Dr Oskar Cox Jensen
Leverhulme Early Career Fellow
I took my three degrees in History at Christ Church, Oxford, between 2006 and 2013, before moving to King's College London as a research associate on the ERC-funded 'Music in London, 1800–1851', led by Roger Parker. Since 2017 I have been a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow here at Queen Mary, working on a book called When London Cried: Life and Work on the Nineteenth-Century Street. This project applies ideas from life writing and the history of the emotions to a traditional subject of social history, in an attempt to illuminate experiences of ‘low-life’. My aim is to construct an interdisciplinary, composite biography of street indigenes in London, considering those for whom the street was neither an ordeal nor a foreign space, but somewhere to live and, crucially, work.
I teach a mix of early modern and modern British and European history, and the bulk of my other research is on the history of song. I am deeply invested in public engagement as an aspect of history, and appear regularly in the UK media. I am a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and the Royal Historical Society. I also like to put on plays and write novels. I am represented by Joanna Swainson of Hardman and Swainson.
The main focus of my research is song as a historical phenomenon in Britain and beyond – chiefly in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, but increasingly spanning the last five hundred years, since songs started appearing in print. I am especially interested in performers, audiences, and songwriting itself, and the connections between 'broadside ballad' culture and other forms of mainstream pop music (pleasure garden, theatrical, minstrel, music-hall, art song, recorded pop).
My other main research area is urban street culture, especially in London, and this forms the subject of my current Leverhulme project 'When London Cried', which looks at the everyday experiences of men, women, children, and animals, working in the London streets.
Other areas of interest include: British political culture and national identity in the age of the French Revolution and Napoleon; race in the circum-Atlantic era; theatre history and practice-as-research; print culture; maritime and naval history; the history of Scandinavia.
- The London Ballad-Singer: Outcast at the World's Centre, 1792–1864 (awaiting contract)
- Napoleon and British Song, 1797–1822 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015)
- (with David Kennerley), Music and Politics in Britain, c.1780–1850, special forum of Journal of British Studies, 59, no.4 (2020)
- (with David Kennerley and Ian Newman), Charles Dibdin and Late Georgian Culture (Oxford University Press, 2018)
- ‘Music to Some Purpose: Revolution, Reform, Race’, in Music and Politics in Britain (see above)
- ‘Joseph Johnson’s Hat, or, The Storm on Tower Hill’, Studies in Romanticism 58, no.3 (Fall 2019)
- ‘Of Ships and Spectacles: Maritime Identity in Regency London’, Nineteenth Century Theatre and Film (issue tbc, available via online first)
- ‘First as Farce, then as Tragedy: Waterloo in British Song’, Studies in Romanticism 56, no.3 (Fall 2017)
- (with Joanna Hofer-Robinson and Emma Whipday), ‘Is He A Dramatist? Or, Something Singular! Staging Dickensian Drama as Practice-Led Research’, Nineteenth Century Theatre and Film 43, no.2 (2016)
- ‘The Travels of John Magee: Tracing the geographies of Britain’s itinerant print-sellers, 1789–1815’, Journal of Cultural and Social History 11, no.2 (2014)
- ‘“Strategies of Condescension”: Taming John Bull through the Inversion of Spaces, 1809–14’, Journal of the Oxford University History Society 8 (2012)
- ‘“Canny Newcassel”: Marshall’s Musical Metropolis of North Britain, 1798–1820’, in Kirsten Gibson, Roz Southey, and Stephanie Carter (eds), Music in the North, 1500–1800: Networks, Circulation, Sources (Boydell and Brewer, tbc)
- ‘How the Ballad-Singer lost her “Woice”’, in Roger Parker and Susan Rutherford (eds), London Voices (University of Chicago Press, 2019)
- ‘The Diminution of “Irish” Johnstone’, in David O’Shaughnessy (ed.), Ireland, Enlightenment and the English Stage, 1740–1820 (Cambridge University Press, 2019)
- ‘“True Courage”: A Song in History’, in Charles Dibdin and Late Georgian Culture (see above)
- (with Erica Buurman), ‘Dancing the “Waterloo Waltz”: Commemorations of the Hundred Days—Parallels in British Social Dance and Song’, in Katherine Astbury and Mark Philp (eds), Napoleon’s Hundred Days and the Politics of Legitimacy (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018)
Children's Historical Fiction:
Public engagement is central to my understanding of the role and responsibilities of a historian. It is also a lot of fun! To that end I try and disseminate my research wherever possible – often in the form of public concerts, lectures, plays, and workshops. In the past few years I have sung, spoken, or acted at venues from the British Museum to the Cullompton History Society in Devon, via Hatchard's bookshop, the Army and Navy Club, the Dickens Museum, and many others, and as part of events from the annual Being Human festival, to Shakespeare400, to the bicentenary of the Battle of Waterloo. I have written two works of historical fiction for children (see publications). I have also contributed seven entries to the online exhibition of Napoleon's Hundred Days.
I regularly appear in the UK media. In the summer of 2019 I will pop up on BBC1's Who Do You Think You Are?, chatting to Paul Merton in a London pub. I will also be recording with BBC Radio 4 in a follow-up to Roddy Williams' 2017 series, A Choral History of Britain, in which I appeared in two episodes. I have discussed Napoleon on BBC Radio 3's Free Thinking, and written for the New Statesman on the prospect of an English national anthem and Jeremy Corbyn's refusal to sing 'God Save the Queen'. I was Historical Advisor for the major 2018 ITV/Amazon TV series Vanity Fair and advised Emma Marriott for the accompanying book.
And of course, I've ended up writing many blog posts and recording several podcasts, including:
All About Those Ballads (Diseases of Modern Life blog)
Take Five (blog for QMUL's The Historian)
Singing the Past (Being Human blog)
The C19th Origins of the Anti-Vaccination Movement (Diseases of Modern Life podcast)
Myth (Story Etc podcast0