Dr Kate Smith

Dr Kate Smith

Department of History
Senior Lecturer in Eighteenth-Century History

I am an historian of eighteenth-century Britain and empire, with a particular interest in material cultures, production, consumption, skill, the senses and the emotions.


  • BA - Cambridge
  • MA by Research - Warwick
  • PhD - Warwick


After completing my PhD at the University of Warwick in 2010, I became the Charles Hummel Fellow at the Chipstone Foundation in Milwaukee (2010-2011). During this fellowship I taught in the Art History Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and co-curated an exhibition with Professor David Porter (English, University of Michigan) at the Milwaukee Art Museum. In 2011 I returned to the UK to work as Research Fellow on the Leverhulme Trust-funded East India Company at Home, 1757-1857 project (2011-2014). Led by Professor Margot Finn, the project began at Warwick and then moved to UCL in 2012. By examining the country houses established by East India Company families on their return to Britain from India, the East India Company at Home project demonstrated the important influence Britain’s imperial and trading connections with Asia had upon British material culture in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries (www.blogs.ucl.ac.uk/eicah). I began at Birmingham as Lecturer in Eighteenth-Century History in September 2014. 


  • Reformation, Rebellion and Revolution: The Making of the Modern World, 1500-1800
  • Group Research Module: Domestic Service in Georgian Britain
  • History in Theory and Practice
  • Practising History
  • Powerful Stuff: Timber, Teacups, Tombs and the Making of Modern Empire

Postgraduate supervision

Kate encourages contact from potential postgraduate students considering working on the following areas: eighteenth-century British material culture, women, domestic spaces, property, emotions, the senses, trade, consumption, manufacturing or skill.

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


As an historian of eighteenth and early nineteenth-century Britain and empire, I am interested in the ways in which historical actors produced, consumed, and derived meaning from, the material world. In my first monograph Material Goods, Moving Hands: Perceiving Production in England, 1700-1830, I argued that Britain’s new consumer goods were important not only in fostering desire and demand but also in prompting people to engage with visual and textual representations of manufacturing, forging a link between the consuming and producing cultures of eighteenth-century Britain.

In The East India Company at Home, 1757-1857 project I explored consumer cultures in a global and imperial context. On their return to Britain, families such as the Amhersts of Montreal Park used different material practices, including building projects, collecting, painting and the display of objects purchased in India, to curate complex narratives of empire.  At the same time, other families used the meanings and emotions connected with shared objects (such as houses) to negotiate ideas of belonging and home across the ever-greater distances imposed by Britain’s imperial projects.

My second monograph project Absent Objects: Lost Property in the Long Eighteenth Century grows out of my research on imperial families, which revealed loss as a major preoccupation in Britain and its empire. In the next few years, I plan to examine loss – particularly the impact of loss on relationships between people and their property – as an important and neglected aspect of everyday life and practice in eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century Britain. I’m particularly interested in the ways that loss, possession, urban space and material culture intersect and will be developing a history of lost property, to reveal how loss shaped the ways in which urban denizens navigated concepts of property and propriety in the multivalent spaces of Britain’s modern metropolis.

Other activities

I am co-convener (with Leonie Hannan, UCL Museums and Collections) of the 100 Hoursproject , which is funded by the Centre for Humanities Interdisciplinary Research Projects at UCL.  The project has brought together scholars from across different institutions and disciplines to interrogate the assumptions that guide research practices in material culture studies.


Recent publications


Smith, K & Dias, R (eds) 2019, British Women and Cultural Practices of Empire, 1770-1940. Material Culture of Art and Design, Bloomsbury Visual Arts.

Finn, M & Smith, K (eds) 2018, The East India Company at home 1757-1857. UCL Press. https://doi.org/10.14324/111.9781787350274


Smith, K 2021, 'Lost things and the making of material cultures in eighteenth-century London', Journal of Social History.

Smith, K & Hannan, L 2017, 'Return and Repetition: Methodological Enquiries in Material Culture Studies', Journal of Interdisciplinary History, vol. 48, no. 1, pp. 43-59. https://doi.org/10.1162/JINH_a_01088

Chapter (peer-reviewed)

Smith, K 2016, Imperial Objects? Country House Interiors in Eighteenth-Century Britain. in J Stobart & A Hann (eds), The Country House: Material Culture and Consumption. Historic England, Swindon, pp. 111-118.


Smith, K 2020, Silence and Secrecy in Britain's Eighteenth-Century Ceramics Industry. in Reinventing the Economic History of Industrialisation. McGill-Queen’s University Press, pp. 69-71.

Smith, K & Dias, R 2019, Introduction. in British Women and Cultural Practices of Empire, 1770-1940. Bloomsbury Visual Arts, pp. 1-30.

Smith, K 2018, Englefield House, Berkshire: Processes and Practices and the Making of a Company House. in The East India Company at Home, 1757-1857. UCL Press, pp. 191-204.

Smith, K & Finn, M 2018, Introduction. in The East India Company at Home, 1757-1857. UCL Press, pp. 1-24.

Smith, K 2018, Manly objects? Gendering armorial porcelain wares. in The East India Company at Home, 1757-1857. UCL Press, pp. 113-130.

Smith, K 2018, Production, purchase, dispossession, re-circulation: Anglo-Indian ivory furniture in the British country house. in The East India Company at Home 1757-1857. UCL Press, pp. 68-87.

Smith, K & Finn, M 2018, Refashioning house, home and family: Montreal Park, Kent and Touch House, Stirlingshire. in The East India Company at Home, 1757-1857. UCL Press, pp. 153-174.

Smith, K 2018, Warfield Park, Berkshire: Longing, Belonging and the Country House. in The East India Company at Home, 1757-1857. UCL Press, pp. 175-190.

Smith, K & Read, C 2015, Collaborating across Heritage and Higher Education to Reveak the Global History of Osterley Park House. in New Paths to Public Histories: Collaborative Strategies for Uncovering Britain's Colonial Past. Palgrave, pp. 47-72.

Review article

Smith, K 2018, 'Amidst Things: New Histories of Commodities, Capital, and Consumption', The Historical Journal, pp. 1-21. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0018246X17000516

View all publications in research portal