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Meet the team

Department of History staff


Amy Austin
Transgender Identities in Britain 1870-1950.


Dr David Stack

Paragraph about your research: My research focuses on transgender identities in Britain from 1870 to the 1940s. Through an analysis of medical literature, legal documentation, press coverage and autobiographical material I aim to discover to what degree there was a cultural and medical awareness of trans identities and how these were expressed and treated. I am interested in the changing medical treatments, from hormonal therapy to the advent of sex reassignment surgery and the influence of Magnus Hirschfeld's pioneering Institute on British medical practice. I explore the work of British sexologists, particularly Havelock Ellis and John Symonds Addington with regards to gender-crossing behaviours and compare both the medical and cultural experiences for transmen and transwomen. I engage with debates surrounding terminology and how best to categorise gender fluidity in a period that predates modern terms. I also examine the extent to which a transgender subculture existed in Britain and the outlets for and modes of expressing gender variance before medical procedures were available.

Amie Bolissian
The Aged Patient in Early Modern England, c.1570-1730


Dr. Hannah Newton
Professor Helen Parish

My Wellcome-funded doctoral research investigates the experiences of ageing patients in early modern England, c.1570-1730. Contrary to common assumptions, approximately 20% of the adult population was aged over 60 in this period. My study asks how doctors and laypeople understood and treated the infirmities of this neglected demographic, and seeks to uncover the impact of these conditions on the lives and emotions of sufferers and their families. Drawing on sources such as published medical texts, diaries, and doctors’ casebooks, my research will shed fresh light on understandings of the body and emotions in this period, challenging assumptions such as the ‘masculinization’ of old women, and the ‘resignation’ of older people and their loved ones to their physical and mental maladies.

Liz Barnes
Race, Rape and Resistance: Challenging Narratives in the Reconstruction South, 1865-1877


Emily West
co-supervised by David Doddington at Cardiff University

My research focuses on sexual violence in the Reconstruction US South, but also draws from women's experiences as slaves during the antebellum period and Civil War. Moving beyond the horrors inflicted by the Ku Klux Klan, I analyse violence committed by various men of authority in the South, including law enforcers, federal troops, and agents of the Freedmen's Bureau.

Barbara Berrington
Performance as subject and method in the frescoes of Fra Angelico at San Marco


Prof. Paul Davies

This dissertation proposes an approach to Quattrocento art which uses techniques and theories drawn from performance. In doing so, it acknowledges the interconnected nature of performance and all other art forms. The study examines the frescoes of Fra Angelico in the Convent of San Marco, deploying ideas used by professional performers in the theatre today. It links together recent research by movement specialists, performance artists and academics – by anthropologists, psychologists and neurologists – and couples these with the studies undertaken by art historians. It unpicks concepts like role and dynamic movement patterns, and then back-applies them to illuminate the rationale behind Fra Angelico’s artistic choices.

Wider research interests include the application of performance approaches to other forms of Renaissance art practice: and to work by Botticelli, Piero della Francesca, Mantegna etc.

Caroline Bourne 
The Impact of the Normans on the Gower Peninsula


Dr Elizabeth Matthew and Dr Aleks Pluskowski


 My doctoral research project explores the Norman conquest and colonisation of South Wales in the twelfth century, with particular focus on the Gower peninsula. As historical sources for Gower are limited for that time, by taking a multi-discipline approach and focusing on a distinct geographical area, the aim of the study is not only to identify how the Normans achieved their conquest there, but the extent of the impact they had on the lives of the Welsh people in that region. Was there relative continuity for these Welsh communities or did the Normans enforce major changes on the inhabitants? As a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the Gower peninsula is relatively undeveloped, therefore it is possible to study settlement patterns within the landscape and how these relate to Norman architecture, such as castles and churches.

Susan Cawley
Popular Song Lyrics as Historical Evidence, 1963-1975.


Prof. Matt. Worley & Dr. Natalie Thomlinson


Claire Collins
Experiencing pregnancy and childbirth in late medieval England


Professor Anne Lawrence and Dr Elizabeth Matthew

My thesis aims to present an improved understanding of the experience of pregnancy and childbirth in late medieval England, using interdisciplinary evidence for a holistic approach. To this end, I am consulting a range of sources including medical texts, private letters, literature, miracle stories, pastoral manuals and chronicles. My thesis topic developed from my interests in social history, particularly that of women, and the complex relationship between magic, medicine and religion in the medieval period.

Frances Cook
Sanctity and Material Culture: Devotion to St Margaret of Antioch in late medieval England


Professor Anne Lawrence Mathers and Professor Paul Davies

My project considers lay devotion to St Margaret of Antioch through a discussion of artefacts and objects associated with her cult in a variety of media, for example wall paintings, Books of Hours and stained glass. Aspects of patronage, interpretation of the saint’s legend and devotional practices are examined in order to explore the intersections between piety, sanctity and gender.

 Aisha Djelid 

Title: "dey jus' puts a man and breedin' woman together like mules": Forced Reproduction in the Antebellum South, 1808-1865.


Emily West

My research focuses on forced reproduction as an informal practice carried out by Southern enslavers in the antebellum South. Enslaved men and women were forced together in order to produce children for the profit of enslavers. The methods employed to do this range from subtle cajoling to violent rape. Using interviews and autobiographies of formerly enslaved people in conjunction with newspaper advertisements, slaveholder diaries, and slave management journals, my research will explore how forced reproduction, or "slave-breeding", affected both men and women; how did "breeding" influence ideas of masculinity, parenthood, and marriage? Rooted in stereotypes of hypersexuality, enslavers forced enslaved men to have sexual relations with multiple women, regardless of their marital status. Enslavers particularly valued enslaved people who were strong and healthy, as they believed that these individuals would produce the most hardworking and productive children. Lastly, this research will examine the lasting legacy of forced reproduction as a means of sexual exploitation and sexual labour for both men and women.

Daniel Frost
Labour and the Left in a suburban context: politics, identity and culture in Croydon, 1956-1994


Matthew Worley, co-supervised by Andrew Thorpe at the University of Exeter.

Daniel is researching left-wing politics in Croydon in the latter twentieth-century, examining the spaces and places of activism and studying the rise of 'identity politics' and new social movements in a local context. He is interested in the experiences of left-wing activists in a place that was electorally Conservative-dominated, and the ways in which they negotiated Croydon's various representations as dreary suburbia, 'an expression of pure capitalism', and a racially-divided London borough with an 'inner city' of its own.

I'm funded as part of the SWW DTP.

Amy Gower
Conflict and Conformity: Feminism, Agency and Gender Inequality in English Secondary Education, 1970-2000.


Dr Natalie Thomlinson (Reading) and Dr Grace Huxford (Bristol).

My doctoral research project explores gender, feminism and schooling in English comprehensive and grammar schools between 1970 and 2000, by investigating experiences of female students, classroom practices of teachers, and institutional policy. I am specifically focused on Reading and Inner London, and in particular am interested in how the politics of local authorities also shaped girls education in these two areas. Most importantly for this project, I aim to examine how 'ordinary' girls engaged with their education and British feminism, and how they negotiated ideas of gender and girlhood in their everyday lives. More broadly, I am interested in the histories of youth, childhood, sexualities, girlhood, popular culture and resistance.

I am currently recruiting participants for oral history interviews, and would welcome inquiries from women who attended secondary school in Reading or Inner London at any point between 1970 and 2000, who would be interested in discussing their experiences with me.

Gareth Jones 

The Land Agent and the Close Village - George North and Stratfield Saye, 1894-1937


Dr Jeremy Burchardt


 The objective of my research is the detailed analysis and assessment of the role of the Land Agent as the instigator and manager of social and economic change in a small rural community. The focus of the study is the 'close' village of Stratfield Saye, tied through employment and tenancy to a landed estate. The timeframe for the study mirrors the ownership of the estate by Charles, 4​th Duke of Wellington (1900-1934), and the tenure of his Land Agent, George North (1895-1937). The key questions the thesis will examine

include the degree to which the Land Agent was driven by commercial objectives in his decision making alongside the persistence of paternalistic attitudes, and the impact of regulation and broader external factors in the development of the community at Stratfield Saye.

Peter Jolly
The characteristics of Edwardian domestic service in Berkshire


Jeremy Burchardt
Jacqui Turner

My research is largely of a quantitative nature based chiefly upon a detailed examination and analysis of the household schedules of the 1911 census for selected rural areas of Berkshire, together with some more urban and semi-urban settlements in the county. This involves a total of about a thousand servants. This I plan to couple with a range of other supplementary sources to throw more light upon the lot of the female domestic and the households they served. This will bring into play various social and economic concepts from community to gender, from the occupational base of the locales in question, to demographic issues such as migration patterns. An apology to constitutional historians – I know that Edward VII died in 1910 and I am looking at the 1911 census. ‘Early Twentieth-century’ may be a better descriptive term!

Helen Lockhart  
Elizabeth, 6th Baroness Craven's public position in society, in terms of the wider historical context of female autobiographical writing and changing attitudes to women in the late Eighteenth Century and early Nineteenth Century.


Professor Kate Williams
Dr Jacqui Turner.

This PhD illuminates the public identity of Elizabeth, 6th Baroness Craven, against a background of intense social and political change, within the wider historical context of female autobiographical writing and changing attitudes to women in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. It establishes the progressive nature of her Memoirs, published in 1826 and her travel writing A Journey Through the Crimea to Constantinople, written in 1786 and published in 1789. There are no previous academic researches which provide comprehensive analysis of Lady Craven’s public identity through her Memoirs and travel writing in terms of gender, genre and authorship. My PhD is also the first to provide comprehensive analysis of Lady Craven’s portraits and country house in terms of image, status, social and cultural identity to support the claims made about her public identity through my analysis of her Memoirs and travel writing.

Alba Maria Lopez

Visiting student from Barcelona

El origen moderno del nuevo mundo: migraciones y poblamiento original de America en autores de los siglos XVI y XVII. Modern origin of the New World: migrations and first American settlers in XVIth and XVIIth authors.


Rachel Foxley Bernat Hernandez

My research is about the theories about those people who came into America before 1492, year of Christopher Columbus’ discovery. It is principally based in authors who lived close to 1492 as it helps to accurately determine the first views on those Indians already settled when Christopher Columbus arrived but also embraces the XVII th century, after King Philip II asked humanists to consider those people living in its new territory. By such demand, he raised a new interest in Spanish society which was not shared by the rest of the Empire he governed. Through the research into Indian origins, other subjects are underlined like the power of Crowns and religions, the needs of a new emergent wealthy social stratum and the changes of international politics as well as the magnification of a new born nationalism.

Hilary Matthews
An Agricultural Friendship: Investigating the farming fraternity who attended agricultural events at the turn of the nineteenth century


Dr Jeremy Burchardt

My thesis explores the concept of an ‘agricultural friendship’ existing among a group of men, from different backgrounds, who were interested in progressive farming at the turn of the nineteenth century. The regular attendees at the 1804 Woburn Sheep Shearing, identified by George Garrard in his print of the same name, form the defined population for this study.

Cheryl Midson
The Dominican Order in the Latin East, 1220-1291


Professor Rebecca Rist
Professor Lindy Grant

Paragraph about your research: I am examining the various roles and the impact that the Dominican Order had on the Latin East and beyond from its formation in 1220 until the end of the Crusader States in 1291. The Order was well known for their preaching of the Crusades in the West but this study is taking a closer look at their impact in the Crusader States and the lands beyond. I will be looking at the Dominicans’ roles as bishops, patriarchs, missionaries and diplomats, both within the Crusader States and the lands beyond.

Mari-Liis Neubauer
The Implementation of Canon Law in Medieval Europe: the Case of Livonia, 1147- 1320


Prof. Rebecca Rist (University of Reading) and Prof. Helen Nicholson (Cardiff University)

My doctoral thesis investigates the extent of influence that canonical theories and ideas had in the formation of a Christian society. By focusing on the Northern Baltic region, contemporaneously known as Livonia, and by employing a variety of themes from baptismal liturgy and marriage to local jurisdictional and legislative practices, my project aims to explore the authority and significance that canon law held among individuals and institutions who spearheaded the Christianisation of Livonia. Additionally, this regional case study helps to reconsider both the unity and diversity of Medieval Europe, and to enhance comparative approaches in the study of the Middle Ages.

Emily Peirson-Webber
Masculinity and the mining industry, 1970-2000


Dr Natalie Thomlinson
Professor Jon Lawrence (University of Exeter)

My research aims to explore the representations and experiences of masculinity in the British mining industry from 1970-2000. It will use a methodology combining the analysis of oral history testimonies, archival research and the rich material culture of mining communities.

Bethany Rebisz
AHRC SWW DTP student
"Losing the Hearts and Minds: Humanitarian Involvement in Counter-Insurgency Warfare in Kenya and Zimbabwe, 1952-1980."


Dr Heike Schmidt (Reading) and Dr Stacey Hynd (Exeter) .

My doctoral research focuses on the international humanitarian response to the British counter-insurgency campaign fought in Kenya between 1952-1960. My project seeks to examine the roles played by European and African female welfare workers from several humanitarian organisations and government-run community development departments.

I will be using villagisation, a counter-insurgency measure enforced during the conflict to administer tighter control over the movement of ‘civilians’, as a site to interrogate the relationships between humanitarian organisations, the colonial or settler administrations and the displaced indigenous women and their children.

By cross-referencing government and humanitarian archival records with the oral testimony of women who were either employed as welfare workers or received aid and relief due to their circumstances, I hope to contribute to the broader dialogue regarding the changing humanitarian discourse during the decolonisation period. My key research interests focus on issues regarding colonialism, race, gender and social engineering in the context of conflict.

 Erin Shearer 
Women of Violence: Challenging Perceptions of Enslaved Women's Resistance in the Antebellum United States, 1815-1861


Prof. Emily West & Dr. David Doddington


My SWW-DTP funded research investigates the utilisation of violence by enslaved women in the Antebellum South as a form of resistance between 1815-1861. This thesis will address the fundamental questions: Were women deliberately excluded from organised collective violence because of their gender? Should acts of individual violent discord undertaken by women be categorised as 'everyday resistance?' Why have scholars associated violence to be inherently masculine in nature?

This thesis will examine the extent of enslaved women's exploitations to determine why women used violence as a strategy of resistance and secondly, by establishing the frequency and different modes of violence deployed by female slaves within North and South Carolina.

David Tallon
Oil Exploitation and Conflict in Nigeria: 1940-2010


Dr Heike Schmidt
Dr Rohan Deb Roy

I am also a semi retired oil company manager, and my goal belong the PhD is to set up a larger history project recording oral testimony in Nigeria and in Europe. Ideally I would like to collaborate with other disciplines in Reading University investigating similar topics such as international relations, law, business and environmental science. International collaboration is also a goal, particularly with universities in Nigeria and elsewhere, as well as with commercial organisations and with NGOs.

Darius Wainwright
A  'Special Relationship?' American and British Cultural Diplomacy in Iran, 1953-1960


Dr Mara Oliva
Dr Dina Rezk

My thesis establishes how the UK and US used cultural diplomacy between 1953 and 1960 to combat communism and promote their respective ways of life in Iran. It identifies their motives, the types of initiatives employed and the extent to which they were successful. My research considers how Britain and the United States sought to strengthen ties with Iran at an elite and popular level. It explores how the UK Foreign Office and the US State Department forged links with their Iranian counterparts to instruct them on the production and dissemination of propaganda. The project proceeds to explore the role played by government-affiliated institutions at a non-state level in Iran. These include the British Council, the Iran-America Society and the United States Information Agency (USIA). It compares the contrasting approaches adopted by the American and British institutions.

Janet Walls
The role of weather prognostics in Late-Medieval England


Prof. Anne Lawrence
Dr. Aisling Byrne

My research topic is 'The role of weather prognostics in Late-Medieval England'. These prognostics are different from weather forecasts in that they make predictions about the future from weather events and so would have been of interest to a wide range of people. The texts are indeed found in a wide range of manuscript contexts from 1375 to 1500. At present, I am gathering detailed information about these contexts to understand how they might have been used during the period in question, when there was also something of a proliferation of the texts.

I have been fortunate enough to have found a new group of scholars from several universities with similar interests in Medieval weather and we have formed a symposium. The first edition of the journal resulting from this, 'Medieval Ecocriticisms' will launch next year.

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