


11.30am-12.30pm: Plenary session 12 (BG10)


12. Transnational risks and exchanges: policies, innovations and institutions (Chair: Mike Esbester)

The ILO transnational policy: prevention, reparation, and mixed economies of welfare”: Isabelle Lespinet-Moret is Assistant Professor in Paris Ouest Nanterre University, Laboratory IDHE (Institutions Dynamiques de l’Histoire Economique) CNRS and member of “HION” (History of International Organizations Network).

“Can the white lead issue serve as a template to reassess the history of health and safety at work during the industrial era? France, Belgium and the United States in comparison”: Judith Rainhorn, alumna of Ecole normale supérieure (Paris), is now an Associate Professor in Modern History, Université Lille-Nord de France (Valenciennes) and a Junior Member of the Institut universitaire de France.


12.30-1.30pm: Lunch (BG05)


1.30-2.30pm: Concluding Roundtable: Histories of risk in policy and practice (BG10)

An open discussion led by Glen O’Hara (Oxford Brookes), with discussion from:

John Rimington (former Director-General of the UK Health and Safety Executive)

Neal Stone (British Safety Council)

Tim Carter (former Health and Safety Executive, and with a variety of industry experience)

David Eves (representing the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents)

This session is intended to explore the relevance of history to contemporary policy and practice in relation to risk management, safety and welfare. It is intended to bring together policy makers, practitioners and academics – audience participation is very much welcomed



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