Research Profile

My areas of interest include:

WOMEN’S HISTORY   *   MATERIAL CULTURE   *   COUNTRY HOUSES   *   EIGHTEENTH CENTURY   *   HISTORY OF COLLECTING   *   ENLIGHTENMENT   *   HISTORY OF EDUCATION   *   HISTORY OF ART   *   HISTORY ON SCREEN

Read more about my PhD project (successfully examined in May 2020) below:

Project title: Women’s Curiosity and Collecting in Britain 1680-1820: The English Country House as a Space of Female Enlightenment

My research focusses on the collecting practices and learning of elite women within the eighteenth-century English country house, and how they can be read as part of wider intellectual movements. I am interested in curiosity, conversation and collecting, and how the social and material aspects of Enlightenment culture could enable elite women to flourish.

The starting point for this project is the country house as a heritage site and the frequent presentation of their collections as the preserve of cultured, learned and important men and their adventures across continental Europe during the Grand Tour. Since the turn of the twenty-first century in particular, work focussing on the female impact within the country house has been gathering pace, as has women, Enlightenment and material culture. I hope to build upon this work in current historical thought through demonstrating that, despite often having to work within a different framework to men, that the country house could offer the perfect place for women to develop their thoughts, interests and understandings of the world within the age of Enlightenment.

My research questions focus on the purpose of collections within the country house and the importance of the country house to the formation and utilisation of collections for learning. I look to understand in what ways women experienced eighteenth-century and Enlightenment intellectual culture within the country house, through the use of diaries, letters and other family papers. My case studies include: Elizabeth Percy, 1st Duchess of Northumberland (1716-1776); Mary Cardigan, Duchess of Montagu (1712-1775); Winifred Constable (1730-1774); Frances Seymour, Countess of Hertford (1699-1754); and Henrietta Fermor, Countess of Pomfret (1698-1761).

Ultimately, my thesis explores the nature of the country house as an educative space and the female role within it, as well as the cross-cultural and intellectual exchange elite women fostered through collecting objects from and reading about different geographies, temporalities and cultures. By recovering the female voice within the eighteenth-century country house, we can understand the importance of the role women had to play in the creation and curation of elite collections, education and the country house space.

Supervision: Dr Amanda Capern (University of Hull), Prof Jessica Malay (University of Huddersfield), Dr Briony McDonagh (University of Hull)

I am supported by an AHRC Heritage Consortium scholarship and am a part of the Gender, Place and Memory Research Cluster at the University of Hull.