Photo of Dr Charmian Mansell

Dr Charmian Mansell

Postdoctoral Research Associate


01392 722516

I am a social and economic historian of early modern England. My research interests lie at the intersection of the histories of work, gender and community and my work is primarily concerned with recovering the everyday experiences and socio-economic identities of ordinary people using court records.

I am currenly employed as a Research Associate on the Leverhulme-funded project 'Women's Work in Rural England, 1500-1700' with Professor Jane Whittle.

My recently completed doctoral thesis explored the experiences of female servants in early modern England. Analysing service from demographic, geographical, economic and social perspectives using evidence from church court depositions, it presented a richer, more textured picture of female service, moving beyond its conceptualisation as domestic and highlighting the important role that women in service played in the early modern community. This thesis makes an important intervention in early modern British social history, raising fundamental questions about how historians understand women, community and work.  


Research interests

My key research interests are in histories of gender, work and community in eary modern England.  My current book project, Female Service in Early Modern England, makes an important intervention in the history of service using a new methodology. Employing quantitative and qualitative approaches to analysing contextual evidence of female servants captured as litigants and witnesses in church court depositions between 1550 and 1650, this book challenges many stereotypes prevalent in the scholarship of service. The book answer several broad research questions: who were women in service? What did they do? What were their patterns of work and employment?  How mobile were they and what types of spaces did they move between? How integrated were female servants within communities and how did they exercise agency in these communities?

Primarily, the book calls for a reinterpretation of the early modern community in which female servants were not marginalised outsiders whose residence was fleeting or transitory, but instead were integral to the functioning of community economies and social networks.


Research collaborations

I am currently a Research Associate on the Leverhulme-funded project 'Women's Work in Rural England, 1500-1700'.   The project team comprises myself, Jane Whittle (Principal Investigator), Mark Hailwood (Honorary Research Fellow) and Imogene Dudley (PhD Student). The project investigates women’s work activities in early modern England using incidental evidence from church court depositions, quarter sessions examinations, and coroners’ rolls, with a focus on the South West of England (Cornwall, Devon, Hampshire, Somerset and Wiltshire).


The early years of my academic career were spent at the University of Birmingham, where I was awarded my undergraduate degree in History and Philosophy in 2009 before completing a MA in Reformation and Early Modern Studies in 2010.

In 2013, I began my AHRC-funded doctoral research at the University of Exeter under the supervision of Professor Jane Whittle and was awarded my PhD in 2017. I have since held a Junior Research Fellowship at the Institute of Historical Research (funded by the Economic History Society) and was the recipient of the 2016-2017 Women in Humanities Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Oxford.