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Dr Stephen Thornton

Dr Stephen Thornton

Reader in Politics

+44(0)29 2087 6095
2.39, Law Building, Museum Avenue, Cardiff, CF10 3AX
Available for postgraduate supervision


I've been at Cardiff University since 1996 when I started my Masters degree, and I've stuck around. My interests, which inform both my research and teaching, focus on often overlooked issues and individuals in twentieth century British political history. For example, current projects include an exploration of the constitutionally murky position of deputy to the British prime minister and a study of the complex relationship between architecture and politics. I also teach an innovative module that uses biography to help explore features of post-war British political history. 

I'm also involved in pedagogic research, with a particular focus on information literacy. My work in this area focuses on exploring the ways in which students have adapted their information behaviours to cope with technological change. Related to this interest, I'm involved with the PSA Teaching and Learning Network, and presented a webinar on 'Information Literacy in a Changed Learning Environment' as part of the joint PSA/BISA series established as a response to the challenge to tertiary education posed by the Covid-19 pandemic. 

I am a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.


Education and qualifications

2010: Postgraduate Certificate of University Teaching and Learning (PCUTL), Cardiff University

2003: PhD, (University of Wales, Cardiff)

1997: MScEcon in the European Policy Process (with distinction), (University of Wales, Cardiff)

1992: Postgraduate Certificate in Education, (Charlotte Mason College, University of Lancaster)

1991: BA Hons, University of Nottingham

Career overview

2020 to present: Reader in Politics

2012 – 2020:     Senior Lecturer in Politics, initially in the School of European Studies, now the School of Law and Politics

2006 – 2012:     Lecturer in Comparative Politics (0.5 f.t.e)

2005 – 2006:     Politics Tutor

2004 – 2005:     Lecturer in Politics (9 month fixed term contract)

Honours and awards

Commendation: RIBA President’s Award for Outstanding University Located Research for Demolishing Whitehall: Leslie Martin, Harold Wilson and the Architecture of White Heat (2014)

Professional memberships

Fellow of the Royal Historical Society (since 2016)

Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (since 2010)

Speaking engagements

'Then and Now, Now and Then: Re-reading Prince Charles' A Vision of Britain, paper presented at the SAH 2022 Annual International Conference, Pittburgh, Pennsylvania, (with Adam Sharr), 2022.

'Considering Information in a Changed Learning Environment', webinar as part of the joint PSA/BISA series 'Teaching Politics and Online: Design Matters', delivered on 4 August 2020. Available at,

'Lessons from Fifteen Years of Collaboration between the Library and the Politics Department at Cardiff University', paper presented at the CILIP Cymru Conference, Cardiff, 2019

'From Rab Butler to Damian Green, The Pecular Position of First Secretary of State', paper presented at 69th Annual Political Studies Association (PSA) Conference, Nottingham, 2019

Keynote paper at an international panel, ‘Brexit and Its Implications for the UK and Rest of the World’ organised by the Panjab University Department of Public Administration in collaboration with IIPA regional branch, Punjab and Chandigarh, 2016

‘Assessing First Year Politics Students for Information Literacy Awareness, paper presented at the PSA/BISA Teaching and Learning Conference’: Assessment and Feedback: Rethinking Pedagogic Practice in Politics and International Relations, University of Nottingham, 2014

‘The Architecture of White Heat’, paper presented at White Heat Fifty Years On conference, the People’s History Museum, Manchester, (with Adam Sharr), 2013

‘The White Heat of Conservation’, paper presented at the 12th Docomomo International Conference in Espoo, Finland, (with Adam Sharr), 2012

‘Demolishing Whitehall’ for the History and Theory Seminar series at Department of Architecture, University of Cambridge, (with Adam Sharr), 2012

Committees and reviewing

Editorial Board: Teaching and Learning: The International Journal of Higher Education in the Social Sciences; Undergraduate Journal of Politics and International Relations

Journal reviewer: Political Studies; Journal of Political Science Education; Teaching and Learning; PS: Political Science and Politics

Book reviewer: Oxford University Press; Macmillan/Red Box Press; Routledge




















I currently convene the module Personality and Power (3rd yr Undergraduate), a course that uses biography to help uncover aspects of British political history from 1955 to 2010. I also convene There Is No Alternative? Britain Under Thatcher (Masters-level), a module that explores the policies, politics and legacy associated with Margaret Thatcher and her governments. 

I also contribute to these modules: Parliamentary Studies (3rd yr); Sex, Drugs and Public Policy (3rd yr).

In addition, I supervise students (UG, Masters and PhD level) engaged in the writing of their dissertation or thesis.

I am on research leave until January 2023.

Current projects include:

  • a study of the role of deputy to the British prime minister (with Dr Jonathan Kirkup, Cardiff University)
  • an investigation into the role of information literacy in the Political Science classrom (with Dr Doug Atkinson, Saltzburg University)
  • an exploration of radical plans in the 1960s to replace the Palace of Westminster with a 'Pop-Up Parliament' (with Professor Adam Sharr, Newcastle University)


I would welcome enquires from prospective doctoral applicants in my fields of interest.

Past projects