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

Dr Tara Hamling

Department of History
Senior Lecturer in Early Modern History

Contact details

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

I joined Birmingham in 2007 as RCUK / Roberts Research Fellow in the History Department. I teach a range of undergraduate and postgraduate courses in the History department and at the Shakespeare Institute, which is based in the historic town of Stratford-upon-Avon. I’m a member of the Centre for Reformation and Early Modern Studies.


  • 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 the History Department at Birmingham in 2007. Before that I held a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship in the Art History Department at the University of Sussex, where I also taught a broad range of undergraduate and postgraduate courses. I became a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy in 2006.

I was awarded a Philip Leverhulme Prize for my research achievements in the field of Art History in 2010.



I am convener and tutor for the MA in The Cultural Heritage of Shakespeare’s England. I teach various topics on other MA programmes including the MA in Reformation and Early Modern Studies and the MA in West Midlands History.

Postgraduate supervision

I am interested in supervising research projects on topics relating to the visual and material culture of early modern Britain; post-Reformation religious and cultural practices; life in the domestic household. This might include any aspect of the intersection between the visual arts and the Reformation, or everyday domestic life.

I currently supervise or co-supervise doctoral researchers working on a range of topics including: Privacy 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; The decoration of post-Reformation churches; Family Portraiture and Gentry Identity in Early Modern England 


My research is concerned with three main areas of scholarship; early modern British history; Reformation studies and visual and material culture.

I have broad interests in the cultural history, visual arts and material culture of Tudor and Stuart Britain. My work has focused on the relationship between the visual arts and religious changes resulting from the process of the Reformation. My approach to the study of art, architecture and artefacts is interdisciplinary, employing methodologies from art history, history, theology, literature, anthropology, cultural studies, visual studies and the cognitive sciences.

A large part of my research has been concerned with the relationship between the visual arts and life in the early modern household. I am particularly interested in the effects of the Reformation on the nature of domestic decoration and furnishings, and on the ways in which imagery in interior decoration operated alongside devotional and conduct literature to support religious behaviour and habits of thought within the home. This research resulted in a monograph; Decorating the Godly Household: Religious Art in Protestant Britain, c.1560-c.1660 (Yale, 2010).

I am currently working with Dr Catherine Richardson at the University of Kent on a major interdisciplinary study of material culture and domestic life in early modern England, called A Day at Home in Early Modern England: The Materiality of Domestic Life, 1500-1700, to be published by Yale University Press. We have been awarded an AHRC Networking Grant for the project, Ways of Seeing the English Domestic Interior, 1500-1700: the case of decorative textiles to investigate how the cognitive and computer sciences can further the study and presentation of historical domestic interiors. We are also developing plans towards a large collaborative project to investigate how the cognitive and computer sciences can further the study and presentation of historical domestic interiors.

I am also working as one of the editors on the Ashgate Research Companion to Material Culture in Early Modern Europe.

Other projects:

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. As part of the University’s partnership with the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust I work with my doctoral students to contribute posts based on their research on aspects of early modern domestic material culture to the Finding Shakespeare website.

With Dr Catherine Richardson I maintain an online blog: Material Histories



Decorating the Godly Household: Religious Art in Protestant Britain, c.1560-c.1660 (Yale University Press, 2010) 

Everyday Objects: Medieval and Early Modern Material Culture and its Meanings co-edited with Catherine Richardson (Ashgate, 2010).

Art Re-formed? Re-assessing the Impact of the Reformation on the Visual Arts,, co-edited with Richard L. Williams (Cambridge Scholars Press, 2007).

Articles in journals and books

' "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.

‘Architecture’ in Susan Doran and Norman Jones (ed), The Elizabethan World (Routledge, 2010) pp. 587-610.

To see or not to see? The Presence of Religious Imagery in the Protestant Household’ Art History, 30, 2, (April, 2007) pp.170-197.

‘The appreciation of religious images in plasterwork in the Protestant domestic interior’ in Hamling and Williams (eds) Art Re-formed? Re-assessing the Impact of the Reformation on the Visual Arts (2007), pp.147-168.

Review articles

‘Another ‘turn’ in the Art History versus Visual Culture debate?’ Art History, 30, 5, (November, 2007): 757-763.

CD-Rom and teaching and learning resources

‘The Visual Arts’ in ‘The Church in England, c.1534-c.1689’, The Story of the Church in England, Interactive CD-ROM (University of York, 2010).