Photo of Dr Simon Peplow

Dr Simon Peplow

Lecturer (E&S)

My research focusses upon modern British race, ethnicity, and migration history, and I have a particular interest in black British political participation and engagement through official mechanisms and collective violence. My present research also focuses on the links between anti-racist and anti-apartheid groups in Thatcher’s Britain. My research combines aspects of social, political, and cultural history, and I have broader research interests in these fields – particularly within modern Britain.

I am currently reworking my PhD thesis for publication as a monograph to be published by Manchester University Press, and beginning work on my next project. Through oral history interviews and recently-released records, this will extend my analysis of the political tactics of black communities in Britain throughout the decade of the 1980s, comparing and examining the links between anti-racist and anti-apartheid groups in Thatcher's Britain, as well as investigating the changing nature of political protest during this period.

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.

External impact and engagement

I am in the process of organising a public workshop on the 1980s 'riots', in relation to contemporary society. This will include papers and talks from academics and representatives of organisations concerned with relevant issues.

I have been involved with the GW4 Modern British Politics and Political History research group, have contributed public engagement pieces to various local/national media and websites such as the BBC and The Conversation, and have presented my research to Home Office civil servants following an invitation by History & Policy. I aim to build upon existing links with History & Policy, and am in discussions to organise an engagement workshop and produce a policy paper regarding public inquiries and policing of public disorder.


I have made various contributions to the BBC News website, BBC Radio Bristol, BBC Somerset, BBC Radio Gloucestershire, BBC Wiltshire, and pieces for The Conversation, Bristol PostWestern Morning News, History Workshop Online, The History of Parliament, Politics Home, and other media outlets related to my research and its contemporary significance.


Born in England but bred in South Wales, I began my academic career through a BA in History at Aberystwyth University, where I subsequently remained for a further year to complete my MA in Political Culture in Modern Britain. Following this, I then moved to Exeter to begin my AHRC-funded PhD in History, which I completed in 2015 with a thesis on 'Race, Policing, and Public Inquiries during the 1980-81 Collective Violence in England'. I have since remained teaching on a number of modules in Exeter, becoming Lecturer in History (Education and Scholarship) in September 2016.