Dr Kate Smith

Dr Kate Smith

Department of History
Senior Lecturer in Eighteenth-Century History

Contact details

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.

Qualifications

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

Biography

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. 

Teaching

  • 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.

Research

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.

Publications

Monographs

  • Material Goods, Moving Hands: Perceiving Production in England, 1700-1830 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2014).

Edited collections

  • (eds) Women in Empire: Cultural Practices and Productions, 1750-1930, under contract with Bloomsbury for publication in 2018. (with Rosie Dias)
  • (eds) The East India Company at Home, 1757-1857, under contract at UCL Press for publication in 2017. (with Margot Finn).
  • (eds) New Paths to Public Histories: Collaborative Strategies for Uncovering Britain’s Colonial Past (Palgrave Macmillan: London, 2015). (with Margot Finn)

Journal articles

  • ‘Return and Repetition: Methods for Material Culture Studies’, Journal of Interdisciplinary History, XLVIII:I (2017), pp. 1-17. (with Leonie Hannan)
  • ‘Empire and the Country House in Early Nineteenth-Century Britain: The Amhersts of Montreal Park, Kent’, Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History, 16:3 (2015).
  • ‘Imperial Families: Women Writing Home in Georgian Britain’, Women’s History Review, 24:6 (2015), pp. 843-860.
  • ‘In Her Hands: Materializing Distinction in Georgian Britain’, Cultural and Social History, 11:4 (2014), pp. 489-506.
  • ‘Sensing Design and Workmanship: The Haptic Skills of Shoppers in Eighteenth-Century London’, Journal of Design History, 25:1 (March 2012), pp. 1-10.

Book chapters and essays

  • ‘Introduction’, in Women in Empire: Cultural Practices and Productions, 1750-1930, under contract at Bloomsbury. (with Rosemarie Dias)
  • ‘Introduction’ in The East India Company at Home, 1757-1857, under contract with UCL Press for publication in 2017. (with Margot Finn)
  • ‘Production, Purchase, Dispossession, Recirculation: Anglo-Indian Ivory Furniture in the British Country House’, in Margot Finn and Kate Smith (eds), The East India Company at Home, 1757-1857, under contract with UCL Press for publication in 2017.
  • ‘Manly Objects? Gendering Armorial Porcelain Wares’, in Margot Finn and Kate Smith (eds), The East India Company at Home, 1757-1857, under contract with UCL Press for publication in 2017.
  • ‘Refashioning House, Home and Family: Montreal Park, Kent and Touch House, Stirlingshire'’, in Margot Finn and Kate Smith (eds), The East India Company at Home, 1757-1857, under contract with UCL Press for publication in 2017. (with Margot Finn)

  • ‘Warfield Park, Berkshire: Longing, Belonging and the Country House’, in Margot Finn and Kate Smith (eds), The East India Company at Home, 1757-1857, under contract with UCL Press for publication in 2017.
  • ‘Englefield House, Berkshire: Processes, Practices and the Making of a Company House’, in Margot Finn and Kate Smith (eds), The East India Company at Home, 1757-1857, under contract with UCL Press for publication in 2017.
  • ‘Introduction’, in New Paths to Public Histories: Collaborative Strategies for Uncovering Britain’s Colonial Past (Palgrave Macmillan: London, 2015), pp. 1-21. (with Margot Finn)
  • ‘New Interpretations’, in New Paths to Public Histories: Collaborative Strategies for Uncovering Britain’s Colonial Past (Palgrave Macmillan: London, 2015), pp. 47-72. (with Claire Reed)
  • ‘Imperial Objects? Country House Interiors in 18th-Century Britain’, in Jon Stobart and Andrew Hann (eds), The Country House: Material Culture and Consumption (English Heritage Publications: London, 2015), pp. 111-18.
  • Exhibition Catalogue Essay: ‘How To? Historical Perspectives on Tool Use’ in Ethan Lasser (ed.) The Tool at Hand (2013) . (1,500 words)

Book and exhibition reviews

  • Book Review: ‘Concepts of Valuein European material culture, 1500-1900, Economic History Review, 69:2 (May 2016), ), pp. 1031-1033.
  • Book Review: ‘Country Houses and the British Empire, 1700-1930’, Journal of British Studies 54:3 (July 2015), pp. 723-25.
  • Book Review: ‘Chinoiserie: Commerce and Critical Ornament in Eighteenth-Century Britain’, CAA Reviews (April 2015). 
  • Book Review: ‘Sugar and Spice: Grocers and Groceries in Provincial England, 1650-1830’, Reviews in History, 1453 (July 2013). (3,000 words)
  • Book Review: ‘Sway of the Ottoman Empire on English Identity in the Long Eighteenth Century’, The Journal of Religion in Europe, 6:3 (2013), pp. 388-89.
  • Exhibition Review: ‘The New Materiality: Digital Dialogues at the Boundaries of Contemporary Craft’, The Journal of Modern Craft, 4:3 (2011), pp. 343-47
  • Book Review: ‘The Alderley Sandhills Project: An Archaeology of Community Life in (Post)-Industrial England’, Journal of Design History, 24 (2011), pp. 91-92.

Exhibitions

  • Consulted on reinstallation of National Trust property - Rainham Hall, Essex (opened October 2015). Featuring research on lost property.
  • Member of curatorial team: Collecting: Knowledge in Motion, Octagon Gallery, UCL (13 January - 12 June, 2014).
  • Member of curatorial team: The Trappings of Trade, Osterley Park and House, UK (27 July – 3 November, 2013).
  • Co-Curator with Professor David Porter (English, University of Michigan): Way of the Dragon, The Chinoiserie Style, 1710-1830, Milwaukee Art Museum, USA (30 June – 16 October, 2011).