The School of Advanced Study’s ‘social scholar’ lunchtime seminar returns on 17 May with Dr Peter Jones offering a fascinating discussion on converting research into a form that can be used for teaching school children. Below, Peter hints at what to expect.

Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I am lecturer in urban history at the Institute of Historical Research (part of the University of London’s School of Advanced Study). My research addresses histories of popular, commercial and literary cultures in Victorian London. I am interested in the way that cultural histories of place can complicate narratives of urban development, progress and reform.

Before taking a post at the IHR, I was based in the English department at Queen Mary University of London, where my doctoral project explored literary representations of urban rootlessness, vagrancy and itinerancy. My recent publications include an award-winning article in The London Journal which argued that the growth of working-class street markets in London possessed the capacity to disrupt axiomatic narratives of reform.

After completing this PhD, as well as lecturing at undergraduate level, I became involved with a number of roles at The Brilliant Club. This educational charity encourages postgraduates and early career scholars to utilise their expertise to design learning programmes for pupils from under-represented backgrounds, with a view to helping them progress to highly-selective universities.

What have you learned and gained from the process of working with school groups and engaging them with your research?
Working in secondary schools in south-east London taught me how to build meaningful connections and concerns with my local neighbourhood, which I previously felt were lacking. I set out to develop learning programmes which explored processes of urban change through examples drawn from immediate streets and neighbourhoods which were familiar to my pupils.

Watching these students dedicating close attention to familiar but under-regarded spaces, helped me to recognise that big questions about liberal spaces and cities, could be illuminated through close attention to urban geographies which were usually written off as parochial, peripheral or culturally devoid.

It is no coincidence that my monograph project will analyse tensions between popular mass leisure and Victorian improving institutions, with a particular focus on London ‘below the bridges’.

What can we expect from you at the Social Scholar?
I think that scholars in the humanities feel pressure to engage in widening participation agendas, but have quite legitimate questions about the potential payoff that comes from signing up for placements that consume valuable time or are poorly remunerated.

The concern is, despite their apparent magnanimity, that these efforts are at best ancillary to and at worst a potential distraction from the work of building a serious academic career in Higher Education. I will explore strategies and exemplary cases to illustrate how we can make the attendant worth stemming from educational outreach activities play an integral role in our intellectual advancement, rather than being immutably detached from it.

For more information about this lunchtime seminar and to register your attendance please check out our event page. All Social Scholar seminars are free to attend.