Dr Mary Clare Martin BA (Hons) History: PhD (History) , PGCE (primary), Dip RSA (TESLMC)

Principal Lecturer and Research Lead

Dr Mary Clare Martin is a social historian, specialising in the history of children, young people, education, and voluntary action. She holds history degrees from the University of York (BA) and Goldsmiths’ College, University of London (PhD), a PGCE (primary) and an RSA diploma in the teaching of English as a Second Language in Multicultural schools (TESLMC). A former primary school teacher, she is particularly interested in children’s perspectives, past and present, and in decolonising the curriculum.

She is Co-Founding Director of the Children’s History Society, UK and founded the “Life-Cycles” seminar at the Institute of Historical Research, London in 2008. Her publications focus on the history of children and youth, especially religion, disability, play and recreation, and the Girl Guide movement, and on female philanthropy and women’s activism, c 1750-1950.

In 2011 she founded the Centre (now Cluster) for the Study of Play and Recreation in the School of Education, which held annual or biannual conferences and relevant seminar series. She was programme leader of the BA (Hons) Childhood Studies degree from 2007-2014, and has written and taught many courses on the history of childhood, education and youth in global perspective, on children’s literature, and the representation of childhood in literature, art, culture and media.

She has four children and enjoys wild swimming, walking and her allotment. Mary Clare welcomes applications for PhDs from students in any aspect of the history of childhood and youth, on voluntary action, and religious history.


Posts held previously:

  • 2006-2014, Programme leader of BA Hons Childhood Studies, University of Greenwich

Responsibilities within the university

  • Deputy chair and acting co-chair of the Faculty of Education, Health and Human Sciences Research Ethics Committee
  • Acting chair of the School of Education research ethics panel, and member of the University Research Ethics Committee
  • Leader of the Cluster for the Study of Play and Recreation and of the Hub for History, the Lifecourse and the Professions in the Institute of Lifecourse Development
  • Member of the FEHHS Faculty Research Degrees Committee
  • Member of the University Archive Steering Group.
  • Inclusivity Champion
  • Member of FEHHS Faculty Board and Faculty Research and Enterprise Committee Former member of University Academic Council (2004-2014)
  • Former member of University Academic Council (2004-2014)


Awards Mary Clare’s PhD was funded by All Saints’ Educational Trust, Tottenham. She received the IHR Lindley Studentship and conference grants from the Royal Historical Society and the Ecclesiastical History Society. She has received internal funding for her projects on “A Social History of Children’s Illness,” and “Multi-Cultural Toys”.


  • Co-Founding Director of the Children’s History Society, UK, and Treasurer
  • Editorial Board of Childhood in the Past: an International Journal
  • Editorial Board of Routledge Studies in Childhood and Youth (new series)
  • Trustee of the Pollock’s Toy Museum Trust
  • Honorary Secretary, Council member and Trustee of the Church of England Record Society
  • Committee member and Trustee of the Voluntary Action History Society
  • Convenor and founder of the Life-Cycles seminar, Institute of Historical Research, London and invited co-convenor of the Education in the Long Eighteenth Century seminar, IHR
  • External member of the University Research Ethics sub-committee for Liverpool Hope University
  • A founder member of Waltham Forest History and Heritage Network
  • Her research students work on topics such as: migrants’ experiences of play in postwar Britain; girls’ education and employment in Surrey, 1870-1914; the social memory of General Gordon in Gravesend, and an ethical framework for primary education.
  • External examining at the Universities of Birmingham, Essex, Queen Mary, University of London, UCLAN.


Learned societies:

  • 2015-present, Co-Founding Director of the Children's History Society
  • 2015-present, Committee member, British Society for the History of Paediatrics and Child Health
  • 2012-15, Secretary of the Society for the Study of Childhood in the Past

Conference and seminar organization:

  • Co-convenor (and founder) of the Life-Cycles seminar. Institute of Historical Research, London
  • Co-convenor of the 'Education in the Long Eighteenth century' seminar. Institute of Historical Research, London
  • September 2016, Histories of Child Health and Illness. Annual Conference of the BSHPCH. Greenwich
  • June 2016, Horrible Histories: Children's Lives in Historical Contexts. King's College London
  • June 2015, Re-Imagining Childhood: Images, Objects and the Voice of the Child. With Leticia Fernandez-Fontecha Rumeu. Greenwich
  • September 2014: Launch seminar for the new Journal of Playwork Practice. Greenwich
  • July 2014, National Advisory Board of the 56th International Standing Conference of the History of Education, London
  • June 2013, UK representative of the programme committee for the US-based Society for the History of Childhood and Youth Biennial Conference, Nottingham

External examining:

  • 2014-17, External examiner in History at Kingston University
  • 2011-15, External examiner for the BA Hons, Childhood and Youth Studies at Manchester Metropolitan University


  • Waltham Forest History Network
  • Waltham Forest Liaison Group
  • Leyton and Leytonstone Historical Society
  • Pollock's Toy Museum Trust


  • Editorial Board of Childhood in the Past: an International Journal
  • Reviewer for Childhood in the Past, History of Education, Gender and History. Liverpool University Press

Professional associations:

  • Children’s History Society,
  • Royal Historical Society,
  • Ecclesiastical History Society,
  • Society for the History of Childhood and Youth,
  • Society for the Study of Childhood in the Past,
  • British Society for the History of Paediatrics and Child Health,
  • Voluntary Action History Society,
  • British Educational Research Association,

Research / Scholarly interests

Mary Clare has published on the history of childhood and youth from 1688 to 1920. Her research interests in this field include religion; illness, health and disability; and play and recreation. Her publications on children and religion include an edited collection with Hugh Morrison (University of Otago), Creating Religious Childhoods in Anglo-World and British Colonial Contexts, 1800-1950. She is completing a monograph, Free Spirits: Children and Religion, 1740-1870 which challenges the association of secularisation with children’s wellbeing. Her project on the social history of children’s illness in Europe and American, 1700 to the present explores the ways illness shaped childhood, children’s experiences of illness, as well as the impact of sick children on society. She has a monograph in progress entitled Children’s Illness from the Plague to COVID-19.

Her publications on play and recreation include two edited collections of colleagues’ work, one for Youth and Policy (2013), entitled “Youth, Recreation and Play, Interdisciplinary Perspectives”, and “Play, Toys and Memory in International Perspective”, for Childhood in the Past (2014). Her other research interests include women and philanthropy, the English Poor Law, and women’s suffrage. She is completing articles on Louise Donaldson, Christian socialist and feminist, (1861-1950), and “The Revd William Charles Cotton (1813-79), the wild colonial boy?” She has on ongoing interdisciplinary project on Multi-Cultural Toys, which has included an exhibition at Greenwich co-organised with the Pollock’s Toy Museum Trust, research with children, oral history interviewing, archival research and exhibitions in conjunction with Waltham Forest First London Borough of Culture (2019). Her future projects include a history of missionaries’ children from 1790- 1870, and the history of childhood and youth in Britain from ancient times to the present. As well as leading many academic conferences and seminars, she co-organises many events at local level, and is frequently invited to give public talks. These include, most recently, the online series of the Pollock’s Toy Museum Trust, and as a guest “in conversation” with the Israeli Children’s History Society. Previous talks were to local Guide groups, the Eltham Festival, the Jeffrye Museum, Vestry House Museum, E17, and the Trefoil Guild.

Key funded projects

  • 2013-14, Multi-Cultural Toys, Greenwich Research and Enterprise
  • 2010-12, Centre for the Study of Play and Recreation, Greenwich Research and Enterprise
  • 2008-11, A social history of children's illness, Greenwich Research and Enterprise
  • 2010, A Mass-Observation Directive: Children's Experiences of Illness. Commissioned by University of Greenwich

Recent publications


Martin, Mary Clare and , (2019), Catechizing at home, 1740-1870: Instruction, communication, denomination. Cambridge University Press. In: , , , . Cambridge University Press, Studies in Church History, 55 . pp. 256-273 ISSN: 0424-2084 (Print), 2059-0644 (Online) (doi: https://doi.org/10.1017/stc.2018.31).

Martin, Mary Clare and , (2016), The state of play: Historical perspectives. Taylor and Francis. In: , , , . Taylor and Francis, International Journal of Play, 5: 8 (3) . pp. 329-339 ISSN: 2159-4937 (Print), 2159-4953 (Online) (doi: https://doi.org/10.1080/21594937.2016.1244025).

Book section

Martin, Mary and , (2023), Play cultures, social worlds and youth in familial settings, 1700-1904. Oxford University Press. In: , , In: James Marten (ed.), Oxford Handbook of the History of Youth Culture. Oxford University Press, Oxford (1st) . pp. 213-234 . ISBN: 9780190920753 (doi: https://doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780190920753.013.16) NB Item availability restricted.

Martin, Mary Clare and , (2021), Religious practice and the social worlds of eighteenth-century Children, 1688 to 1800. Manchester University Press. In: , , In: Caroline Bowden, Emily Vine, Tessa Whitehouse (eds.), Religion and the life cycle in early modern England. Manchester University Press, Manchester (1st) (doi: https://doi.org/10.7765/9781526149244.00011).

Martin, Mary Clare and , (2020), Learning at home: Class, religion, gender and family. Routledge. In: , , In: Joachim Eibach, Margareth Lanzinger (eds.), The Routledge History of the Domestic Sphere in Europe: 16th to 19th Century. Routledge, (1st) . ISBN: 9780367143671 (doi: ) NB Item availability restricted.

Martin, Mary Clare and , (2020), Childhood, youth and denominational identity: church, chapel and home in the long eighteenth century. Palgrave. In: , , In: Tali Berner, Lucy Underwood (eds.), Childhood, Youth and Religious Minorities in Early Modern Europe. Palgrave, Basingstoke, UK . pp. 127-164 . ISBN: 9783030291983 (doi: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-29199-0_5).

Morrison, Hugh and , Martin, Mary Clare (2016), Introduction: contours and issues in children's religious history. Routledge. In: , , In: Hugh Morrison, Mary Clare Martin (eds.), Creating Religious Childhoods in Anglo-Worlds and British Colonial Contexts, 1800-1950. Routledge, Abingdon and New York (1st) . pp. 1-20 . ISBN: 9781472489487 (doi: https://www.routledge.com/Creating-Religious-Childhoods-in-Anglo-World-and-British-Colonial-Contexts/Morrison-Martin/p/book/9781472489487).

Martin, Mary Clare and , (2016), Play, missionaries and the cross-cultural encounter in global perspective, 1800-1870. Routledge. In: , , In: Hugh Morrison, Mary Clare Martin (eds.), Creating Religious Childhoods in Anglo-World and British Colonial Contexts, 1800-1950. Routledge, New York . pp. 61-84 . ISBN: 9781472489487 (hbk.); 9781315408781 (ebk.) (doi: https://www.routledge.com/Creating-Religious-Childhoods-in-Anglo-Worldand-British-Colonial-Contexts/Morrison-Martin/p/book/9781472489487) NB Item availability restricted.

Conference item

Martin, Mary Clare and , (2020), Christian socialism and voluntary action: feminism, suffrage and politics, 1880-1950. In: Voluntary Action History Society seminar, 10 Feb 2020, London, UK , . , (doi: https://www.vahs.org.uk/).

Martin, Mary Clare and , (2020), Gender, generation and life-cycle: the Hackney Phalanx and the world, 1799-1855. In: British Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies 49th Annual Conference, Oxford, 08-10 Jan 2020, Oxford, UK , . , (doi: ).

Martin, Mary and , (2019), Religion and adolescence from 1700-1900: autonomy, ritual and community. In: 12th Annual Conference of the Society for the Study of Childhood in the Past: Rebels Without a Cause? Accessing and Exploring Adolescents/Adolescence in the Past, 30 Oct - 01 Nov 2019, Sheffield, UK , . , (doi: ).

Martin, Mary Clare and , (2019), Thrown upon the waves: an education of nature on Rousseau’s principles in Epping Forest, 1760s-1790s. In: International Society for Eighteenth Century Studies Conference, 14-19 Jul 2019, Edinburgh, UK , . , (doi: https://www.bsecs.org.uk/isecs/en/programme/).

Martin, Mary Clare and , (2019), Pedagogical encounters and exchanges between indigenous and missionaries’ children in the mission field, 1790-1870. In: Encounters and Exchanges, Society for the History of Childhood and Youth Biennial Conference, 26-29 Jun 2019, Sydney, Australia , . , (doi: https://www.shcy.org/events1/2019-shcy-conference/shcy-2019-sydney-program/).