Professor Karen Harvey

Professor Karen Harvey

Department of History
Professorial Fellow and Professor of Cultural History

I am a British historian working on the long eighteenth century, with particular interests in gender, the body, material culture and public history.

Feedback and office hours

By appointment.


  • PhD History, Royal Holloway, University of London
  • MA Women’s History, Royal Holloway, University of London
  • BA Hons Politics and History, University of Manchester


I joined the University of Birmingham as a Professorial Fellow in 2017. Before this I worked at the University of Manchester (on the project 'Women, Work and the Industrial Revolution, 1760-1840') and the AHRB Centre for the Study of the Domestic Interior (at the Royal College of Art, the Victoria and Albert Museum, and Royal Holloway). I then worked at the Department of History at the University of Sheffield from 2003-2017.

I have held fellowships at the Clark Library, UCLA, the Huntington Library and the Australian Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions. My research on eighteenth-century Britain has been funded by the AHRC, the British Academy, The Wellcome Trust and The Pasold Research Fund.

At Birmingham, I am the Director of the Birmingham Eighteenth Century Centre and a member of the Centre for Reformation and Early Modern Studies. As a historian of the British long eighteenth century, I also look forward and therefore my work also intersects with the interests of the Centre for Modern British Studies.


I teach specialist undergraduate modules on women, gender and the body as well as contributing to the MA in Early Modern History'. 

I currently supervise 7 PhD students, working on topics that include women and animals in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, women in seventeenth-century ballads and black women in eighteenth-century England.

Postgraduate supervision

I offer PhD supervision in several areas of eighteenth-century British history, particularly cultural and social history and the history of gender. I welcome collaborations with external partners. I am currently supervising PhDs on women and emotions (Laura Alston), women landowners in Shropshire, 1760-1860 (Sara Downs), women and animals in seventeenth- and eighteenth-England (Poppy Freeman-Cuerden), black women in eighteenth-century England (Montaz Marche), women in seventeenth-century ballads (Ellie Sutton) and eighteenth-century Cannon Hall (Nicola Walker).

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


I am a cultural historian of the British long eighteenth century, with a special interest in the body and gender. I have ongoing interests in the body and sexuality, masculinity, print culture (both visual and textual) and material culture. My recent research projects include the collaborative project with archaeologists The Material Body and an individual research project on experienced of the body - or ‘embodiment’ - in the eighteenth century. I co-organized the conference, Pretty Ugly: Early Modern Beauty, 1400-1800 in January 2019, and am editing a book on beauty in the Enlightenment for Bloomsbury. Another conference, Socially-Engaged Public History: Practice, Ethics and Politics, took place in January 2019, drawing on my public history work with a range of partners. More recently, the conference Epistolary Bodiesexplored letters and the body in the eighteenth century. A book arising from the conference will be published with Routledge in 2021.

My most recent book, The Imposteress Rabbit Breeder (Oxford University Press, 2020) is a social history of Mary Toft, who took part in a monstrous birth hoax in 1726 during which Toft appeared to give birth to 17 rabbits. The project is about the experiences and emotions of Toft and the people around her, and also situates the case in the context of early-eighteenth-century politics.

A second edition of my collection, History and Material Culture was published in 2018.

My previous books include The Little Republic (OUP, 2012), in which I reconstructed men's experiences of the house, examining the authority that accrued to mundane and everyday household practices and employing men's own concepts to understand what men thought and felt about their domestic lives. My first book, Reading Sex (CUP, 2004), examined ideas of gender difference in eighteenth-century erotic culture. 

I am committed to the public understanding of the History and public engagement in this area. I have developed relationships with many public partners in projects that support teaching, disseminate current research and lead to co-produced research between academics and other groups. This includes a community project with Sheffield Visual Arts Group and Museums Sheffield, 'Art and Craft in Sheffield: Our history in 100 Objects', and a project with staff and residents at Roundabout, a charity for homeless youth, on their refurbished eighteenth-century hostel. Hostel residents produced displays and a short film about the hostel, having visited archives and other historic sites. I have supervised several AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Awards, and am currently in the supervisory team for 3 PhD students working between the University of Sheffield and Chatsworth on the history of servants: From Servants to Staff: The Whole Community in the Chatsworth Household 1700-1950.

Other activities



  • The Imposteress Rabbit Breeder: Mary Toft and Eighteenth-Century England(Oxford University Press, 2020).
  • Powers of Description: Language and Social History in the Long Eighteenth Century (Opuscula Historica Upsaliensia, Stockholm, 2019). (ed. with MikaelAlm).
  • History and Material Culture: A Student’s Guide to Approaching Alternative Sources, 2nd edition (ed.) (Routledge, 2017).
  • Karen Harvey and John Clark, Tales From The Orchard. The History of Bank Street: Past and Present (Sheffield, 2014).
  • The Little Republic: Masculinity and Domestic Authority in Eighteenth-Century Britain (Oxford University Press, 2012).
  • Reading Sex in the Eighteenth Century: Bodies and Gender in English Erotic Culture (Cambridge University Press, January 2004). Issued in paperback 2008.
  • (ed) The Kiss in History (Manchester University Press, February 2005)

Chapters in books

  • ‘In private: the individual and the domestic community’, (with Laura Alston) in Merridee Bailey, David Lemmings and Claire Walker (eds), A Cultural History of the Emotions in the Baroque and Enlightenment Age (1600-1780), vol. 4 of A Cultural History of the Emotions (Bloomsbury, in press), General Editors Philippa Maddern, Jane Davidson and Susan Broomhall.
  • ‘The Body’, Susan Broomhall (ed.), Emotions in Early Modern Europe: An Introduction (Routledge, 2016).
  •  ‘Love and Order: William Gouge, Of Domesticall Duties (1622)’, Cesare Cuttica and Gaby Mahlberg (eds), Patriarchal Moments, a volume in the series Textual Moments in the History of Political Thought (Bloomsbury Academic, 2015), eds J.C. Davis and John Morrow.
  • ‘Craftsmen in Common: Skills, Objects and Masculinity in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries’, in Hannah Greig, Jane Hamlett and Leonie Hannan (eds), Gender and Material Culture c.1750-1950 (Palgrave, 2015), pp. 68-89.
  • ‘A History of Bank Street’, in Karen Harvey & John Clark, Tales From The Orchard. The History of Bank Street: Past and Present (Sheffield, 2014), pp. 10-53.
  • Politics by Design: Consumption, Identity and Allegiance’ in Susanne Schmid and Barbara Schmidt-Haberkamp (eds), Drink in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries: Perspectives in Economic and Social History (Pickering and Chatto, to be published January 2014), pp. 11-22.
  • ‘Gender II: Masculinity Acquires A History’, Sarah Foot and Nancy Partner (eds), The Handbook of Historical Theory (Sage, 2012).
  • ‘Men Making Home: Masculinity and Domesticity in Eighteenth-Century England’, in K. H. Adler and Carrie Hamilton (eds), Homes and Homecomings: Gendered histories of Domesticity and Return (Wiley-Blackwell, Chichester, 2010), pp. 66-86.
  • ‘Introduction: Practical Matters’, in History and Material Culture: A Student’s Guide to Approaching Alternative Sources (ed.) (Routledge, March 2009), pp. 1-23.
  • ‘Eroticizing the interior’, in Jeremy Aynsley and Charlotte Grant (eds), Imagined Interiors: Representations of the Domestic Interior since the Renaissance (V & A Publications, October, 2006).
  • ‘Sexuality and the Body’, in Hannah Barker and Elaine Chalus (eds), Women’s History: Britain, 1700-1850 (Routledge, 2005), pp. 78-99.
  •  ‘Introduction’ to (ed) The Kiss in History (Manchester University Press, February 2005), pp. 1-15.
  • ‘Spaces of Erotic Delight’ in Miles Ogborn & Charles W.J. Withers (eds), Georgian Geographies: Space, Place and Landscape in the Eighteenth Century (Manchester University Press, 2004), pp. 130-50.
  • ‘Gender and trade in Manchester, 1780-1840’ (with Hannah Barker), in Rosemary Sweet and Penny Lane (eds) ‘On the town': Women and Urban Life in Eighteenth-Century England, c.1660-1820 (Ashgate, 2003), pp. 111-129.

Journal articles

  • Epochs of Embodiment: Sex and the Material Body in the Eighteenth Century’,Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies (2019), 42, 4, pp. 455-69. 
  • ‘The End of Craft? The Force of Embodied Male Labour in Industrial Manufacture in Early-Nineteenth Century Sheffield and Birmingham’, Nineteenth-Century Gender Studies (December 2018).
  • Rabbits, Whigs and Hunters: Women and Protest in Mary Toft’s monstrous births of 1726’, Past & Present (in press).
  • What Mary Toft Felt: Women’s Voices, Pain, Power and the Body’, History Workshop Journal, 80, Autumn 2015, pp. 31-51. 
  • Envisioning the Past: Art, Historiography and Public History’, Cultural and Social History, 12:4, pp. 527-543. 
  • Men of Parts: Embodiment and the Male Leg in Eighteenth-Century Britain’, Journal of British Studies, 54:4 (October 2015), pp. 797-821. 
  • ‘Oeconomy and the eighteenth-century ‘house’: a cultural history of social practice’, Special Issue of the journal Home Cultures, 11, 3, November 2014, pp. 375-389 on 'Domestic practice in the past: historical sources and methods’ edited by Alison Blunt.
  • ‘The Manuscript History of Tristram Shandy’, The Review of English Studies (August 2013), pp. 1-21.
  • ‘Ritual encounters: punch parties and masculinity in the eighteenth century’, Past and Present, 214 (2012), pp. 165-203
  • ‘Le Siècle du sexe ? Genre, corps et sexualité au dix-huitième siècle (vers 1650-vers 1850)’, ‘Érotiques’, a special issue of CLIO Histoire, Femmes et Sociétés, 31 (2010), pp. 207-38.
  • ‘Visualizing Reproduction: a Cultural History of Early-Modern and Modern Medical Illustrations’, Journal of Medical Humanities, Volume 31, Issue 1 (2010), pp. 37-51.
  • ‘Men Making Home: Masculinity and Domesticity in Eighteenth-Century England’, Gender & History, 21, 3, November 2009, pp. 520-540.
  • ‘Barbarity in a tea-cup? Punch, domesticity and gender in the eighteenth century’, Journal of Design History, 21, 3 (2008), pp. 205-221.
  • ‘What Have Historians Done with Masculinity? Reflections on Five Centuries of British History, circa 1500-1950’, introduction to a Special Feature on Masculinities in The Journal of British Studies (with Alexandra Shepard), 44, 2 (2005), pp. 274-80.
  • ‘The History of Masculinity, circa 1650-1800’, article in (ed.) a Special Feature on Masculinities in The Journal of British Studies, 44, 2 (2005), pp. 296-311.
  • ‘A Century of Sex? Gender, Bodies and Sexuality in the Long Eighteenth Century’, The Historical Journal, 45, 4 (2002), pp. 899-916.Reprinted in CLIO Histoire, Femmes et Sociétés.
  • ‘The Substance of Sexual Difference: Change and Persistence in Eighteenth-Century Representations of the Body’, Gender and History, 14, 2 (2002), pp. 202-23.
  • ‘Gender, Space and Modernity in Eighteenth-Century England: A Place called Sex’, History Workshop Journal, 51 (2001), pp. 158-79.

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