Ph.D. University of Sussex, Britain
B.A., M.A. University of Colorado
Areas of Expertise:
Social and cultural history of 20th century Britain; women and national identity; gender; life history
Courses I Teach:
- The Making of the British Monarchy, 1215-today
- Crime and Society in 19th Century Britain
- World War Two in Europe
- Oral History
- British Sitcom: Race, Class, and Gender
- London Life and History Seminar
- 19th Century Britain Seminar
My first book, Domestic Soldiers (Constable, 2010) explored the experiences of British housewives during the Second World War. My next book project researched the life of a pioneer British of sitcom and soap opera, Mabel Constanduros. Constanduros was incredibly important to the evolution of these genres, yet few remember her and fewer academics have considered her life and her impact on British culture. Mother of the BBC: Mabel Constanduros and the Development of Light Entertainment on the BBC, 1925-1957 (Bloomsbury) was published in 2020.
Currently I am Series Editor of the Bloomsbury Academic book series, Mass Observation Critical Series, with my colleague from the University of East Anglia, Benjamin Jones. This series is dedicated to publishing research based in the Mass Observation archive, which specializes in materials about everyday life in Britain from 1937 to today. For the series, I am currently writing a book on public perceptions of the Royalty with Director of the Mass Observation Archive, Fiona Courage. I am also editing the re-issue of Mass Observation’s first publication, Mass-Observation (1937) for the series.
2022 Royalty and the People: A Mass-Observation Collection, 1937-2020. London: Bloomsbury. Forthcoming. (Contract)
2022 Mass-Observation Critical Edition. Editor. London: Bloomsbury. Forthcoming. (Contract)
2020 Mother of the BBC: Mabel Constanduros and the Development of Light Entertainment on the BBC, 1925-1957. New York: Bloomsbury.
2020 “The BBC’s ‘Little Man’ in the Age of Supermen: Situation Comedy, National Character and Masculinity in the late-1930s,” Comedy Studies. 11:2, 265-274. DOI: 10.1080/2040610X.2020.1729486
2018 “‘Enthusiasm, experiment and gallantry in action’: Developing light entertainment on the fledgling BBC, 1922-1933,” Cultural and Social History 15:3, 415-432. DOI: 10.1080/14780038.2018.1492786.
2015 “‘Behind the blessed shelter of the microphone’: Managing celebrity and career on the early BBC – Mabel Constanduros, 1925-1957.” Women’s History Review. Published online, November 2014; print, volume 24, no. 3 June 2015. DOI:10.1080/09612025.2014.964068.
Public and Professional Presentations
2021 “Looking the East End in the Face? Mass Observing Royalty in Wartime,” Northeast Conference on British Studies, accepted (October), Online.
2021 “Domestic Soldiers: British Housewives and the Second World War,” Vermont Humanities First Wednesdays Lecture Series, May, Online.
2019 “Royal Observers: Mass Observing the Royal Family, 1937-1961,” Northeast Conference on British Studies, October, Montreal, QC.
2018 “The Power of Mass Observation: Understanding the Meaning of Writing Ourselves,” North American Conference on British Studies, October, Providence, RI.
2017 “From the Bugginses to the Royles: Working-Class Families in British Situation Comedy, 1925-2001,” Northeast Conference on British Studies, October, Beverly, MA.
2016 Comment, “Was that a dream or was it true?”: Women in the arts through wartime and recovery, North American Conference on British Studies, November, Washington, D.C.
2016 “Finding talent: The impact of amateur performers on the development of comedy on the fledgling BBC, 1922-1939,” Northeast Conference on British Studies, October, Colchester, VT.
2016 “Grandma’s lost her teeth!”: Tracing the origins of domestic sit-com in Britain, 1923-1958,” invited extended lecture of 2015 NECBS paper, Montreal British History Seminar, Montreal, QC.
2015 “Grandma’s lost her teeth!”: Tracing the origins of domestic sit-com in Britain, 1923-1958,” Northeast Conference on British Studies, October, Ottawa, ON.
2014 “‘Like Everyone Else, I was born… at an extremely tender age…(for the usual reasons)’: Early BBC Comediennes’ Autobiographies, 1945-1976,” Northeast Conference on British Studies, October, Lewiston, ME.
2014 Comment, “Female Agency and Representations of Femininity in Early Modern and Modern Britain and the Empire,” Northeast Conference on British Studies, October, Lewiston, ME.
2013 “Middle-class adventures ‘Down Mangel Street’ and Halcyon Row: Classed comedy on the BBC, 1925-1939,” Northeast Conference for British Studies, October, Storrs, CT.
2011 “The Comedy of Mabel Constanduros: Celebrity, Gender, and the BBC,” Northeast Conference on British Studies, October, Worcester, MA.
2011 “The Power of Mass-Observation,” invited paper. The Second World War: Popular Culture and Cultural Memory, July, Brighton, UK.
2011 “Women’s Use of Humour: The Comedy of Mabel Constanduros,” Social History Conference, April, Manchester, UK.
2010 “Heroism or ‘Purgatory’? Negotiating the Propaganda of the ‘People’s War’,” North American Conference on British Studies, November, Baltimore, MD.
2010 Comment, “Citizenship, Identity and the Self in Britain, 1880s-1940s,” Northeast Conference on British Studies, September, Burlington, VT.
2019-Present Series Editor, Mass Observation Critical Series. London: Bloomsbury.
2019-Present Editorial Board, Adam Matthew Mass-Observation 1981-1989 database
Saint Michael’s College
2021-Present Faculty Representative to the Board
2021-Present Faculty Executive Committee
2020 Strategic Planning Co-Curricular Subcommittee
Summer 2020 Academics Planning Committee (Covid-19 fall planning)
2020-present Judicial Review Board
2019-present Criminology Major Steering Committee
2018-present Dispute Resolution Panel
2017-2020 Chair, Department of History
July 2019 Summer Admissions Open House
July 2019 Incoming Students Advising
2017-2018 SMC Re-Branding Committee
2017-2018 History and Society LSC subcommittee
2017-2018 SMC “Generous Enrolment Mediator” (GEM) for History
October 2018 Organized Kuntz Lecture, “Memory, Screen and Reflections,” with Gilli Bush-Bailey
Feb 2018 Faculty Yield Initiative
Fall 2017 Admissions presentations to prospective students and parents
Nov 2017 Honors Program Discussion Panelist, “Propaganda: A World of Coercion”
August 2017 SMC Connects Facilitator
2015-2016 Chair, Faculty Welfare Committee
2015-2016 Faculty Executive Committee
2013-2016 Faculty Welfare Committee
August 2016 SMC Connects Facilitator
July 2016 Summer Advising
April 2016 Presenter to accepted students’ parents, “Taste of the Liberal Arts” program
Mar 2016 Organized Kuntz Lecture, “Vera Lynn Sings: Domesticity, Glamour, and National Belonging on 1950s British Television,” with Christina Baade
2013-2015 Retirement Planning Committee
2014-2015 Strategic Planning Initiative Faculty Development Committee
2014-2015 Historical LSC Assessment Committee
2014-2015 East Asian History Search Committee
April 2015 Presenter to accepted students’ parents, “Taste of the Liberal Arts” program
Jan 2015 Invited Lecture, Air Force Association, “Domestic Soldiers”
Dec 2014 Panelist, Humanities Center World War I Centenary Panel, on-campus discussion
August 2014 Faculty mentor, Canvas Boot Camp
July-Aug 2014 Faculty mentor, Canvas Café
July 2014 Summer Advising
May 1, 2014 “Vermont Edition” panelist, radio program on Grading (VPR)
April 2014 Presenter to accepted students’ parents, “Taste of the Liberal Arts” program
April 2014 Panelist, “What is Feminism?” on-campus discussion
Mar 2014 Assisted the URC’s evaluation of VPAA summer grants
Feb 2014 Humanities Colloquium presentation, “Middle-Class adventures ‘Down Mangel St.’ and ‘Halcyon Row’: Interpreting the working-classes on the BBC, 1925-1957”
August 2013 Panel presenter, “Three Models for Successful Advising”
July 2013 Summer advising
2012-2013 Undergraduate Research Committee
Oct 2011 Motivating Engagement and Good Writing on-campus presentation
2011-2013 Gender Studies Advisory Committee
2010-2013 Faculty advisor of Phi Alpha Theta, history honors society
2010-2012 Honors Committee
2009-2011 History Department Meeting Secretary
2008-2010 Residence Hall Floor Visitor Dialogue Program Faculty Participant
Nov 2010 Organized on-campus Norbert A. Kuntz lecture, “Murder in the Metro,” with Gayle Brunelle and Anne Croswhite-Finley
Nov 2009 Organized on-campus lecture, “The Tour Buses Don’t Stop Here: Voices from Small Town Vermont,” with Vermont History Magazine journalists Karl Decker and Nancy Levine.
April 2009 Invited lecture, ‘The Women’s Rebellion’ for Elder Education, South Burlington
2007-2009 Founder and faculty advisor of SMCVoice, student-led club dedicated to researching and documenting campus life and opinion
Fall 2007 History Department Meeting Secretary
Service to the Profession
Northeast Conference on British Studies (NECBS)
2014-2016 2016 conference meeting local arrangements organizer at Saint Michael’s College
North American Conference on British Studies (NACBS)
2021 Chair, Undergraduate Essay Prize Committee
2019-Present Undergraduate Essay Prize Committee
2018 NACBS local arrangements and treasurer for national conference in Providence, RI. Managed $110,000 budget, with over 500 attendees.
National History Day
April 2019 Judge and team captain for 2018-19 Vermont statewide competition
April 2018 Judge for 2017-18 Vermont statewide competition
Feb 2016 Organizer of research workshop for Vermont History Day participants at Saint Michael’s College
April 2016 Judge for 2015-6 Vermont statewide competition
2003-2004 Colorado History Day Mentor and Judge
New England Historical Association (NEHA)
2011-2013 NEHA Jim Hanlan Book Prize Committee Member
2010 NEHA Graduate Prize Committee Member
Life Off Campus:
I enjoy hiking, camping, and kayaking. I am also addicted to traveling in the United Kingdom and Europe.
Jennifer Purcell of the Saint Michael’s history faculty did a radio interview earlier this past winter about her book, Mother of the BBC, with Scottish DJ, John Cavanagh. He has a program that airs globally on independent radio stations as “Soundwave.” The interview went out on Saturday night, February 5. Cavanaugh also produces his interviews for an online publication for the blind and visually impaired called “Playback.” Jen also has done another interview about the book for a podcast in honor of the BBC’s 100th anniversary this year. Also, the first book in the Mass Observation Critical Series that Jen edits also came out this past winter. Kim Mair’s book, The Biopolitics of Care in Second World War Britain is the first book of the series. Another book will be out next month, and one of her two publications for the series, an edited volume of a 1937 book entitled Mass-Observation, should come later in the year. Jen on July 23 also presented an online lecture about the British royalty on June 23, in association with the book she is writing on attitudes to the royalty with Director of the Mass Observation Archive, Fiona Courage. Jen also recently shared about a related coming event of which she is an integral part: “We officially launched the Mass Observation Critical Series at a zoom event on May 25. I introduced g the series along with my co-editor, Ben Jones (U of East Anglia, UK). It’s the first event planned in the 85th anniversary Mass Observation seminar series program. The authors were joined by the publisher and series editors to talk about these exciting new books and future publications. Mass-Observation is a United Kingdom social research project; originally the name of an organization which ran from 1937 to the mid-1960s, and was revived in 1981 at the University of Sussex. Mass-Observation originally aimed to record everyday life in Britain through a panel of around 500 untrained volunteer observers who either maintained diaries or replied to open-ended questionnaires (known as directives). They also paid investigators to anonymously record people’s conversation and behavior at work, on the street and at various public occasions including public meetings and sporting and religious events. Jen’s research and writing focuses on British history.
(posted July 2022)
Jennifer Purcell of the Saint Michael’s history faculty gave a virtual talk for the Vermont Humanities First Wednesday Program on May .; originally this talk was to be presented in person at the First Congregational Church of Manchester, but due to the COVID-19 crisis, this year’s First Wednesday talks were only online. Here’s the announcement from the Vermont Humanities website on Jen’s topic: “How did British housewives experience the Second World War and contribute to the war effort? Saint Michael’s history professor Jen Purcell tells the stories of seven housewives from across Britain. They grappled with the challenges of wartime, navigated shifting relationships at home and in the community, and struggled to be recognized for their efforts.”
(posted July 2021)
Jennifer Purcell of the history faculty this summer received a glowing review from Gilli Bush-Bailey, Royal Central School of Speech & Drama, University of London, UK, for a new Purcell book titled Mother of the BBC: Mabel Constanduros and the Development of Popular Entertainment on the BBC, 1925-57.
(posted February 2021)
Elizabeth “Liz” Scott, the College’s archivist in Durick Library, has found a useful worthwhile project to pursue remotely while in isolation during the pandemic at her home in Jericho “I have been working with Jen Purcell [history faculty] and Mike Stefanowicz [director of admission] to put together something for the future,” inviting all members of the Saint Michael’s College community “to help us in documenting this unprecedented time. We are piloting a project that is intended to capture thoughts and feelings as we meet the day-to-day challenges brought about by Covid-19.”
(posted June 2020)
Jennifer J. Purcell, associate professor and chair of the History Department, has a publication, “Mother of the BBC: Mabel Constanduros and the Development of Popular Entertainment on the BBC, 1925-57 (Bloomsbury)” coming out in March: Jen also recently signed paperwork to become series editor for The Mass Observation Critical Series with Bloomsbury. This will be a massive, long-term endeavor putting out multiple volumes derived primarily from the work of Mass Observation from scholars across disciplines including history, sociology, anthropology, cultural studies, political science, and psychology. Related to that, Bloomsbury will be issuing a contract for Jen’s next book on British popular opinion of the royalty in the 20th-21st centuries. The tentative title is Royal Observers: Mass Observing the Royalty, 1937-2020. Her article, “The BBC’s ‘Little Man’ in the Age of Supermen: Situation Comedy, National Character and Masculinity in the late-1930s” was accepted and is coming out at the end of the year in Comedy Studies. Finally, Vermont PBS just asked Jen to speak at their BritCom tea in April 2020.
(posted February 2020)
Jennifer Purcell, associate professor and chair of history, in March formalized her contract with publishing house Bloomsbury for her new book titled Mother of the BBC: Mabel Constanduros and the Development of Popular Entertainment on the BBC, 1925-1957 (May 2019). Also, Jen been asked by Bloomsbury to be editor of a book series on Mass-Observation, a British social research organization which, since 1937, has been dedicated to studying the everyday lives of ordinary people in Britain. Her first book, Domestic Soldiers (2010), was based on her research of the M-O archives. Constanduros’s emphasis on the everyday and the family had far-reaching impacts on the shape of sitcom and soap opera in Britain, two popular lenses through which the nation sees itself at home. Her role in developing entertainment on the BBC and the ways in which she cultivated her career make her the ‘Mother of the BBC,’ but in constructing a popular image of family life she might also be considered the ‘Mother of the Nation,’ Jen explains.
(posted June 2018)
Jennifer Purcell, associate professor of history, spent June in the final phase of her research on Mabel Constanduros as a Richmond University (London) Centre for Visual Arts and Cultures Summer Research Fellow consulting archives in and around London. She organized the Northeastern Conference on British Studies (NECBS) Annual Meeting on campus Oct 14-15. Saint Michael’s welcomed 80 scholars of British history from across the country and the UK to campus. Jen also gave a paper at the above-mentioned conference on the development of comedy on the early BBC, titled “Finding Talent: The Impact of Amateur Performers on the Development of Comedy on the Fledgling BBC, 1922-1939.” And, she will be in Washington, DC Nov. 11-12 as a commentator on a panel at the North American Conference on British Studies (NACBS) annual meeting about popular culture in the middle 20th century in Britain.
(posted November 2016)
Jennifer Purcell, assistant professor of history, is author of a paper that was published in Women’s History Review in November; she also presented a paper at the Northeastern Conference on British Studies in October.
(posted December 2014)