Spotlight on William Knox
June 6, 2014 Leave a comment
William (Bill) Knox, Senior Lecturer, joined the School of History in 1990, although back then there was no School, but rather separate departments for the different areas of history. He came to St Andrews to teach on the degree of Social and Economic History, but that was disbanded and he moved over to Scottish History which was just beginning to take off. Prior to St Andrews he had completed a Ph.D at the University of Edinburgh and assisted Professor T.C. Smout in a research project that led to his first book – Scottish Labour Leaders, 1918-1939 (1984). On the strength of that book he was appointed to a lectureship in the Department of Economics and Government at Heriot-Watt University. Having taught there for a few years he was invited to join the staff at St Andrews.
Bill has published extensively in number of areas, including economic, labour, social and women’s history. After Labour Leaders, he wrote a political biography of James Maxton, then published a study of the Scottish Cotton Industry, and followed this up with his most important book – Industrial Nation: Work, Culture and Society in Scotland, 1800-Present (1999). The new millennium heralded a collaborative project with Professor Rab Houston of the School of History, and that led to the The New Penguin History of Scotland (2001). From there Bill decided to change tack completely and began research into the much neglected area of women’s history in late modern Scotland, which became the basis not only of a third level module – ‘The Weaker Sex? Women and Scottish Society 1800-1970’ (MO3660) – but also a book – Lives of Scottish Women: Women and Scottish Society in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries (2006). In another change of tack he is currently researching inter-personal violence in Scotland 1700-1850, with particular reference to homicide. Although a pretty gruesome subject, homicide has interesting things to tell us about society: it throws light on gender and class, ethnicity, family life and the structures of power and punishment. His task at the moment is to build a database of murders covering one and half centuries containing information on variables such as age, occupation, nationality and weapon. When completed it will be the only national dataset on the subject as all the others are regional or city studies. However, it seems as if Bill – a noted late modernist – is regressing back in time. Who knows that at this rate he might become a medievalist!
Beyond this world of murders and executions Bill has written around 30 peer reviewed articles for historical journals and important collections such as People and Society in Scotland, II, 1830-1914, on a wide variety of subjects from American multi-nationals in post-1945 Scotland to crime, protest and policing in nineteenth-century Scotland. He has also over the years proved himself a committed and versatile teacher having taught courses on France and Italy, British Social Policy, Work and Politics in Scotland and others mentioned above.
Outside the academy Bill has a wide set of interests from sport to music to film and theatre. In spite of his advancing years he can still be seen on Wednesday afternoons strutting his stuff at the Sports Centre with younger colleagues on the seven-a-side football pitches. But he also plays with various groups on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays – exhausting! If he has any time outside of football (oh, and golf…) for recreation he can be found frequently in any of the cinemas and theatres, not to mention the pubs, in Edinburgh where now lives.