Skip to main content

Emeritus Professor Carolyn Steedman FBA


History Department
University of Warwick
Coventry CV4 7AL

I am now Emeritus Professor in the University of Warwick History Department. My most recent book, An Everyday Life of the English Working Class was published in December 2013 ( ) so I’m now free to move on to new projects and new ways of doing and writing history. However, my first new project turns out to be very closely linked to Joseph Woolley, the stocking maker with whom I spent so much time when working on An Everyday Life. He mentions three 'lawyer’s letters’ in his diaries. Ordinary local people like him (servants and a framework knitter) paid a local attorney to write a letter to a recalcitrant employer, claiming their wages, or to someone who had offended them. They could afford to do this. Was it because they’d worked out that the formal legal system wasn’t going to be any use to them on this occasion? Or because the local magistrate was away, and another justice was hard to find? I’ve found this kind of letter mentioned in other parts of the country, paid for by working women as well as men. One of the friends and neighbours Woolley mentions paying for this service was a woman. I’d like to tie what I discover to all the new theories of epistolarity—letter-writing and letter-reading—emerging at the moment (and maybe scrutinise the theory a bit). See more at:

But that’s a short-ish project. Finally, I can get on to what I’ve been planning for years: to write a book called Poetry for Historians, about the meaning and practice and writing of history in the modern world. But will I be able to write it, now that I’m free to do so? Watch this page!

Academic Profile
  • BA Sussex
  • PhD Cambridge
Publications: Books
  • The Tidy House (1982)
  • Policing the Victorian Community (1984)
  • Landscape for a Good Woman (1986)
  • The Radical Soldier's Tale: John Pearman, 1819-1908 (1988)
  • Margaret McMillan. Childhood, Culture and Class in Britain (1990)
  • Strange Dislocations. Childhood and the Idea of Human Interiority, 1780-1930 (1995)
  • Dust (2001)
  • Master and Servant. Love and Labour in the English Industrial Age (2007)
  • Labours Lost. Domestic Service and the Making of Modern England (2009)
  • An Everyday Life of the English Working Class. Work, Self, and Sociability in the Early Ninteenth Century (2013)
Publications: Some Recent Articles and Chapters
  • 'After the Archive’, Comparative Critical Studies, 8:2–3 (2011), pp. 321–340.
  • 'Sights Unseen, Cries Unheard. Writing the Eighteenth-century Metropolis’, Representations, 118 (2012), pp.28-71.
  • 'On a Horse’, PMLA, 27:4 (2012), pp. 809-819.
  • `Reading Rancière', in Oliver Davis (ed.), Rancière Now, Polity, 2013.
  • 'Nobody’s Place. On Eighteenth-century Kitchens’, Penny Sparke and Anne Massey (eds), Biography, Identity and the Modern Interior, Ashgate, 2013.
  • 'Living with the Dead’, The Craft of Knowledge. Experiences of Living with Data, Carol Smart and Jennifer Hockley (eds), Palgrave, 2014, pp.162-175.
  • `Mayhew: On Reading, About Writing', Journal of Victorian Culture, 19:4 (2014), pp. 550-561.
  • `Review of Hanne Østhus, Contested Authority. Master and Servant in Copenhagen and Christian, 1750-1850', Sjuttonhundratal. Nordic Yearbook for Eighteenth-Century Studies, 2014, pp.132-4. *
  • `On a Bridge', Changing English. Studies in Culture and Education, 22:3 (2015), pp. 245-259.
  • `The Poetry of It (Writing History)', Angelika Bammer and Ruth-Ellen Joeres (eds), The Future of Scholarly Writing: Critical Interventions, Palgrave Macmillan, New York, 2015, pp. 215-226.

* I used Mary Wollstonecraft's review of the Scandinavian servants she encountered during her Nordic journey of the 1790s to structure mine. But the editors of Sjuttonhundratal thought it inappropriate. I'd be very happy to provide the orginal piece to anyone who's interested.

Recent Talks, Papers and Conference Presentations
  • `Beginning Archive Fever', 20 Years of Archive Fever, The Freud Museum, London (held at the Anna Freud Centre), July 2014.
  • `"Nothing to Say But Itself". Writing at the End of the Early Modern Era in England', Newberry Library, Chicago, October 2014
  • `A Lawyer's Letter. Everyday Uses of the Law at the Beginning of the Nineteenth Century in England', Nicholson Center for British Studies, University of Chicago, October 2014.
  • `Writing Everyday. A Framework Knitter's Diaries c.1800-1815', Diaries Symposium, Manchester Centre for Regional History at Manchester Metropolitan University, November 2014.
  • `Writing Up the Writer. Joseph Woolley, Sir Gervase Clifton, and the Law', The Local History Seminar, University of Nottingham, November 2014.
  • `Gendered Subjectivity, A Conversation with Catherine Hall', Gender Institute, London School of Economics, November 2014.
  • Roundtable Discussion (with Ruth Percy) of Selina Todd's The People, Institute of Historical Research, November 2014.
  • `Writing a Writer (Autour d'un écrivain): Joseph Woolley, Sir Gervase Clifton and the Law', Séminaire franco-brittannique d'histoire, Université Paris IV-Sorbonne, February 2015.
  • `A Lawyer's Letter. Everyday Uses of the Law at the Turn of the English Nineteenth Century', Contemporary British History Seminar, History Department, University of Birmingham, February 2015
  • `A Lawyer's Letter. Everyday Uses of the Law at the Turn of the English Nineteenth Century', Modern British History Seminar, University of Cambridge, March 2015.
  • `Text or Document? The Diaries (1800-1815) of Joseph Woolley', Archives and Texts Seminar, University of Reading, April 2015.
  • `Law in the Archive', Archives and Forms of Knowledge Seminar, University of Oxford, May 2015.
  • `What Remains', Plenary Lecture, Performance and Politics in the 1970s Conference (QML & Live Art Development Agency), Whitechapel Gallery, London, May 2015.
  • `Being There. Living the Industrial Revolution', Industrialisation and Society in Britain Conference, Arkwright Society, Cromford Mill, Cromford, September 2015.
  • `Law and the Making of Community in early Nineteenth-century England', The Long Ninteenth-century Graduate Seminar: Reshaping Communities in the Long Nineteenth Century, University of Oxford, October 2015.
  • `Young Women at University in the 1960s and 1970s: A Conversation with Margaret Drabble', Warwick History's Anniversary Event, University of Warwick, October 2015.
  • `Threatening Letters. E. P. Thompson, E. E. Dodd, and the Service Relationship in Historical Research', Reconfiguring Britain Seminar, Institute of Historical Research, University of London, November 2015

Everyday Life