Everyday Cultures

Submitting Institution

Liverpool John Moores University

Unit of Assessment

English Language and Literature

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Language, Communication and Culture: Cultural Studies, Literary Studies
History and Archaeology: Historical Studies

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Summary of the impact

Joe Moran's research on the habits and spaces of everyday life in postwar Britain has deepened public understanding and promoted debate about those areas of our everyday lives that may generate little informed discussion or historical reflection because they seem mundane or routine; it has deconstructed popular memories and mythologies about daily life in the recent past; and it has promoted the value and relevance of cultural history and cultural studies to the public as a way of understanding their own lives. His work has reached a national audience through books, journalism, television and radio appearances and contributions to public events.

Underpinning research

Moran's research on everyday life, begun in 2002 early in his career in the English department at LJMU, sought to historicise the development of contemporary everyday cultures in the UK, to recover the quotidian as an object of scholarly study and to situate it within broader histories of postwar design, architecture, public policy, technology and consumption.

Moran's public impact work was underpinned by research undertaken initially for his academic monograph Reading the Everyday (Routledge, 2005), for which he was awarded an Arts and Humanities Research Board grant under its research leave scheme, and numerous articles on the history of everyday life in postwar Britain (in addition to those listed in section 3) in journals such as History Workshop Journal, Cultural Studies and Cultural and Social History. These scholarly publications made a significant contribution to the defining and theorising of the everyday as an emergent field of academic interest. Moran's work, while focusing on contemporary British cultural history, also revived and drew on the spirit of two earlier research projects which he saw as models of publicly engaged intellectual work: the `anthropology at home' of the social research organisation Mass Observation, undertaken mainly in the 1930s and 1940s; and postwar writings on `la vie quotidienne' by French public intellectuals and authors such as Henri Lefebvre, Michel de Certeau and Georges Perec.

The public impact of Moran's research emerged more specifically out of the publication of two books - Queuing for Beginners: The Story of Daily Life from Breakfast to Bedtime (2007) and On Roads: A Hidden History (2009) - which, while advancing academic understanding in this field, also spoke to a broader public interest in the everyday life of Britain's recent past. Both books were published by Profile, a commercial publisher experienced at bringing the work of academics to the attention of non-academic audiences. These two books developed from the theoretical groundwork of Moran's more specifically academic writings to offer contextually rich case studies — on the postwar history of British daily habits, such as queuing, commuting and office life in Queuing for Beginners; and on the historical development and cultural resonances of Britain's road system during the half century since the start of the motorway era, in On Roads: A Hidden History. Both these works sought to recover histories of the everyday which were obscured and neglected because of their seemingly routine, mundane or unglamorous nature; and to complicate and deconstruct popular mythologies about the everyday life of recent memory. In defamiliarising the familiar, these books aimed to be both evocative and enlightening, re-enchanting the everyday and uncovering its hidden strangeness and its political and cultural meanings for a broad readership. These books were also intended to be experiments in historiography, pioneering a new type of scholarly/creative non-fiction writing that combined archival and historical research with wit, lyricism, rhetorical invention and the creative juxtaposition of eclectic subject matter. They thus aimed to convey the potential excitement of history writing and the relevance of historical scholarship to people's daily lives. Moran's success in reaching a wide audience with this research was recognised by the award of a British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship in the academic year 2011-12 to complete his book Armchair Nation: An Intimate History of Britain in Front of the Television. This scheme explicitly rewards projects and scholars with a clear record and prospect of public engagement.

References to the research

All outputs can be supplied on request.

`Tom Phillips and the Art of the Everyday.' Visual Culture in Britain, 3, 2 (2002): 17-32.

`Queuing Up in Postwar Britain.' Twentieth Century British History, 16, 3 (2005): 283-305.


`Crossing the Road in Britain, 1931-1976.' Historical Journal, 49, 2 (June 2006): 477-96.


Reading the Everyday. London and New York: Routledge, 2005. ISBN 0415317088.

Queuing for Beginners: The Story of Daily Life from Breakfast to Bedtime. London: Profile, 2007 (paperback 2008). ISBN 9781861978363.

On Roads: A Hidden History. London: Profile, 2009 (paperback 2010). ISBN 9781846680526.

£13,625, AHRB, Individual Research Leave Scheme, Sept-Dec. 2004.

£84,623, British Academy Mid-Career Research Fellowship, Sept. 2011-Aug. 2012.

Details of the impact

In the period January 2008-July 2013, Moran's Queuing for Beginners sold 5801 copies in paperback and On Roads sold 6619 copies in hardback and 5518 in paperback. On Roads was extracted in the Daily Express (6.6.09), featured as a book of the year selection in the Financial Times, Sunday Times and Sunday Herald, and was favourably reviewed in 16 national newspapers and magazines, being described as `a beautifully written, quiet masterpiece' (Sunday Times), `a beautiful little book' (Mail on Sunday), a `richly enjoyable read' (The Times) and a `superb cultural history' (Independent). It was longlisted for the 2010 BBC Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction.

On Roads was used by architects, planners and traffic experts to address topics such as road safety and the aesthetics and environmental impact of roadbuilding. Theresa Villiers, Shadow Secretary of State for Transport, referenced it in a speech at the New Civil Engineer's Road Summit (20.1.10); Hamilton-Baillie Associates, influential advocates of `shared space', included Moran's article, `Crossing the Road in Britain', on their website; and the bestselling author Tom Vanderbilt discussed Moran's work on his `How We Drive' blog and in an article in The Times (29.8.09). Moran's research was cited in BBC News Magazine Online, the Sunday Telegraph, the Guardian, The Times, the Daily Mail and the Daily Express.

Moran's media appearances to discuss On Roads included Radio 5 Live's Simon Mayo Show (10.6.09), Radio 4's M1 Magic (28.10.09), BBC1's BBC Breakfast Live (10.6.09), which had 1,211,000 viewers, and Radio 4's Today (8.6.09), which averaged 6.6 million listeners a week in this period. According to its presenter Laurie Taylor, Moran's appearance on Radio 4's Thinking Allowed on 22.7.09 prompted `unexpected hymns of praise for such previously unconsidered and unsung stretches of tarmac' from listeners, one writing that `my drive along the M27 was made much more interesting' (Thinking Allowed, 29.7.09).

Moran published over 100 newspaper and magazine articles on the history and politics of daily life in this period, writing regularly for the Guardian and occasionally for the New Statesman, the Financial Times, the Observer, The Times, History Today and BBC News Magazine Online. He was also a regular columnist for both BBC History Magazine (June 2007-June 2008) and FT Weekend magazine (August 2008-September 2010), writing about everyday phenomena and `defining moments' in recent history respectively. Moran's new book, Armchair Nation, was also extracted in the Radio Times ahead of publication (1-7 June 2013, 14-17). These publications all had national reach and large readerships. At the end of the impact case study period, for example, the Guardian had an estimated readership per issue of 935,000 (print) and monthly online traffic of 84,326,205 (unique browsers). Moran's most read Guardian article online had 25,090 page views. On the Guardian site, his articles frequently generated several hundred comments. Moran also received many emails and letters, including from people who remembered driving on the early motorways or worked as engineers on them, thanking him for reviving and concretising their memories.

Moran's work inspired visual artists such as Edward Chell, who in his exhibition `Gran Tourismo' (held at the Little Chef restaurant, Ings in April/May 2011) combined images of roadside environments with table mats incorporating quotes from On Roads; the photographer Sam Mellish, for whom Moran wrote the preface to his book Roadside Britain; and the artist Simon Faithfull, for whom Moran wrote the introduction to the book about his public artwork, Liverpool to Liverpool, which is engraved into the paving on the new concourse around Liverpool Lime Street Station. The artist Felicity Ford interviewed Moran for her soundscape documentary Around the A404, broadcast on BBC Radio Oxford (26.12.10). He also gave a public lecture on `Travelling Concepts' as part of the Liverpool Biennial (7.11.12).

Moran appeared at the Bath Festival of Literature (2.3.10); at the Kenilworth Festival (15.5.10); in a panel on `how to write non-fiction' with Geoff Dyer and Andrea Gillies at London's Foyles Bookshop (12.9.10); and at the Sheffield Off the Shelf Festival with Jonathan Coe, at Coe's invitation (23.10.10). He was an invited speaker at Boring 2010 at London's Dominion Theatre (11.12.10), a widely publicised conference bringing together writers and thinkers on the everyday. He ran two `Conversation Dinners' on Georges Perec for the School of Life in London (15.2.11, 7.12.11), aimed at making this writer better known to a British audience. Moran also maintained a blog from January 2009 (joemoransblog.blogspot.co.uk/) which he used to communicate informally with readers and publicised through his Twitter feed (@joemoransblog, 2000+ followers). It had over 230,000 hits up to July 2013 and generated many comments, such as `your observations on the quotidian ... make this a regular haunt ... One of the best word mills in the web world.'

Sources to corroborate the impact

  1. Joe Moran's Guardian homepage: http://www.theguardian.com/profile/joemoran
  2. Archive of Moran's New Statesman articles: http://www.newstatesman.com/writers/joe_moran
  3. Edward Chell's website: http://www.edwardchell.com/gran-tourismo-grizedale-arts-cumbria/
  4. Felicity Ford's documentary Around the A404:
  5. Hamilton-Baillie Associates: http://www.hamilton-baillie.co.uk/index.php?do=publications&action=details&pid=27
  6. Tom Vanderbilt's blog: http://www.howwedrive.com/category/booknews/page/2/
  7. National Readership Survey: http://www.nrs.co.uk/
  8. Web analyst for the Guardian can confirm online readership figures.
  9. BBC Breakfast audience figures courtesy of BARB (Broadcasters' Audience Research Board).
  10. RAJAR (Radio Joint Audience Research) figures for Today cited in Arifa Akbar, `Moyles poised to steal Wogan's radio crown', Independent, 8 May 2009; and Chris Tryhorn, `Today's new-look team helps BBC Radio 4 post best ratings for a decade', Guardian, 30 October 2009.