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

Dr Tara Hamling

Department of History
Reader in Early Modern Studies

Contact details

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

I am a specialist in early modern material culture, with a particular focus on the domestic household and the visual arts of early modern England.


  • 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. 



Books (edited)

Day at Home book cover Decorating book cover Routledge Book Cover Stuff of LIfe book cover

Journal Special Issue:


  • ‘Beyond the Page: Quarle’s Emblems, Wall Paintings, and Godly Interiors in Seventeenth-Century York’ (co-authored with David Griffith and Hugh Adlington) Huntington Library Quarterly, 78, (2015), pp.521-551.
  • ‘Living with the Bible in post-Reformation England’ Studies in Church History, 50, (2014), pp.210-239.‘
  • To see or not to see? The Presence of Religious Imagery in the Protestant Household’, Art History, 30, 2, (April, 2007) pp.170-197.

Book chapters

  • ‘Visual and Material Culture’ in Jonathan Willis and Laura Sangha (eds), Understanding Early Modern Primary Sources (Routledge, 2016), pp.129-152.
  • ‘His ‘Cousin’ Thomas Greene’ in Paul Edmondson and Stanley Wells (eds), The Shakespeare Circle: an alternative biography (Cambridge University Press, 2015), pp.135-148.
  • ‘Seeing Salvation in the Domestic Hearth in Post-Reformation England’ in Jonathan Willis (ed), Sin and Salvation in Reformation England (Ashgate, 2015), pp.223-244.
  • ‘Decorating the Godly Gallery: piety and politics in plasterwork at Lanhydrock House, Cornwall’ in M. Dimmock, A. Hadfield and M. Healy (eds), The Intellectual Culture of the English Country House, 1500-1700 (Manchester University Press, 2015), pp.81-100.
  • ‘Die Gestaltung des frommen Hauses im protestantischen Europa’ in J. Eibach and I. Schmidt-Voges (eds), Das Haus in De Geschichte Europas: Ein Handbuch (De Gruyter, 2015), pp.195-214.
  • ‘Visual Culture’ in M. Dimmock, A. Hadfield and A. Shinn (eds), The Ashgate Research Companion to Popular Culture in Early Modern England (Ashgate, 2014).
  • ' "An Arelome To This Hous For Ever": Monumental Fixtures and Furnishings in the English Domestic Interior, c.1560-c.1660' in Andrew Gordon and Thomas Rist (eds), The Arts of Remembrance in Early Modern England: Memorial Cultures of the Post Reformation (Ashgate, 2013), pp. 59-88.
  • 'Old Robert's Girdle: Visual and Material Props for Protestant Piety in Post-Reformation England' in J. Martin & A. Ryrie (eds), Private and Domestic Devotion in Early Modern Britain (Ashgate, 2012) pp. 135-163.
  • ‘Guides to Godliness: From Print to Plaster’ in Michael Hunter (ed), British Printed Images: Essays in Interpretation (Ashgate, 2010) pp. 65-85.

Select reviews

  • Reviewed work: Domestic Culture in Early Modern England, by Antony Buxton, Social History, 42:2, (2017), 289-291.
  • Reviewed Work: Art, Piety and Destruction in the Christian West, 1500—1700 ed. by Virginia Chieffo Raguin, The English Historical Review, Vol. 127, No. 529 (2012), pp. 1508-1510.
  • Reviewed work: Portraits, Painters, and Publics in Provincial England, 1540—1640 by Robert Tittler, The Burlington Magazine, Vol. 154, No. 1312 (2012), pp. 501-502.


View all publications in research portal