Staff profile

Dr Kathleen McIlvenna

Lecturer in History

Kathleen McIIvenna




College of Arts, Humanities and Education



Research centre

Identity, Culture and Representation Research Centre




Kedleston Road, Derby Campus



I am a Lecturer in History with interests in nineteenth-century British social and economic history and public history.

Teaching responsibilities

I teach a number of modules on the MA in Public History and Heritage including:

I also teach across the undergraduate History programme and act as a personal academic tutor at all levels.

Professional interests

I am interested in nineteenth-century British history with particular reference to histories of welfare, labour, occupational health, occupational pensions, old age, and the Post Office. Additionally, I have interests in the social meaning of money and issues surrounding entitlement.

I am also passionate about public history, with a particular interest in the power structures related to the history of museums and heritage sites, as well as co-production involving communities and local and national institutions. I am also exploring the relationship between historians and family and local historians in my work and practice.

Research interests

The pension records held at the Postal Museum have formed the foundation of my many areas of research, including published papers, book chapters and my doctoral thesis. It has led to a strong relationship with the Postal Museum and my most recent research project, Addressing Health. Funded by the Wellcome Trust, I am a co-investigator in a collaboration between academics at Kings College London, Kingston University and the University College London, led by Prof David Green.

We are interested in the mortality, morbidity and occupational health of postal workers in the nineteenth century and early twentieth century. I am interested in the role of families to support sick or injured postal workers, how the Post Office as an employer managed ill-health as well as the role of Sunday labour campaigns. I am also involved in the public engagement side of the project and very keen to work with family historians, as well as postal employees as the project develops.

My PhD entitled 'From the Civil List to Occupational Pensions: The British Government, Superannuation and Pensions 1810-1910' was the result of an AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award with the Insititute of Historical Research and the Postal Museum. It examines the development of superannuation systems within the Civil Service in comparison to the Bank of England, East India Company, and railway companies, shedding new light of this system of welfare for white-collared workers in the nineteenth century.

Additionally, I have presented and written papers related to the Victorian Sunday Labour debate and postal employees, and I have been involved in organising and evaluating museum remix events and am investigating ways to take this research further.

Membership of professional bodies

Experience in industry

I have worked for a range of museums from small local authority museums to large multi-site
national museums in roles that have given me a broad knowledge and insight into a variety of departments and various functions of museums.
My career started in the development department of the Science Museum, London, and operated across the Science Museum Group sites. I have since worked as Museum Assistant at Enfield Museum Service and as Assistant Curator at the Royal Armouries based at the Tower of London. I have also held a number of internship and volunteer positions in institutions including the National Maritime Museum, Hackney Museum, and the Postal Museum.

Recent publications


D.H.L. Brown, D.R. Green, K. McIlvenna, N. Shelton, The beating heart of the system: the health of postal workers in Victorian London. Journal of Historical Geography, online May 2020. (OPEN ACCESS)

D.R. Green, D.H.L. Brown, K. McIlvenna, N. Shelton, ‘The postman wears out fast’: retiring sick in London’s Victorian Post OfficeThe London Journal, online September 2019. 

K. McIlvenna, D.H.L. Brown, D.R. Green, ‘The Natural Foundation of Perfect Efficiency’: Medical Services and the Victorian Post OfficeSocial History of Medicine, online January 2019. 

D.R. Green, D.H.L. Brown, K. McIlvenna, Addressing Ill Health: Sickness and Retirement in the Victorian Post OfficeSocial History of Medicine, online November 2018. 

Geoghegan, H, McIlvenna, K and van der Vaart, M., 'Developing local narratives for objects in national collections: Lessons learned from the ‘Number please? Working with the Enfield Exchange’ project', Curator, 60:2 (2017)

McIlvenna, K, ‘Tower of London Foreshore Finds’, GEM Case Studies, Vol. 13 (2014)

Book Chapters:

McIlvenna, K., '“The widows and orphans of servants are dying”: The place of the family in the design and application of nineteenth-century civil servant pensions.', King, S., Beardmore, C., and Dobbing, C., (eds) Family Life in Britain, 1650-1910, Palgrave (2019)

Book Review: 

McIlvenna, K, 'Postal Culture in Europe, 1500–1800' in Social History Vol.42 Issue 1 (2017) 

Report Back: 

McIlvenna, K, 'Providing Public History: The Launch of the Centre for the Historical Record', in History Workshop Journal 72 (2014)