Research Students associated with the Centre


Sarah-Jayne Ainsworth, Willing Women: testamentary texts and female identity in the early modern south west.

Department: English
Supervisors: Johanna Harris and Felicity Henderson

Research summary: I will be using wills written and proved by women in the south west as a means of looking at their engagement with society and the ways that they negotiated ideas about themselves via testamentary texts.


Callan Davies, Strange Devices on the Jacobean Stage: Image, Spectacle, and the Materialisation of Morality.

Department: English
Supervisors: Pascale Aebischer and Johanna Harris
Funding: AHRC

Research Summary: Concentrating on six plays in the 1610s, my thesis explores the ways theatrical visual effects described as “strange” channel the period’s moral anxieties about rhetoric, technology, and scepticism.  It contributes to debates in repertory studies, textual and material culture, intellectual history, and theatre history, and to recent revisionist considerations of spectacle


Imogene Dudley, Women's work in rural England, 1500-1700.

Department: History
Supervisors: Jane Whittle and Freyja Cox Jensen
Funding: Leverhulme

Research summary: Exploring the work of early modern women, their tasks and their wages in the south-west countryside as part of a wider project of the same name, focusing on household accounts.


Barbara Dunn: ‘Astrology is higher and nobler than medicine and every physician should be an astrologer’:  The Astrological Figure and the ‘Prognostical part of Physick’ c. 1580-1700.

Department: History
Supervisors:  Jonathan Barry and Peter Elmer
Funding: The Wellcome Trust

Research summary: An examination of the working practices of English astrologer-physicians, as they were shaped and informed by the Astrological Figure (a ‘horoscope’). The aims are broadly twofold: firstly, to reconstruct the organisation, routines, rituals, encounters and processes of an early modern astrological-medical practice; secondly, to interrogate the astrologer-physicians’ understanding and application of the evidence contained within the Figure.  A unique combination of source material is analysed and integrated: astrological guides, casebooks, almanacs, papers and personal correspondence, together with Greek, Arabic and Latin astrological material in translation. The evidence generated by the Figures is critical to our understanding of early modern medicine and it is hoped that the results of my research may prompt a re-examination of the premises of existing astrological-medical scholarship.


Harry Ford: Shakespeare and Botanic Creation

Department: English
Supervisors: Felicity Henderson and Karen Edwards

Research Summary: Whether Titania's flowery bed or Ophelia's garlands that spring to mind, Shakespeare had a strange desire to introduce plants into his plays and even bring them onto stage. This might sound like a harmless hobby, but depending on which plants were evoked they could either align a writer with post-reformation progress or a medieval world of saints and martyrs. By using ethnobotanic techniques it is possible to show how the uses and beliefs surrounding plants in Shakespeare's plays can bring insight into his outlook on the universe.


Austen Hamilton: Speculative House Builders as Entrepreneurs in Georgian London

Department: History
Supervisors: Henry French and Jonathan Barry

Research Summary: This project aims to construct career profiles of speculative house builders in London. It focusses on the period between Nicholas Barbon (1637-1698), considered the first modern property developer, and Thomas Cubitt (1788-1855), founder of the first integrated building firm, and questions the apparent absence of major entrepreneurs in the industry in the intervening period. It looks particularly at how speculative builders financed their operations and seeks to identify the factors that made them successful or otherwise.


Marion Hardy, People on the move in Devon c.1600 to c. 1800

Department: History
Supervisors: Jane Whittle and Henry French

Research summary: My research uses mainly sources generated by parishes and quarter sessions to investigate the numbers and nature of the poor or impoverished travellers and vagrants who received alms and/or who were examined by justices and sent 'whither they ought to be sent'. 


Harry R. McCarthy, Acting the Boy's Part: The Child Player from Script to Stage, 1576-1642

Department: English
Supervisros: Pascale Aebischer (Exeter) and Eleanor Rycroft (Bristol)
Funding: SWW DTP Studentship

Research Summary: My research sits squarely in the field of early modern performance studies and attends to the oft-neglected performances by 'boy' actors (aged from early adolescence to mid-twenties) on the adult- and child-company stages of London between 1576 and 1642. Through a combination of literary analysis and practical staging experiments, I seek to interrogate strategies and methods of rehearsal (how boys coped with the demands placed on them by playwrights), the theatrical challenges presented by playtexts, and the visual resonances of the boy actor’s performance (through movement, costume, and special effects) across different acting companies throughout the period. In doing so, I hope to bring into focus the theatrical labour required of the early modern child performer, freeing the boys from the margins of playtexts and placing them back on the stages where they belong. 


Angela Muir, The Experience of Childbirth for Unmarried Mothers in Eighteenth-Century Wales.

Department: History/ Centre for Medical History.
Supervisors: Sarah Toulalan and Alun Withey
Funding: Wellcome Trust and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (Canada).

Research Summary: My current research examines the social, cultural and medical history of childbirth in eighteenth-century Wales. I am particularly interested in illegitimacy, courtship, the experience of reproduction and childbirth for unmarried mothers, perinatal mortality, and midwifery.


Robert Nantes, Bankruptcy in eighteenth-century England: a social account.

Department: History
Supervisors: Henry French and Jonathan Barry

Research Summary: Robert's research seeks to uncover the forgotten experience of some of the many thousands of people who became bankrupts in eighteenth-century England. Sources drawn on include: legal records, personal correspondence, newspapers, advice literature, novels and plays.


Amy Ridgway, Wage labour and poverty on a Dorset estate, c.1680-1834.

Department: History
Supervisors: Jane Whittle and Henry French
Funding: ESRC

Research summary: Amy's PhD will be a comprehensive analysis of wage labour and poverty on the Kingston Lacy estate in east Dorset. As such, it will help bridge the gap in current literature by directly linking these two topics. It will consider how individuals and households managed to survive at the subsistence level and what happened if they did not manage to 'get by'. Account books will be triangulated with poor relief records to try to ascertain whether there were certain periods when estate workers were reliant upon relief.


Esther van Raamsdonk, Anglo-Dutch Relations in Milton and Marvell.

Department: English
Supervisors: Nicholas McDowell
Funding: AHRC

Research Summary: The project looks at Dutch influences in the works of Milton and Marvell. As well as using English works I have provided original translations of several early modern Dutch sources not previously available in English, thereby enriching our picture of political and cultural relations between the two nations. I am particularly interested in the exchange of cultural aspects between Britain and the United Provinces, and how this influenced the intertwined Anglo-Dutch literary environment.


Denise Ross, Sacred Wells: Survivors of Cultural Change

Department: English
Supervisors: Philip Schwyzer and Joanne Parker

Research Summary: My project examines change and continuity in the perception and use of these wells in the West of England and Wales, tracing their social significance across time, and continuing on into their relationship to modern society.


Michelle Webb, As fowle a ladie as the smale pox could make her': facial damage and disfigurement in sixteenth and seventeenth century England.

Department: History/ Centre for Medical History
Supervisors: Sarah Toulalan & Laura Sangha
Funding: ARHC

Research summary: The aim of my thesis is to chart the medical, social, cultural, religious, and sometimes even political implications of having a non-normative face in early modern England. I am using a range of sources including diaries, ballads, medical casebooks, and portraits to investigate the impact which disfigurement could have upon identity, and the extent to which that impact differed according to factors such as the gender or social class of the individual and the reason for their disfigurement. Much of my work is centred upon the existence of a hierarchy of disfigurements, which determined the extent of stigmatization.


Sonia Wigh: The Body of Words: A Social History of Sex and the Body in Medieval India

Department: History
Supervisors: Sarah Toulalan & Nandini Chatterjee
Funding: University of Exeter (College of Humanities)

Research Summary: My proposed research will examine the history and construction of human sexualities and gender identities vis-a-vis the body in medieval north India. I will do so through an interdiscplinary study of literary compositions and their accompanying visual representations, produced between c. 1526 and 1748, in Persian, Hindavi, Braj and nascent Urdu.

Nora Williams, Re-reading Thomas Middleton through The Changeling.

Supervisors: Kate Newey and Jane Milling   
Department: Drama
Funding: University of Exeter (College of Humanities International Studentship)

Research Summary: My research focuses on dialogues between the performance and textual histories of Thomas Middleton and William Rowley's 1622 play The Changeling. Building on a foundation of research into the play's original performance culture, I use of number of theatrical case studies--ranging from 1961 to 2015--to argue for a re-thinking of the historiography of early modern texts and performances in the digital turn.