Emma Copestake

Postgraduate Research Student


Thesis Title

"Laughing through the Pain? Occupational Wellbeing on the Waterfront in Liverpool c.1964-1998."


Emma's research employs Barbara Rosenwein’s (2002) concept of ‘emotional communities’ to understand how structural change in the port transport industry was understood, mediated and negotiated by dock workers and their families in Liverpool between 1964 and 1998.  

Emma uses oral histories and archival records to focus on the relationship between emotions, bodies and power at work as containerisation, deindustrialisation and tighter health and safety regulations transformed the docks. She analyses how emotions such as love, pride, shame and loss were expressed as well how tools such as humour were used by workers and their families to overcome danger and insecurity.  

Ultimately, this project unites the fields of labour history and the history of emotions by focusing on what it felt like to be a worker.

Research Interests

Emma's wider research interests include: the history of power and emotions, oral history, Modern British History, the history of work including occupational health and wellbeing, deindustrialisation, and public history. 

Research Funding

Emma’s PhD has been generously funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (2017-2021) and the Institute of Historical Research (2021).