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Dr Lauren O'Hagan

Dr Lauren O'Hagan

Research Associate

School of English, Communication and Philosophy

+44 (0)29 2087 6049
John Percival Building, Colum Drive, Cardiff, CF10 3EU


I am currently Research Associate in the Centre for Language and Communication Research, which is part of the School of English, Communication and Philosophy.

My research explores literacy and class conflict in Edwardian Britain (1901-14) through book inscriptions. I use an ethnohistorical approach to multimodality, which blends visual analysis with archival and historical research, in order to gain a better understanding of the ways in which identity performance, book ownership and readership varied according to social class in early twentieth-century Britain. An important aspect of my research is unlocking the 'hidden histories' of working-class and lower-middle-class individuals who have typically been left out of official records of the Edwardian era.

My research is supported by an ESRC Postdoctoral Fellowship (2019-20) and is entitled “Reading, Writing and… Rebellion: Understanding Literacies and Class Conflict Through the Edwardian Book Inscription”. The goals of the Fellowship are to publish and disseminate my doctoral research to a wide range of people, both within and outside of the university setting, and to explore the practical implications of my findings for archives and research libraries.


I am Research Associate in the Centre for Language and Communication Research, which is part of the School of English, Communication and Philosophy.

In 2014, I obtained a first class BA Hons in Modern Language Studies (Spanish, Italian and Linguistics) with the Open University. Throughout the four years of my undergraduate degree, I worked as an online shop manager for Oxfam. It was during my time in this role that I developed a knowledge of antiquarian books and became interested in book inscriptions.

After completing my undergraduate studies, I undertook further studies and obtained qualifications in Spanish (C2 DELE), Italian (C1 CILS), French (B2 DELF), British Sign Language (Level 1), CELTA (Distinction) and Archive Management. I then set up my own company – B_Abel Linguistic Services – which offered translation and proofreading services. I worked with professional clients across the world, including Monarch Airlines, Google, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, Minchō Magazine and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid.

I ran B_Abel Linguistic Services from 2014 until 2019 during which time I completed an MA in Applied Linguistics and a PhD in Language and Communication from Cardiff University. My MA dissertation explored multimodality in a small dataset of Edwardian bookplates. This study formed a starting point for my doctoral research on class conflict in the Edwardian book inscription.

After completing my PhD in September 2018, I was given the opportunity to work as a visiting scholar at Örebro University in Sweden. Here, I used the research methodology developed during my PhD to explore Victorian and Edwardian food packaging and advertising. I also supervised students undertaking an MA in Strategic Communication. During this time, I also edited Rebellious Writing: Marginalised Edwardians and the Contestation of Power – a book which explores how vulnerable groups in Edwardian Britain used writing to contest traditional hierarchies and ‘fight back’ against the social elite. It will be published in spring 2020 with Peter Lang.

I returned to the UK in summer 2019 and, shortly after, took up my current position at Cardiff University.

Honours and awards

  • ENCAP Innovation Fund (2018) - £200 grant to attend British Association for Victorian Studies Career Day at Warwick University
  • ENCAP Innovation Fund (2017) - £500 grant to undertake an MA 20-credit module in Archive Management with Aberystwyth University

Professional memberships

  • British Association for Victorian Studies
  • Edwardian Culture Network
  • Associate Fellow of Advance HE (formerly the Higher Education Academy)

Academic positions

  • 2019 - present: Research Associate, Centre for Language and Communication Research, Cardiff University, UK
  • 2019: Visiting Scholar, Department of Media and Communication Studies, Örebro University, Sweden
  • 2018: Research Assistant, Centre for Crtitical and Cultural Theory, Cardiff University, UK
  • 2016 - 2017: Postgraduate Tutor, Centre for Language and Communication Research, Cardiff University, UK
  • 2016: Research Assistant, Centre for Language and Communication Research, Cardiff University, UK

Speaking engagements

  • 2019: Social History Conference - University of Lincoln (10th-12th June), Roundtable - 'Rebellious Writing: Marginalised Edwardians and the Struggle for Symbolic Power'
  • 2018: Living Well with Books - Centre for Material Texts, Bristol University (5th-7th September), Poster Presentation – ‘Weaving the Tapestries of Lives: The Hidden Stories of Edwardian Book Inscriptions’
  • 2018: The Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing: From First to Last Texts, Creators, Readers, Agents - Western Sydney University Parramatta South Campus, Australia, (11th July), Remote Presentation - ‘Class, Culture and Conflict in Edwardian Book Inscriptions’
  • 2017: 3rd Bremen Conference on Multimodality – Bremen University, Germany (20th-22nd September), Poster Presentation - ‘A Multimodal Ethnographic Approach to the Study of Book Inscriptions’
  • 2017: Edwardian Culture Network: The Spirit of Speed - Lancaster University ((8th September), Poster Presentation - ‘Halting the Spirit of Speed? ‘The Divine Plan’ of Edwardian Prize Books’







My current position is research only. However, I previously worked within the Centre for Language and Communication Research as a postgraduate tutor (2016-2017). I delivered seminars for the modules ‘Introduction to Language’ and ‘Introduction to Language and Communication’.

From January to June 2019, I worked as a visiting scholar at Örebro University in Sweden. Part of my role was to provide tutoring for students undertaking an MA in Strategic Communication.

I am an Associate Fellow of Advance HE (formerly the Higher Education Academy). I also hold a CELTA (Certificate of English Language Teaching to Adults) and previously worked as a cover EFL tutor at Cardiff and Vale College.

Doctoral Research        
My doctoral research investigated class conflict and social mobility in Edwardian Britain (1901-1914) using a dataset of 3,000 book inscriptions. As part of this research, I developed an ethnohistorical approach to multimodality, which blended visual analysis with archival and historical research and theory from book history and social history. I explored the types of inscriptions present in books bought and exchanged in Edwardian Britain; the ways in which inscriptive practices varied according to location, gender, age, social class and occupation; the material and semiotic features of inscriptions; and their communicative and performative purposes.

My findings revealed that inscriptive choices were primarily influenced by ‘class-based affordances’ that centred on the social status and wealth of book owners, as well as Edwardian social conventions and the specific, well-established norms of each inscription genre or sub-genre. For the working classes, inscriptions represented pride at owning a book for the first time, while the lower-middle classes primarily used inscriptions as symbolic gestures of social mobility to gain social capital and respect from peers. In contrast, the upper classes, who feared the collapse of hierarchical society, saw inscriptions as a way of advertising their wealth and high social status. However, there is some indication that the upper-middle classes were slightly more willing to embrace lower-class inscriptive practices.

Postdoctoral Research
My postdoctoral research builds upon my previous research by exploring how the findings of my PhD can improve current practices in archives and research libraries, particularly in terms of recording detailed provenance information, having standardised terminology for book inscriptions and increasing representation of working-class and lower-middle-class books. In order to promote these objectives, I will be organising a number of events, including a digital and physical exhibition and a Living Literature walk. I am also developing a monograph for Routledge’s Research in Literacy series entitled Social, Communicative, and Performative Functions of Edwardian Book Inscriptions: Taking a Multimodal Ethnohistorical Approach.

This project is funded by an ESRC Postdoctoral Fellowship (2019-20) and is entitled “Reading, Writing and… Rebellion: Understanding Literacies and Class Conflict Through the Edwardian Book Inscription”.

Other Research Activity           
I am currently involved in the cataloguing of the Janet Powney Collection in Cardiff University’s Special Collections and Archives. This Collection is made up of Victorian and Edwardian prize books, which largely belonged to working-class and lower-middle-class children. Many of them were used as part of my doctoral research.

While book inscriptions are my main research interest, I have also explored class relations through other material artefacts from the late nineteenth/early twentieth century, including writing implements, postcards, food packaging and advertising, and marching banners. Since January 2019, I have been a member of FoodKom – a European research group led by Örebro University in Sweden – that explores food discourse through advertising and packaging. I have also carried out research on rock memorabilia, including tour t-shirts and battle jackets.

I am a member of the Edwardian Culture Network and the British Association for Victorian Studies.

Research Interests

  • Victorian and Edwardian visual and material culture
  • Literacy, book ownership and readership practices
  • Class conflict and social tensions (particularly of early 20th century)
  • Performances of social status
  • Historical approaches to ethnography