Dr Tara Hamling BA (Hons), M.Phil, D.Phil, FHEA, FRHistS

Dr Tara Hamling

Department of History
Reader in Early Modern Studies
Head of Department of History

Contact details

Arts Building Room 443
The Shakespeare Institute
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

I work on the social and cultural history of Britain in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries (the Tudor and Stuart periods). I am interested in how the profound changes to religion and society over the course of this period played out in domestic life and practices of belief, with particular focus on the role of visual and material culture (images, objects, built environment) in shaping people’s experience of everyday life.


  • DPhil in History of Art, University of Sussex
  • MPhil in History of Art, University of Birmingham
  • BA Hons (First Class) in History of Art, University of Leicester


I joined Birmingham in 2007 as a RCUK Research Fellow from the University of Sussex where I had held a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship. I am a member of the History Department and the Centre for Reformation and Early Modern Studies (CREMS), which includes colleagues in English and the Shakespeare Institute.

I am a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and the Royal Historical Society. In 2010 I was awarded the prestigious Philip Leverhulme Prize for outstanding research in Art History and in 2017 I won the University’s Outstanding Teaching Award for the College of Arts and Law.  


I teach across a range of undergraduate and postgraduate modules on aspects of early modern religious, social and cultural history including my third-year Special Subject ‘A History of the Tudors in 100 Objects’.

Postgraduate supervision

I welcome graduate students working on any aspect of the visual and material culture, religious, social and cultural history of early modern Britain. This might include any aspect of domestic culture, the intersection between the visual arts and the Reformation, or material practices of everyday life.

I have previously supervised doctoral students working on:

Women and community in early modern Stratford-upon-Avon
Household religious practices in seventeenth-century England
The cultural heritage and material culture of Shakespeare’s England (AHRC collaborative doctorate with the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust)
The material culture of dining in early modern England
The cultural significance and meanings of beds in early modern English drama
Family portraiture and gentry identity in early modern England

Find out more - our PhD History  page has information about doctoral research at the University of Birmingham.


My research participates in four key areas of early modern studies:

  • Visual and material culture (esp. decorative arts)
  • Domestic and social life (esp. non-elite material culture and social practices)
  • Reformation Studies (esp. post-Reformation imagery; lived religion)
  • Shakespeare Studies (the material culture of Shakespeare in Stratford-upon-Avon)

Visual culture

I am just starting my next book project on the visual culture of early modern England, building on a long-term interest in the meaning and function of images in this period of British art, especially the so-called ‘decorative’ arts.

Domestic life

I have recently finished a book on domestic life and material culture with Catherine Richardson at Kent called A Day at Home in Early Modern England. Alongside this book project we ran an AHRC research network, Ways of Seeing the English Domestic Interior, 1500-1700: the case of decorative textiles, which investigated peoples’ experience of household life in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and considered how we might use this information to enhance our experience of visiting historic properties in the twenty-first century. There’s more information about this and other projects with Catherine on our Material Histories blog.

Reformation studies

I am particularly interested in the forms and contexts of Protestant visual art and its relationship with pious behaviours, as explored in my monograph Decorating the Godly Household: Religious Art in post-Reformation England and the volume I edited with Richard L. Williams, Art Re-formed: Reassessing the Impact of the Reformation on the Visual Arts (2007). 

Shakespeare and material culture

I am working on a long-term project on the material culture of Shakespeare in Stratford-upon-Avon, in collaboration with the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and based on their wonderful collections. Together with Delia Garratt, Director of Cultural Engagement at the Trust, and a team of Birmingham University PhD students we produced the first book to interpret some of the treasures within their early modern object collection: Shakespeare and the Stuff of Life

Other activities

Alongside research and teaching, I have practical experience of working with museum and heritage organisations; I was invited by Historic Royal Palaces to be Guest Curator for the exhibition ‘Introducing Hampton Court Palace’ in 2003.

Since 2007 I have worked closely with the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, providing expertise to inform new interpretation of their material culture collections. This has included various physical and virtual displays of their buildings and objects, e.g. Sharing Shakespeare’s Souvenirs: past and present and Recreating New Place.

Together with colleagues and PhD students in CREMS I am a participant in the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust’s Shakespeare Connected blogging project. 


Recent publications


Hamling, T & Richardson, C 2017, A day at home in early modern England: material culture and domestic life, 1500-1700. Yale University Press. <https://yalebooks.yale.edu/book/9780300195019/day-home-early-modern-england>

Hamling, T & Garratt, D 2016, Shakespeare and the Stuff of Life: Treasures from the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. Bloomsbury Arden Shakespeare.

Hamling, T, Richardson, C & Gaimster, D (eds) 2016, The Routledge Handbook of Material Culture in Early Modern Europe. Routledge Handbooks, Routledge.


Willis, J & Hamling, T 2023, 'From rejection to reconciliation: Protestantism and the image in early modern England', Journal of British Studies. https://doi.org/10.1017/jbr.2023.69

Enis, C & Hamling, T 2020, 'Shakespeare's Lost Domesticity: material responses to absence in Stratford-upon-Avon', Shakespeare Quarterly, vol. 70, no. 1, pp. 52–83. https://doi.org/10.1093/sq/quz003

Hamling, T, Richardson, C, Tatler, B & Macdonald, R 2016, 'Looking at Domestic Textiles: An Eye-Tracking Experiment Analysing Influences on Viewing Behaviour at Owlpen Manor', Textile History, vol. 47, no. 1, pp. 94-118. https://doi.org/10.1080/00404969.2016.1144865

Hamling, T & Richardson, C 2016, 'Ways of Seeing Early Modern Decorative Textiles', Textile History, vol. 47, no. 1, pp. 4-26. https://doi.org/10.1080/00404969.2016.1144672

Adlington, H, Griffith, D & Hamling, T 2015, 'Beyond the page: Quarles's Emblemes, Wall Paintings, and Godly Interiors in Seventeenth-Century York', Huntington Library Quarterly, vol. 78, no. 3, pp. 521-551. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/hlq.2015.78.3.521>

Chapter (peer-reviewed)

Hamling, T & Richardson, C 2021, Lifestyles and Lifespans: Domestic Material Culture and the Temporalities of Daily Life in Seventeenth-Century England. in G Andersson & J Stobart (eds), Daily Lives and Daily Routines in the Long Eighteenth Century. 1st edn, Routledge Studies in Eighteenth-Century Cultures and Societies, Routledge, pp. 19-40. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780429317583-3

Hamling, T 2020, Memorable Motifs: The Role of 'Synoptic' Imagery in Remembering the English Reformation. in A Walsham, B Wallace, C Law & B Cummings (eds), Memory and the English Reformation. Cambridge University Press, pp. 185-206.

Hamling, T 2020, Religion and Home. in A Flather (ed.), A Cultural History of the Home in the Renaissance. 1 edn, vol. 3, The Cultural Histories Series, Bloomsbury Academic, pp. 167-194. <https://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/a-cultural-history-of-the-home-9781472584410/>

Hamling, T 2020, The household. in A French (ed.), Early Modern Childhood: an introduction. Routledge, pp. 33-54.

Hamling, T 2016, Seeing salvation in the domestic hearth in post-reformation England. in J Willis (ed.), Sin and Salvation in Reformation England. 1 edn, Routledge, Abingdon, Oxon, pp. 223 - 244. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315609133

Hamling, T 2016, Visual and Material Sources. in L Sangha & J Willis (eds), Understanding Early Modern Primary Sources. Routledge Guides to Using Historical Sources, Routledge, pp. 129-152.

Hamling, T 2015, Decorating the Godly Gallery: piety and politics in plasterwork at Lanhydrock House, Cornwall. in M Dimmock, A Hadfield & M Healy (eds), The Intellectual Culture of the English Country House, 1500-1700. University of Manchester, pp. 81-100.

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