Tom Rusbridge

Tom Rusbridge

Department of History
Doctoral researcher

Contact details

PhD title: Living Leather: Material Knowledge in Early Modern Britain
SupervisorProfessor Karen Harvey
PhD History


  • BA History – King’s College London (2014)
  • MA Early Modern History – University of Sheffield (2015)


I took my undergraduate degree at King’s College London, and then my MA in Early Modern History at the University of Sheffield. I started my PhD at Sheffield, and moved to Birmingham in June 2017 with my supervisor to finish research and writing here. My PhD research uses the case study of leather to think about broader themes of making, consumption and knowledge in the ‘consumer revolution’ in Britain. Working with objects primarily, I have been lucky to research objects at assorted National Trust properties, the V&A and National Leather Collection, among others, and in April 2017 spent a month on placement in the curatorial team at Winterthur Museum and Gardens in Delaware, USA.


  • Undergraduate: 22820 Reformation, Rebellion and Revolution: the Making of the Modern Wold, c.1500-1800


Using leather as a case study both for its range of applications and the socially broad nature of its consumption, my thesis partners the public role of production (both the manufacture of leather as a material – tanning – and the craft-specific processes of making individual objects) with three distinctive material case studies: saddles, chairs and drinking vessels. By embarking on a very close material reading of these objects, questioning their making and signs of their consumption, this thesis argues for two important transformations across the consumer revolution; a change in the way objects were perceived, and a change in the significance of the material to the consumption of the object.

Other activities

Recent papers:

  • ‘Cuir Bouilli and Costrels, Broken Blackjacks and Leather Women: Owning Your Drink in Early Modern England’, lecture delivered to ‘Cambridge Things’ seminar series, Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH), University of Cambridge, October 2017 (Podcast available)
  • ‘Holding (onto) your drink in early modern England’, lecture delivered as part of the Being Human Festival 2017 ‘Leather at Lunchtime’ event, organized jointly by the National Leather Collection and University of Northampton, November 2017
  • Short presentation delivered as part of ‘Birmingham Manufactures and Gender’ workshop at Birmingham Museums Collections Centre, November 2017
  • ‘Saddle, horse and rider in early modern England’, ‘The Porous Body’ conference, organised by the Renaissance Skin Project, King’s College London, December 2017