Dr Simon Peplow

Research interests

My first monograph, Race and Riots in Thatcher’s Britain, is contracted for publication by Manchester University Press, to be published in autumn 2018. This came out of research conducted during and since my AHRC-funded PhD, the first study to use newly released records regarding the 1980-81 disturbances in England – the earliest violent confrontation between members of the public and the state during Margaret Thatcher’s divisive government. Case studies of Bristol, Brixton, and Manchester allowed me to combine new records with unstudied local sources, and explore unseen police records and compare these with published accounts. I examined the role and response of local people and anti-racist organisations, arguing the disorders should be viewed within the ‘collective bargaining by riot’ framework (Hobsbawm) as part of broader struggles. Furthermore, my research explored the public inquiry as a political tool through highlighting that, despite growing distrust of British authorities, public inquiries were regarded by many as the best means of participating in public discourse regarding matters related to race. However, there was a clear division between moderate groups who desired the societal legitimisation of a public inquiry, and radical or younger groups – more likely to have been involved in the disturbances – believing such would be a diversion or waste of time. I thus presented public inquiries as playing a key role in public and political culture, simultaneously viewed by black people as either a solution or a fraud, as well as being a guarded privilege and later tactical concession from alarmed establishment figures. Since completing my PhD, I obtained Institute of Historical Research funding for oral history interviews in Bristol and Manchester to supplement my research, which included conducting interviews with individuals involved in the disturbances or local organisations.

My previous research has focussed upon the 1963 Bristol Bus Boycott and Race Relations Acts. My broader research interests include modern British and US social and political history and civil rights, and I am currently beginning my next project which will examine the potential influence of and links between anti-apartheid and anti-racist organisations in Thatcher's Britain.