Dr James Nott

Dr James Nott


Researcher profile

+44 (0)1334 46 2918
St Katharine's Lodge
Office hours
Monday 9am to 10am



Educated at state schools in Cheshire,  I gained all of my degrees from the History Faculty at the University of  Oxford,  from undergraduate to PhD. I worked at the Universities of Sussex and Edinburgh before moving to St Andrews.


I have teaching expertise from undergraduate to postgraduate level, in a wide range of courses, covering topics from Anglo-Scottish relations in the 17th Century to 20th Century British social, economic, cultural and political history. I  offer the following Modern History Honours courses: 

I participate in the teaching of the following Postgraduate option:

Building Britain: The Construction & Deconstruction of Britishness, 1707-2000

Research areas

I am a social and cultural historian specialising in twentieth-century British history. I pioneered the social and cultural history of social dancing in Britain and my most recent monograph was the first history of dance halls in Britain. Going to the Palais: A Social and Cultural History of Dancing and Dance Halls in Britain, 1918-60 (OUP, 2015) won widespread critical acclaim from reviewers and is due to be re-issued in paperback in 2020. I also wrote Music for the People: Popular Music and Dance in Interwar Britain (OUP, 2002) (awarded proxime accessit to the Whitfield Prize by the Royal Historical Society) the first academic history of the British popular music industry in the 1920s and 1930s. I also co-edited Classes, Cultures and Politics: Essays on British History for Ross McKibbin (2011), also published by OUP.

I am currently working on a second history of popular music in interwar Britain and on anti-Soviet propaganda in twentieth century British popular culture. My next book publication will be a global history of the interwar dance craze which I am working on with Klaus Nathaus of the University of Oslo.


Going to the Palais 

A 'monumental book...The depth of research, sources, and critical reflection... marks it out as a classic.' Keith Gildart, Journal of Modern History 

'a landmark study ... Going to the Palais stands as an exemplary work of social and cultural history' - Peter Bailey, American Historical Review

'In its range of topics, density of assembled evidence and consistent, subtlety of argument, this book is set to become the definitive account of dance halls in 20th century Britain.' - Jeffrey Richards, History Today

Music for the People

"Historians have generally not given music the attention that they have been prepared to allow to literature and fine art. Reading books of this quality might finally make them realise just how much they have been missing." - Social History Society Bulletin

"This is a fine, scholarly monograph and the author demonstrates a clarity of expression throughout. Such a comprehensive account of inter-war commercial music deserves a long shelf life among studies of twentieth-century popular culture." - Matthew Hilton, English Historical Review

PhD Supervision

My research specialisms are: Twentieth Century British Social and Cultural History; Popular Culture and Leisure (esp. music, dance halls); the history of twentieth century Mass Media (cinema, radio, gramophone); the British Film Industry; the BBC; Class and Culture; Interwar Britain; the 1920s and 1930s; the Second World War Home Front.

I welcome PhD students who wish to research in any of these areas.

PhD Supervisor for: 

Martin Dibbs, Shaping popular culture: radio broadcasting, mass entertainment and the work of the BBC Variety Department 1933-1967

Tomochika Sato, Theatre and Identity: the Social Roles of Provincial Theatres and Touring Drama Companies in the British Isles, c.1850-1914

Louise Heren, 'An Ugly Epoch': Male Sexual Violence in Interwar Scotland, 1918-30 (co-supervisor with Bill Knox)


I have considerable experience of media work, having been involved in several television and radio documentaries on the BBC and in Australia on ABC radio network. Details are below:


  • Last Man in the Hammersmith Palais, interviewed/appeared, BBC 4 broadcast December 2007 
    1 hour Documentary which recounts the story of west London venue the Hammersmith Palais, talking about  it’s birth as a dance hall in the 1920s/30s.
  • Dance Britannia, interviewed/appeared, BBC 4 broadcast December 2007 
    A three part history of social dancing in Britain for BBC4. Episode 1: Dance Hall Days, talking about moral panic and dancing, women and dancing and the new social dances of the 1920s and 1930s. 
  • The Vera Lynn Story, interviewed/appeared, BBC2  broadcast September 2010 
    A documentary of the life of Vera Lynn, led by Sir David Frost.
  • Len Goodman’s Dancing Feet: The British Ballroom Story, interviewed/appeared, BBC4/BBCHD broadcast December 2012. A 1 hour documentary looking at the development of ballroom dancing in Britain, talking about the social functions of dance halls and their popularity.


  • 'The Definitive History of Jazz in Britain,' Jazz FM, UK, 4 April - 6 June 2021
  • Books and Arts’ - ‘Going to the Palais,’ ABC Radio National, Australia, 18 June 2016
    Listen here:
  • James Nott: Going to the Palais - Books and Arts - ABC ...
    At the turn of the 20th Century, dancing was mostly an upper class pursuit in Britain. But by the 1930s, it had become a modern craze and millions of people were ...
  • ‘Thinking Allowed’ – ‘Going to the Palais,’ BBC Radio 4, 23 March 2016
    Listen here:
  • Dance halls, Pick-up artists, Thinking Allowed - BBC Radio 4
    Dance halls: a social and cultural history. James Nott, Lecturer in History at the University of St. Andrews, talks to Laurie Taylor about the origins, meaning and ...
  • Making History, feature item/interview, BBC Radio 4 broadcast February 2010 
    Radio appeal and discussion related to my research on Britain’s dance hall culture. 
  • Deborah Bull’s Dance Nation, interviewed/appeared, BBC Radio 4 broadcast September 2012
    Radio series looking at the history of dance in Britain. Several appearances


Selected publications


See more publications