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Dr Thomas Lean
Research Associate



BA History and Computing (Kent); MA History and Cultural Studies of Science (Kent); PhD (Manchester)

Dr Thomas Lean is a Research Associate in the Department of History. He works on the history of pesticides in farming in postwar Britain as part of the Chemical Empire project, which is funded by the Wellcome Trust.

Thomas first studied History and Computing at the University of Kent. This combination led him to a History and Cultural Studies of Science MA at the same institution. His subsequent PhD research at the University of Manchester focused on the history of popular home computing in the cultural context of 1980s Britain, later the subject of his 2016 book “Electronic Dreams: How 1980s Britain learned to love the computer.”

Prior to joining the department he was a specialist oral historian at National Life Stories at the British Library, principally working on the major oral history projects An Oral History of British Science and An Oral History of the Electricity Supply Industry.



Thomas has wide ranging research interests in the history of technology and science, with a particular focus on oral history, computing, the electricity industry and agricultural technology.

His current research focus is the application of pesticides to farming in postwar Britain. Prior to this he worked on archival oral history projects that collected life story interviews with scientists and engineers, and documented the history of the electricity supply industry. He has also worked on understanding the role of users in shaping technology and public history.


Selected publications

Electronic Dreams: How 1980s Britain learned to love the computer. Bloomsbury Sigma. (2016)

“The life electric: Oral history and composure in the electricity supply industry.” Oral History. 46(01). (2018)

(Co-authored with Sally Horrocks) “Good Nuclear Neighbours: The British electricity industry and the communication of nuclear power to the public, 1950s – 1980s.” Journal of Science Communication. 16(03). (2017)

(Co-authored with Sally Horrocks) “Doing it for Britain: Science and service in oral history with government scientists.” In Don Leggett and Charlotte Sleigh (eds.), Scientific Governance in Britain 1914-1979. Manchester University Press. (2016)

“‛Inside a day you will be talking to it like an old friend’: The making and remaking of Sinclair personal computing in 1980s Britain.” In Gerald Alberts and Ruth Oldenzie (eds), Hacking Europe: From computer cultures to demoscenes. Springer. (2014)

“The voice in the machine: Oral history and making the computer relevant.” In Arthur Tatnall, Tilly Blyth, and Roger Johnson (eds.), Making the history of computing relevant. Springer. (2013)

“Mediating the microcomputer: The educational character of the 1980s British popular computing boom.” Public Understanding of Science, 22(5). (2013)

Contact details

Dr Tom Lean
Research Associate
V/A/209 Vanbrugh College Department of History
University of York
YO10 5DD

Tel: +44 (0)1904 323603