Jac St John


Thesis Title: The Politics of Public Order: Policing and political protest in London during the ‘Long 1970s’

Supervisors: Professor Gerard De Groot and Dr Riccardo Bavaj



Academic History

2015 - PhD in Modern History, University of St Andrews
2013 - 2014 MSc in Contemporary History, University of Edinburgh
2009 - 2012 BA in History & Politics, Queen Mary, University of London

Research Interests

I obtained my BA in history and politics from Queen Mary, University of London in 2012. During my undergraduate degree I developed an interest in contemporary British history, in particular policing and security. My dissertation, under the supervision of Dr Martyn Frampton, focused on an incident of counter-terrorism in Gibraltar in 1988, untangling the controversial episode within the context of the British state’s ‘war’ with the IRA. In 2015 I graduated from the University of Edinburgh with an MSc in contemporary history. Under the generous tutelage of Professor Pertti Ahonen and Dr Stephen Malinowski I became interested in social and political movements during the 1960s and 1970s. My master's thesis explored the policing of anti-Vietnam War demonstrations in London in 1968, an important episode in the changing nature of post-war British activism and an increasingly political police force.

My doctoral research focuses on the politics of public order in London during the ‘Long 1970s’ (c.1968-1981). This historical conjuncture is often remembered as a time of crisis; demonstrations, protests, and strikes abound. As the post-war consensus unravelled and a paranoia of national decline became economically manifest, commentators began to decry the ‘ungovernability of Britain’. During this period, the capital played host to a series of causes célèbres of protest and demonstration, each episode acting as a ‘watershed’ in the development of the Metropolitan Police’s public order strategy. My thesis explores how this strategy emerged in relation to a broader public debate around police powers and civil liberties, the key players of which included politicians, protesters, the press, and civil society groups.

My research primarily takes place in London, where my time is spent between the National Archives at Kew and the British Library. The Hull History Centre is another important depository for my research, as it contains both the Liberty Collection (formerly the National Council for Civil Liberties) and that of the Association of Chief Police Officers. My broader interests include the history of social movements, policing and counter-terrorism, oral and radical history, freedom of information, and the so-called 'crimes of the powerful'.

Previous Research Projects

Since 2013, I have worked as a research assistant at the ESRC-funded Rendition Project, investigating British complicity in extraordinary rendition and torture. In 2015, I worked as a specialist researcher on a joint investigation between the Rendition Project and The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, analysing the report of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence into the CIA’s rendition, detention & interrogation programme. I am also a founding contributor to The Special Branch Files Project, which seeks to encourage a more informed public debate about the policing of political groups, in light of the Pitchford Inquiry into undercover policing. In partnership with Dr Sam Raphael, I recently wrote a report on British arms trading to the Persian Gulf, published by the campaigning charity War on Want.

Scholarships and Awards

Postgraduate research grant, University of St Andrews (2016)
Arts & Humanities Research Council Studentship (2015)
Postgraduate research grant, University of Edinburgh (2014)
UK/EU Master’s Scholarship, University of Edinburgh (2013)
Westfield Trust Prize, Queen Mary, University of London (2012)
English Speaking Union SSE Scholarship, Avon Old Farms School, CT (2008)