Jane Humphries is Emeritus Professor of Economic History at Oxford, a Fellow of All Souls College, and Centennial Professor of Economic History at the London School of Economics and Political Science.
She has a first-class undergraduate degree in economics from Newnham College, Cambridge where she was supervised by (among others) Phyllis Deane and Charles Feinstein, and a PhD in economics from Cornell University. She taught at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst for seven years before returning to a lectureship in the Faculty of Economics at Cambridge. She was promoted to Reader in 1995, only the third woman to hold a statutory Readership in the Faculty. She moved to Oxford in 1998, taking up a Readership in Economic History in the Faculty of History and a Fellowship at All Souls College. She was promoted to Professor in 2004 and her Readership converted into a Statutory Chair. She has been President of the Economic History Society, Vice President of the Economic History Association, Editor of the Economic History Review and a long-serving member of the editorial boards of a number of leading journals including the Journal of Economic History and Explorations in Economic History. A founding member of the International Association for Feminist Economics, she was its President in 1999–2000 and has been an Associate Editor of the journal Feminist Economics ever since. She became a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in 2007, of the Royal Historical Society and the British Academy in 2012 and of the Cliometrics Society in 2020. She has served as Chair of the Oxford History Faculty Board and of the Economics and Economic History Section of the British Academy. She holds Honorary Degrees from the University of Uppsala (2016) and Sheffield University (2018). On retirement from Oxford in 2018 she took up a Centennial Chair at the London School of Economics. She was awarded a CBE in 2018.
Professor Humphries’ research interests include labour markets, industrialization and the links between the family and the economy. She has published extensively on wages, the family, the standard of living and the history of women's work. She is also interested in the causes and consequences of economic growth and structural change. She has published widely in economics, economic history and history journals as well as edited collections. Her paper ‘Enclosures, Common Rights and Women: The Proletarianization of Families in late Eighteenth and early Nineteenth Century Britain’, won the Arthur H. Cole Prize for the outstanding article published in the Journal of Economic History in 1990.
Her 2010 book, Childhood and Child Labour in the British Industrial Revolution, drew on a large number of autobiographies by working men and used an innovative quantitative and qualitative methodology to illuminate aspects of children's lives which are inaccessible on the basis of more conventional sources. The monograph was awarded the Gyorgi Ranki Prize for an outstanding book in European Economic History by the Economic History Association in 2011 and provided the basis for a successful BBC4 documentary, The Children Who Built Victorian Britain, which she co-wrote and presented and which won an International History Makers award for the Best History Program in 2012. Working people’s own accounts of their experience continue to be a source of inspiration for her work and are the basis of the Advanced Paper that she continues to offer in the Masters’ Programme in Economic and Social History. Professor Humphries delivered the Tawney Lecture at the Economic History Society Annual Conference, Durham, 2010, and the Ellen McArthur Lectures in Cambridge, February-March 2016, entitled 'Eve Also Delved'. She also gave a keynote address at the XVIII World Economic History Congress, held at MIT in 2018.
Recently, Professor Humphries' research has focused on studies of wages, resulting in publications on women’s wages (with Jacob Weisdorf), on hand spinners’ wages (with Benjamin Schneider), on children’s wages (with Sara Horrell), and on families’ collective wages (with Sara Horrell and Jacob Weisdorf). The research on wages has led on to investigations of Malthusian accounts of long-run English history and to explore family life cycle experience of wellbeing. Her paper (with Jacob Weisdorf), ‘Unreal Wages? Real Income and Economic Growth in England, 1260-1850’ was awarded the Royal Economic Society Prize for the best article in the Economic Journal in 2019.
Currently, Professor Humphries is investigating whether board and lodging costs can be used as an alternative way of measuring living standards and has new projects with Sara Horrell and Jacob Weisdorf on skill and other wage premia. She is also working with Ryah Thomas on a historical case study of several small coal mining communities in South Yorkshire. Part of a larger project in the Oxford Martin School on the Post Carbon Transition, the study shows that even though these pits have been closed for over thirty years, the intensity of mining employment and timing of resource exploitation in the nineteenth century are good predictors of micro-level deprivation today. Thus, the timing of resource exploitation emerges as a key factor in persistent deprivation and this allows the identification of the kind of coalmining community at risk and the factors which create vulnerability.