Nicola Westwood

Nicola Westwood

Department of English Literature
Doctoral researcher

Contact details

Phd title: Race, Emotions and Rhetoric in British Abolitionist Writing, 1787-1833
Supervisors: Dr Matthew Ward, Dr Fariha Shaikh and Dr Tom Lockwood
PhD English Literature


  • BA Joint Honours English Literature and History (University of Birmingham)
  • MA Literature and Culture (University of Birmingham)


I graduated in 2017 from the University of Birmingham with a First Class Bachelor of Arts, Joint Honours English and History. I then went on to complete my Master’s degree in Literature and Culture the following year, specifically focusing on the ‘long’ nineteenth century. My dissertation explored anti-slavery sentiments in the works of Herman Melville. In 2018 I was awarded the Birmingham Doctoral Scholarship, and began my PhD in the English Literature department of the University of Birmingham.


My thesis explores the various different emotions used by anti-slavery writers to inspire sympathy for enslaved Africans in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. It will explore portrayals of slave anger, sensibility and happiness, in addition to attempts to inspire the reader’s fear, shame and guilt, in order to gain support for the abolition of the slave trade and slavery in Britain. My research will situate abolitionist literature within its historical context to track the changing use of emotions, incorporating the skills I gained from my undergraduate history modules, particularly my Specialist Subject history module on the slave trade and slavery in Britain. This interdisciplinary approach will reveal the diversity of the abolitionist campaign, and seeks to demonstrate the complex networks between British humanitarians, politicians, and former slaves, acknowledging the contributions of a wide range of individuals from various social and cultural backgrounds. It will highlight the intersection of race, emotions and rhetoric in abolitionist literature, and seeks to broaden the canon to include the literary contributions of former slaves.

Other activities

  • Co-organiser of the MA Dissertation Conference 2018
  • Presenter at the Research Poster Conference 2019, and winner of the Engagement Award