Personal profile

Personal profile

I am a historian of modern British society and culture with a focus on the home, the family and the material and visual world. I studied History at Mansfield College Oxford before taking the MA in Women's and Gender History at Royal Holloway. This led to a PhD at RHUL exploring the material culture of the Victorian middle-class home. After that, I worked at the universities of Oxford, Manchester and Surrey before returning to Royal Holloway in 2008.

Since then, I’ve had a daughter, taught lots of students, written two books and led two major RCUK-funded research projects on the material world of nineteenth-century institutions and pets in British family life. At RHUL I co-direct the Bedford Centre for the History of Women and Gender and the Centre for the Study of the Body and Material Culture. I am a fellow of the Royal Historical Society and the Higher Education Academy and a member of the executive committee for the British Association of Victorian Studies. I co-edit the The Journal of Victorian Culture.

I have also co-curated two exhibitions, contributed to BBC History Magazine and History Today and have appeared on a range of TV and radio programmes including Who Do You Think You Are? and Making History.

Research interests

Broadly, my research interests lie in the histories of society and culture in modern Britain, women and gender, the family, intimacy and emotion, and material and visual culture. 

Book coverMy work so far has focused on the home. My first book Material Relations: Families and Domestic Interiors in England 1850-1910, published in 2010, demonstrated how studying the homes  families created can tell us about their social and emotional lives.  The book explored marriage, parenting, masters and servants and  the experiences of children as well as home decoration and domestic rituals and routines. I have also co-edited special issues on Home and Work and Victorian Women, and most recently the book Gender and Material Culture in Britain from 1660.   


Book coverFrom 2010-13, I led the ESRC-funded At Home in the Institution Project, examining the influence of notions of home on different kinds of institutional space. The project examined the daily material life of mental health and asylums, education and schooling and lodging houses for the working-classes in Victorian London. My second book, At Home in the Institution: Material Life in Asylums, Lodging Houses and Schools in Victorian and Edwardian England, was published in 2014. The findings of the project were also used to curate an exhibition ‘Homes of the Homeless: Seeking Shelter in Victorian London’, which ran at the Geffrye Museum of the Home in 2015.


From 2016 to 2019 I was Principal Investigator on an AHRC-funded project that explores the role of pets in British family life between 1837 and 1937. The project examined changes in pet keeping in England and Wales between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries – looking at the emergence of new kinds of pets, and the role animals played in homes and families. I am now writing a book on the history of pets and working on a new project on family photography.


I teach on a range of undergraduate courses in Modern British History.

I have run the following specialist courses:

  • HS3363 Photography and Film and British Society, 1850-1960
  • HS2234 Modern Girls: Women in Twentieth-Century Britain
  • HS2302 Grand Designs: the Victorians and their Material Worlds

I also co-teach two specialist MA Courses - HS5647 Looking at the Victorians: Visual and Material Culture in Britain, 1837-1901 and HS5322 The Material Culture of Homelife: European Households, 1400-1850.

I currently supervise six PhD students and am happy to hear from students who would like to pursue doctoral studies.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 5 - Gender Equality
  • SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions