Mark Roodhouse
Senior Lecturer in Modern History



BA (Cantab), MSc (Oxon), PhD (Cantab), FRHistS, SFHEA

Mark Roodhouse is a Senior Lecturer in History and Chair of the Board of Studies. He works on the economic and social history of modern Britain. He is currently writing his second book about organised crime in mid-twentieth-century Britain. His first book is Black Market Britain: 1939-1955, published by Oxford University Press.

Mark was educated at Cambridge and Oxford before coming to York. He is a director of the Centre for Historical Economics and Related Researchand a member of the History and Policy network. He has also refereed journal articles and reviewed books for various academic publishers.




Mark is currently writing his second book on the history of organised crime in mid-twentieth-century Britain. This explores the interaction between the law-and-order bureaucracy’s dark imaginings and the activities of criminal entrepreneurs. Through a micro-history of a failed black market sting operation, the project reveals the interplay between the representation and reality of organised crime before ‘celebrity’ gangsters like Billy Hill, Jack ‘Spot’ Comer and the Messina brothers entered the limelight in the 1950s.

Mark stumbled across the case when writing his first book Black Market Britain: 1939-1955. In the book, he argues that illegal markets did not pose a serious threat to rationing and price control because of Britons’ self-restraint. The means, motives, and opportunities for evasion were not lacking. The shortages were real, regulations were not watertight, and enforcement was haphazard. Fairness, not patriotism and respect for the law, is the key to understanding this self-restraint. By invoking popular notions of a fair price, a fair profit, and a fair share, government rhetoric limited black marketeering as would-be evaders had to justify their offences both to themselves and others.

Black Market Britain underlines the importance of fairness to those seeking a richer understanding of economic life in modern Britain and its vital role in securing compliance with economic regulation. Mark has shared these findings with the general public through his contributions to television programmes like Wartime Farm and The One Show as well radio programmes like Broadcasting House.

Drawing on his work, Mark has contributed to ongoing debates about climate change, producing a policy paper evaluating carbon rationing proposals in the light of historical experience, writing an op-ed for the Financial Times and submitting written evidence to a parliamentary committee. These interventions attracted national and international press coverage.


Mark welcomes proposals to work on any area of British history since 1914.

Recent PhD students

  • Tom Wright, "'A Barbarous Penalty which the Community has no Right to exact': Why Capital Punishment was abolished in Britain, 1947-69" (PhD diss., University of York, 2014).

Current PhD students

  • David Ellis, “Pavement Politics: Community Action in Urban Britain, 1965-1990.” (AHRC-funded)

External activities


  • Fellow Royal Historical Society, 2013-
  • Member, Economic History Society, 2010-
  • Member, Advisory Group, History & Policy, 2007-
  • Fellow, Higher Education Academy, 2007-

Editorial duties

  • Editor, Borthwick Papers, Borthwick Institute for Archives, University of York, 2009-13

Media coverage



  • Interview by Chris Bowlby. 'Austerity Measures will Open the Door to the Black Market.' BBC History Magazine 11, no. 12 (December 2010).
  • 'City Bankers - Spivs or Profiteers?' History & Policy Opinion Piece. September 28, 2010.
  • 'Carbon Copies?' History Today 57, no. 7 (July 2007): 4-5.
  • 'Feeding Britain: Food Control, 1940-45.' Everyone’s War 15 (Spring/Summer 2007): 39-43.
  • 'Enlist the Blitz Spirit, Get Out the Carbon Ration Book.' Financial Times, March 13, 2007.
  • Interview by Chris Arnot. 'Enemies of the Fairer Society.' Education Guardian, July 12, 2005, 21.
  • 'Nye Bevan, Black Marketeer.' History Today 55, no. 7 (July 2005): 2-3.


  • Interview by Giles Coren. 'Food: A Scandalous History.' BBC Radio 4. London: BBC, May 28, 2013, 16:00hrs.
  • 'Meet the Spiv.' Broadcasting House. BBC Radio 4. London: BBC, September 26, 2010, 10:00hrs. [audio essay]
  • Interviews for BBC Radio Leeds, BBC Radio York, BBC Wiltshire


  • Interview by Ruth Goodman. 'Episode Two.' Wartime Farm. First broadcast September 13, 2012, 20:00hrs on BBC Two. [2.7 million viewers (BARB)]
  • Interview by Stuart Maconie. A History of the World: Cumbria’s Atomic Pioneers. First broadcast May 17, 2010 on BBC One (North East and Cumbria only). [Winner of the Royal Television Society Best Broadcast Factual Production 2011]
  • Interview by John Sergeant. 'Black Market Cosmetics.' The One Show. First broadcast May 17, 2010 on BBC One, 19:00hrs. [4.35 million viewers (BARB)]
  • Interview by Dan Snow. 'A History of Hair.' The One Show. First broadcast November 27, 2009 on BBC One.
  • Interview by Gareth Hughes. 'Nye Bevan.' A Date with Destiny. First broadcast October 2, 2006 on ITV1 Wales.
  • Interview. Spivs. First broadcast October 24, 2005 on BBC Four.
  • Interview. When Britain Went Bananas. First broadcast October 8, 2005 on BBC Four.


Contact details

Dr Mark Roodhouse
Vanbrugh College V/217
Department of History
University of York
YO10 5DD

Tel: Internal 2964, External (01904) 322964