Academic work

DPhil research

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My research charted the employment and migration experiences of foreign, female domestic servants in Britain from 1880-1939, an amalgamation of some of the most marginalised groups in this period: working class 'alien' women. I’m fascinated by historical 'outsiders' such as these. Living at the margins of our society they are overlooked and written out of accounts of the past.

While travel in 19th century was increasingly accessible to ordinary people, it was still a big deal to travel alone as a woman and to leave the safety of home and family to find work - not just in a far-off city but in a different country altogether. 'My' domestic servants came from all over the world. I've found Chinese, Turkish, Dutch, Japanese and Portuguese housekeepers, parlourmaids and children’s nurses living all over the country. Who were they and why did they come? How were they treated once they arrived and what happened to them once they left service?

Through themes of transnationalism, agency and otherness, I explore how their experiences form the historical context for today’s global domestic service industry, so often considered a recent phenomenon.

My doctoral supervisor at the University of Oxford was the hugely respected and talented Professor of Economic History and Fellow of All Souls College,
Jane Humphries. I was funded by an AHRC DTP studentship and the Kellogg College Progress Scholarship.

Past events

3 Nov 2018
: 'Part of the family? South Asian ayahs in Britain c.1870-1939'. Lecture and roundtable discussant at the British Asian Histories Day School, Oxford University Department for Continuing Education.

Autumn 2018: "Travelling ayahs of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries: global networks and mobilization of agency", History Workshop Journal, 86/1 (2018), pp. 44-66.

8 Nov 2017: Paper at the Long 19th Century Seminar, Oxford, on the theme of service. "'While seeking a situation': cross-cultural experiences of out-of-work foreign domestics in London, c.1880–1930".

14 Oct 2017: public lecture for the Diwali event at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, on Hindu travelling ayahs.

Sep 2017: launch of new online GCSE resource for AQA History: 'Ayahs, memsahibs and their children: empire migrants'.

7-8 Sep 2017: Co-convenor of Beyond the Home, an international conference held in Oxford and presenting my paper "'While seeking a situation': cross-cultural experiences of out-of-work foreign domestics in London, c.1880–1930".

17 Mar 2017
: Paper at the IHR Women's History Seminar: "Travelling Ayahs: Navigating Victimhood and Agency."

16-18 Feb 2017: Paper at the European Research Commission project Servants' Past conference, Delhi, India: "‘Nurses of our Ocean Highways’: Ayahs, Amahs and the Navigation of Gender, Race and Empire in the Early Twentieth Century."

20 Oct 2016
: Official launch event for the Women in Oxford's History podcast series, at TORCH, Radcliffe Observatory Quarter, Oxford. More info here.

21 Jul 2016
: Paper at QMUL/Geffrye Museum's Invisible Hands: Domestic workers from the seventeenth century to the present day: Tracing and placing foreign-born female domestic servants in London, 1881-1911.

26 Apr 2016: Paper at Oxford University Graduate and Early Career Workshop on Gender and Race: The travelling ayahs and amahs of Asia: navigating gender, race and empire in the early twentieth century.

21-23 Mar 2016
: Poster session at Social History Society 40th anniversary conference, Lancaster. ‘Out of sight and over here: foreign female domestic servants in London 1880–1939’ (awarded 1st prize). Click image below to view at

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8 Mar 2016 International Women's Day: featured on Oxford/TORCH website promoting women who study women.

23 Feb 2016: Invited critic at Meet the Author event for Linda McDowell, Migrant Women’s Voices (London, 2016) at the School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford.