School of Social, Historical and Literary Studies


Photo of Dr Steven Gray

Dr Steven Gray

  • Qualifications: BA, MA, PhD, FRGS
  • Role Title: Senior Lecturer in Imperial and Naval History
  • Address: Milldam, Burnaby Road, Portsmouth PO1 3AS
  • Telephone: 023 9284 6083
  • Email:
  • Department: School of Social, Historical and Literary Studies
  • Faculty: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences


Dr Steven Gray joined the department in 2015, having previously lectured at Swansea University. He completed his doctoral thesis at the University of Warwick, with the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich.

He is part of the Port Towns and Urban Cultures research group which is dedicated to furthering our understanding of the social and cultural impact of life in port towns from the eighteenth century to the modern period.

Steven welcomes PhD applicants interested in navy and empire, particularly social and cultural aspects, c.1800-1914

He currently supervises:

  • Elizabeth Libero (First Supervisor): Her thesis examines the Royal Navy’s role in knowledge production at the outreaches of empire during the Napoleonic Wars.
  • John Bolt (Second Supervisor): His thesis analyses how the organisational culture and military identity of the Royal Marines developed in nineteenth century Britain.

Teaching Responsibilities

Informed by his research, and Steven teaches extensively on the MA Naval History. He is happy to discuss informal enquiries about the course.

  • The Wooden Walls - The Royal Navy Under Sail, 1509-1815
  • Rise and Fall: Naval Hegemony and Decline, 1815-1960 
  • Naval Research Project
  • Naval History Research Skills
  • Dissertation / Major Project (Naval History)


Steven is interested in British imperial, maritime, transnational, global and transoceanic history. He is particularly interested in the material infrastructures of global networks, and how these facilitated the mobility of goods, people, militaries and empires.

He has published several journal articles which looked at how the expansion of a steam-powered Royal Navy in the second half of the nineteenth century had wider ramifications across the British empire. Steam Power and Sea Power Coal, the Royal Navy, and the British Empire, c. 1870-1914  (Palgrave, 2017) examined how steam propulsion made vessels less subject to the vagaries of tides, winds and currents, but it also made them utterly dependent on a particular resource – coal – and its distribution around the world. The book assesses how this created geopolitical tensions, required large infrastructures, as well as labour forces, and also engendered cultural connections around the globe.

He is currently working on naval imperial mobility, interactions with animals, and the exotic imagination.

He is also editing, with Prof. Louise Miskell, New Perspectives on Welsh Industrial History (University of Wales Press), and, with Prof. Joanne Begiato and Dr Karen Downing, Negotiating Masculinities and Modernity in the Maritime World, 1815-1940 (Palgrave). 


Research profile

Explore my research profile, publications and activities on the Portsmouth Research Portal

View profile