Dr Hannah Lilley

Dr Hannah Lilley

Department of History
Research Associate

Contact details

Arts Building Room 443
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

I specialise in early modern material and literary cultures, palaeography and codicology.


  • PhD in Medieval and Early Modern Studies, University of Kent (2019)

MA – Medieval and Early Modern Studies, Kent (2015)

BA – English and American Literature, Kent (2013)


I’ve recently joined the University of Birmingham as a research fellow on the AHRC funded project The Cultural Lives of the Middling Sort: Writing and Material Culture 1560-1660. Prior to this, I was a PhD candidate at the University of Kent. My thesis was titled: ‘Interpreting Practice: Scribes, Materials and Occupational Identities 1560-1640’ and was awarded in November 2019. This project focussed on scribes who wrote for a living and their material, spatial and textual practices, and it used an interdisciplinary method encompassing theoretical approaches, a digital technique called Image Processing, and archival work. I was also a short term research fellow at the Huntington Library, California, in 2017.


My research covers the following areas and is interdisciplinary, between literature and history:

  1. Material culture (particularly material texts, spaces, skill, theories around making)
  2. Digital humanities (quantitative ways of analysing texts and materiality, databases and Image Processing)
  3. Textual history (literature and administration, writing, audience, literacy)
  4. Archival studies (survival and loss, storage, spatial situation of writing and textual engagement, palaeography and codicology)

Material Culture

I am currently working on a monograph on the material and textual cultures of provincial scribes in early modern England, exploring the occupational lives and material/textual storytelling of administrators.

Digital Humanities

I am interested in collaborating across disciplines. My thesis deployed an interdisciplinary method encompassing a digital technique called ‘Image Processing’ to explore how handwriting’s material traces interrelate with social and spatial contexts. I am is currently working on an article based on the Image Processing experiments conducted for my PhD with computer scientist Dr Richard Guest.

Textual history

I am a literary scholar by training, and am interested in exploring levels of literacy in early modern England, particularly provincially. I often explore the conversation between records, administrative writing, and literature in my work.

Archival Studies

My research principally takes place in archives across England, and I’m interested in recordkeeping practices from the early modern to the modern. I am also fascinated by the survival and loss of documents, palaeography and codicology, and ephemera. I’m currently writing a chapter for, and co-editing, a volume called Practices of Ephemera with Prof. Catherine Richardson and Dr Callan Davies for the Routledge series Material Readings in Early Modern Culture.

Other activities

I have a particular interest in outreach work and public engagement, and impact. I am currently working on an educational resource based on research arising from the Middling Culture project for KS3 students in collaboration with the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust to be completed in 2021.

I am also working with my project team to create a digital exhibition and an early modern room reconstruction with the Weald and Downland Museum.

My blog contributions about Middling Culture can be found at: middlingculture.com 

I have spoken at national and international conferences, and will be speaking at various conferences and events in 2020.


Edited Volumes

  • With Catherine Richardson and Callan Davis, Practices of Ephemera in Early Modern England (under contract with Routledge, expected 2021).


  • Hannah Lilley, ‘Manuscripts Online: Written Culture 1000-1500, ed. by Orietta da Rold’ for Reviews in History (2017). DOI: 10.14296/RiH/2014/2047