Workshop: ‘Innovations in Teaching Eighteenth-Century History’

Online workshop hosted by the University of Northampton, 25 June 2020

Register here to participate in the event. Registration is free but places are limited.

HogarthWanstead cropped
William Hogarth, ‘The Assembly at Wanstead House’ (c. 1728-32): Wikimedia Commons

In recent decades, the eighteenth century has been a notable growth area in historical studies and related disciplines. Since its study was long neglected, historians of the period tended to work with scholars from other disciplines under the banner of ‘eighteenth-century studies’, leading to a field that is often interdisciplinary and theoretically-informed. Research areas that currently receive attention include – among many others – the histories of colonialism, material culture, emotions, sexuality and ecology. Given that the eighteenth century is often regarded as a foundational one for the modern world, much of this research has an overt contemporary relevance.

The eighteenth century is now widely taught in UK History departments, but it also presents challenges. Students will typically not have encountered it as part of their school curriculum, they may have preconceptions that are offputting, and the source material can be appear longwinded or illegible. Much of this source material is now online, so students require digital skills to evaluate it. The theoretical and interdisciplinary nature of some of the critical writings can also make it challenging to teach, especially at undergraduate level. It can therefore be a tough sell, whereas academics of the period are keen to convey that this is a fascinating and important period to study.

This workshop will therefore reflect on how we teach the history of the long eighteenth century, focusing on pedagogical innovation and current developments in the discipline. Due to the COVID-19 situation, the workshop will be hosted online and papers will be available to registered participants in advance. Contributions will include:

  • Arthur Burns (KCL) and Oliver Walton (Royal Collections Trust), ‘At the court of King George: letting untrained students loose in the eighteenth-century archive’
  • Peter D’Sena (University of Hertforshire), ‘Ethnomusicology, crime and gender in the long eighteenth-century: some strategies for teaching, learning and assessment’
  • Dominik Huenniger (University of Hamburg), ‘The pedagogy of things: teaching the eighteenth century with university collections’
  • Lenia Kouneni (University of St Andrews), ‘Teaching eighteenth-century classical reception through university museum collections’
  • Ruth Larsen (University of Derby), ‘Let’s talk about sex: gender, bodies and erotica in the classroom’
  • Alice Marples (University of Oxford), ‘Approaching the history of science and medicine through museum collections’
  • Elizabeth Potter (University of York), ‘Re-considering approaches to indigenous America(ns)’
  • William Tullet (Anglia Ruskin University), ‘Teaching the sensory eighteenth century: taste, smell, and sound in the classroom’

The event is supported by the East Midlands Centre for Learning and Teaching in History. It is organised by Matthew McCormack (Northampton), Ruth Larsen (Derby) and Alice Marples (Oxford). For further details, please email


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