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Personal profile

Academic Biography

Joan Heggie is a Research Fellow in History in the School of Social Sciences, Humanities & Law and a member of the Centre for Culture & Creativity.

Joan has a BA (Hons) in History, Gender & Politics and a Masters and PhD in Women’s Studies. Joan’s PhD (University of York, 2005) explored the experiences of lesbian soldiers within the British Army to more fully understand how institutional structures and policies regulate both gender and sexuality by controlling the female body. Using both quantitative and qualitative methods, this research revealed how lesbians managed and negotiated their different identities as women, as soldiers and as lesbians.

Since coming to Teesside in 2002, Joan has worked as a researcher on several projects regarding women’s employability, gender and skills. From 2008-2011, she was Project Manager of the British Steel Archive Project, which generated new avenues of research in Teesside’s industrial history and women’s social history. Research exploring women's involvement with property using the North Riding Register of Deeds during the 18th & 19th centuries is ongoing.

In her role as a Research Fellow, Joan has strong links to community groups, including being a member of the Cleveland and Teesside History Society and regularly gives public talks across the region about her research.

Within the University, Joan takes a lead in supporting the wider Equality and Diversity strategy by challenging stereotypes, raising awareness and helping to break down the barriers that prevent staff and students achieving their potential. She is a member of the LGBT+ Staff Focus Group.

Summary of Research Interests

Joan’s current research focuses on three main areas of interest:

Exploring women’s involvement with land and property is an important area of research which helps to enhance understanding about the complexity of women's relationships to property since the late 18th century. Funded by a small research grant from the Economic History Society, this project uses the North Riding Register of Deeds, held at the North Yorkshire County Record Office, as its primary resource. These documents are a hugely under-utilised resource for women's property history in general but also help to address the gap in knowledge about women's involvement with property during their lifetimes, as opposed to that held at death. The North Riding Register of Deeds contains handwritten ledgers in which property transactions for the North Riding of Yorkshire are recorded, covering the period from 1736 to 1971. Two Index Ledgers were transcribed into a database for periods 1784-90 and 1885-1889 and have been made available via an online search facility to increase public access. An extensive gender-based analysis of the database has been carried out and all women's wills and transactions containing only women have been transcribed. Further work is ongoing regarding the size and value of the property, as well as analysis by type of transaction. Archival research is being carried out to create biographical reconstructions of selected women’s lives. These combined methods will help to establish how women were involved in property transactions over time and contribute to the wider debates on women as social and economic actors. A book chapter providing the analysis and results of this study was published in November 2019.

The history of the growth of Teesside and the global impact of its iron & steel industry is another area of interest. Using the British Steel Collection as the primary resource, Joan is exploring the companies which came to Teesside in the 19th century and the influential individuals who contributed so much to the industry. Joan published a book in 2013 on Middlesbrough’s Iron & Steel Industry which contains approximately 180 images from the Collection. Since late 2017, Joan has been working with Kirkleatham Museum as part of the 'Steel Stories: Curating a landscape of rapid change' project. Since the closure of the SSI (UK) blast furnace in 2015, Joan has been compiling oral histories from individuals affected by the closure. These oral histories, as well as Joan's expertise on Teesside's industrial past, are being used within the Steel Stories year-long exhibition, which opened in April 2019 and was the winner of the 'Small Museum' category of the 'Museums Change Lives' awards 2019 (Museums Association).

After discovering an album of prints about steel making by Viva Talbot in Teesside Archives, Joan has carried out extensive historical and biographical research into Talbot’s life. This has included developing exhibitions of her original artwork. Several venues in the north east have hosted these exhibitions, including Middlesbrough's Institute of Modern Art (mima). Joan has carried out extensive research on the Talbot family home, Solberge Hall (near Northallerton), and is compiling a catalogue of Viva Talbot’s work.

Joan's interest in local & regional history focuses on the ways in which the industrial narrative of Teesside and the wider Tees Valley can be more fully understood by exploring the biographies of individuals who were, in some way, involved in its growth. These include (in addition to those already mentioned above): Benjamin Talbot (industrialist); John Ross (architect) and Margaret Wright (photographer).

Research Projects & External Funding

  • 2017 Heritage Lottery Fund (Our Heritage Grant with Kirkleatham Museum, Redcar) - 'Steel Stories: curating industrial heritage in a landscape of rapid change'. Total Grant: £69,800; Teesside £15,799 (CI with Professor Natasha Vall).
  • 2014 Economic History Society (Small Research Grant) – ‘Women's involvement in property transactions in the 18th and 19th centuries: a pilot study from the North Riding of Yorkshire’. Total Grant: £4,984.13 (PI).
  • Short Knowledge Transfer Partnership (sKTP) (with Middlesbrough Borough Council) towards ‘The British Steel Archive Project’. Total Grant: £17,390 (PI).
  • 2009 Museums, Libraries & Archives (Community Engagement Award) towards ‘The British Steel Archive Project’. Total Grant: £2,500 (PI).
  • 2009 Royal Academy of Engineering: Ingenious Award towards ‘The British Steel Archive Project’. Total Grant: £26,658 (with Dr Jenny Search).
  • 2009 Economic History Society (Small Research Grant) towards ‘The British Steel Archive Project’. Total Grant: £4,000 (PI).
  • 2008 Community Trades Union (Donation) towards 'The British Steel Archive Project'. Total Grant: £60,000 (PI).
  • 2008 Corus Teesside Cast Products (Donation) towards 'The British Steel Archive Project'. Total Grant: £60,000 (PI).
  • 2008 Heritage Lottery Fund (Grant) towards 'The British Steel Archive Project'. Total Grant: £250,000 (PI).

PhD and Research Opportunities

Joan welcomes enquiries from potential PhD students interested in women’s history and regional history, especially related to the industrial heritage of Teesside and women and property. 

Current PhD students - Consortium:

Northumbria University: Tom Ratcliffe (2017): Contested Cultural Landscapes (2nd Supervisor)

Enterprise Interest and Activities

2017 - Involved as an Historical Consultant during the restoration of the Central Lodge buildings in Stewart Park, Middlesbrough, part of Askham Bryan College.


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