What I do

I write history: industrial history, especially about early machine-making and textiles. Regional history, focused on northern England, mainly Yorkshire just now. And I revel in historic landscapes and old buildings, so I’m well into that too.

My publications range from the academic to the popular. The ideal is to mix academic respectability with accessibility. I try not to be dull. The Cable, about laying the first transatlantic telegraph, is now in its third edition. Paperbacks on the townscapes of Darlington and Sunderland, issued under the venerable banner of the Victoria County History during my days as Durham county editor, were well-received by reviewers and by local people.

And then I became more engaged with community history, working with volunteers, talking to and supporting people with serious historical interests who are not academics. My involvement with the Yorkshire Archaeological and Historical Society grew. From 2011, I was co-editor of the society’s journal, and then from 2015 until 2019 YAHS president. This has drawn me into thinking about the new shape of publishing, about social media, and the opportunities websites can give.

YAHS has been a major diversion, but I’m now well and truly back into some serious writing. The Age of Machinery: Engineering the Industrial Revolution 1770-1850, about early machine-making in northern England, was published by Boydell in 2018. It takes a novel approach, a detailed analysis of people and communities at the grassroots, which is where many of the really interesting innovations took place.

But some of my irons in the fire don’t fit neatly into conventional publishing. So here, I’m trying out new ways of presenting research. There’s quite a lot to come on the wider engineering community in Leeds (18th century). I’m particularly interested in iron foundries and forges, and the west Yorkshire links to Sheffield.

First – re-organise the website to suit changed circumstances.

Gill Cookson

August 2019

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