Dr Stephen Caunce grew up in Newton-le-Willows, Lancashire, where the Liverpool to Manchester Railway crosses the first industrial canal, the Sankey Navigation over the iconic first railway viaduct, known locally as the Nine Arches. From an early age this stimulated a fascination with historic landscapes, community identities and the practical consequences of the Industrial Revolution. He went to university in London to study history at University College in 1969, but PhD research using oral history at Leeds University brought him back to the north. Since then he has lived in various parts of northern England.
Wanting to explore other ways of promoting historical knowledge and research, he started his career at Beamish Museum, followed by several years with Kirklees Museums, based in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire. This is an area with strong links to Pennine Lancashire, and led to a realisation that few academic historians had ever really engaged with the places where modern factory production began. It also confirmed a sense that landscape, museum collections and locally-based fiction could all make a vital contribution to understanding exactly what drove this unique part of the Pennines to unexpected prominence after 1750.
After a short spell as curator of the Yorkshire Mining Museum, which is now the National Coal Mining Museum, he returned to academia at the University of Leeds, and also taught for the Open University. In 1998 he became a senior lecturer in history at the University of Central Lancashire in Preston, specialising slightly in early modern history, but teaching a very wide range of topics.
He wrote Amongst Farm Horses: The Horselads of East Yorkshire in 1991 which has been republished as a second edition in 2016 and can be bought online by clicking here. There is a page on this site devoted to the book. He also wrote Oral History and the Local Historian (Longman, 1994), which is the next project for republishing. Both books arose from his PhD thesis. He also contributed a section on how to do oral history to the BBC local history website. He has published various articles and essays on aspects of northern history and identity.
In 2004 he initiated a BA degree in History, Museums and Heritage, which catered especially for mature students, several of whom now work in museums. As part of this, a wide range of student Community History Projects were completed for outside bodies, setting up displays, and creating websites and a podcast on mill girls. He has also recently worked with Lancashire Museums Service on its rural history collections, as the role of agriculture and agricultural workers in the northern economy remains a strong interest.
He retired from university teaching in 2014 but continues to write, research and lecture in the subjects which most interest him.
We hope to keep this website updated with current news of talks and new publications