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Honorary Professor Margot Finn

Academic Profile
  • PhD Columbia University, New York (1987)
  • Fellow, Royal History Society (1995-present); Council member (2002-2005); Vice President (2010-2012)
  • Editor, Journal of British Studies (1997-2001)
  • Co-editor (with Colin Jones) of Cambridge Social & Cultural Histories (2002-present)
  • Head of Department, History, University of Warwick (August 2006-July 2009)
  • Founding Director, Warwick Institute of Advanced Study (April 2007-July 2009)
  • Warwick University Pro-Vice Chancellor, Access, Development & Widening Participation (April 2011-June 2012)
  • Professor of Modern British History, University College London (July 2012-present)
Undergraduate Modules Taught
Postgraduate Modules Taught
  • Tensions of Empire: British Identities in a Colonial World, 1780-1914

Selected Publications


'Family Formations: Anglo India and the Familial Proto-State', in David Feldman and John Lawrence, (eds), Structures and Transformations in Modern British History (Cambridge University Press, 2011), pp. 100-117

'"Frictions" d'empire: les réseaux de circulation des successions et des patrimonies dans la Bombay coloniale des années 1780', Annales: Histoire, Sciences Sociales, 65, 5 (2010), pp. 1175-1204

'The Barlow Bastards: Romance Comes Home from the Empire', in Margot Finn, Michael Lobban and Jenny Bourne Taylor (eds), Legitimacy and Illegitimacy in Nieteenth-Century Law, Literature and History (Palgrave, 2010), pp. 25-47

'Anglo-Indian Lives in the Later Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Century', Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies, 33, 1 (March 2010), pp. 49-65

'Slaves out of Context: Domestic Slavery and the Anglo-Indian Family, c. 1780-1840', Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 19 (2009), pp. 181-203

'Scenes of Literary Life: The Homes of England', in James Chandler, (ed.), The New Cambridge History of English Literature: The Romantic Period (Cambridge University Press, 2009), pp. 293-313

'Henry Hunt's Peep into a Prison: The Radical Discontinuities of Imprisonment for Debt', in Glenn Burgess and Michael Festenstein, (eds), English Radicalism, 1550-1850 (Cambridge University Press, 2007), pp. 190-216

'The Authority of the Law', in Peter Mandler, (ed.), Liberty and Authority in Victorian Britain (Oxford University Press, 2006), pp. 159-178

'Colonial Gifts: Family Politics and the Exchange of Goods in British India, c. 1780-1820', Modern Asian Studies, 40, 1 (February 2006), pp. 203-232

'Law's Empire: English Legal Cultures at Home and Abroad', Historical Journal, 48, 1 (March 2005), pp. 295-303

The Character of Credit: Personal Debt in English Culture, 1740-1914 (Cambridge University Press, 2003)

'Victorian Law, Literature and History: Three Ships Passing in the Night', Journal of Victorian Culture, 7, 1 (2002), pp. 134-46

'Scotch Drapers and the Politics of Modernity: Gender, Class and Nationality in the Victorian Tally Trade', in Martin Daunton and Matthew Hilton, eds., The Politics of Consumption: Material Culture and Citizenship in Europe and America (2001), pp. 89-107

'Men's Things: Masculine Consumption in the Consumer Revolution', Social History, 25, 2 (2000), pp. 133-55

'Working-class Women and the Contest for Consumer Control in Victorian County Courts', Past & Present, 161 (1998), pp. 116-54

'Being in Debt in Dickens' London: Fact, Fictional Representation and the Nineteenth-century Prison', Journal of Victorian Culture, 1, 2 (1996), pp. 203-36

'Women, Consumption and Coverture in England, c. 1760-1860', Historical Journal, 39, 3 (1996), 703-22

After Chartism: Class and Nation in English Radical Politics, 1848-1874 (Cambridge University Press, 1993)


My research focuses on the intersections among social, cultural, legal, economic and colonial/imperial experience in modern Britain during the 'very long' nineteenth century, c. 1740-1914. These concerns lie at the heart of The Character of Credit: Personal Debt in English Culture, 1740-1914, and also inform my work as an editor of CUP's monograph series, Cambridge Social & Cultural Histories. My current research situates British society, culture, governance and economics within an imperial framework. Entitled 'Imperial Family Formations: Domestic Strategies and Colonial Power in British India, c. 1757-1857', this study examines the ways in which family life shaped-and was in turn decisively influenced by-Britain's colonial encounter with Indian peoples. Topics within the ambit of this project include (for example) letter-writing and the epistolary creation of family allegiance, the historical geography of imperial time, the impact of Romantic literature on colonial emotional regimes, the problematic operation of the 'rule of law' beyond the frontiers of the English legal system, the inclusion/exclusion of domestic slaves and illegitimate progeny within/from British colonial families, the exchange and significance of Indian and British goods among colonial family networks through gifting and market mechanisms, and the competing claims of local, religious and Western identities in the Indian colonial context (particularly within the families of Indian princely elites).

During 2004-2005, research on the 'Colonial Family Formations' project was substantially advanced by my ESRC-funded project, 'Colonial Possessions: Personal Property and Social Identity in British India' (RES-000-22-0790). The premise underpinning this aspect of my research is that the exchange and consumption of European and Asian material goods fundamentally shaped Anglo-Indian family life and social identities in the decades that preceded the imposition of Crown rule in 1858. The project combined quantitative and qualitative analysis of primary source data (diaries, memoirs, private correspondence, probate inventories and wills as well as material objects) to provide an integrated analysis of select aspects of Anglo-Indians' engagement with consumer society. A searchable database of information derived from the inventories and wills, accompanied by a substantial User Guide, was compiled in collaboration with the project's Research Assistant, Dr Matt Adams.

My research is currently funded by small grants from the British Academy and the Wellcome Trust. Since 1 September 2011, I have been working with a team of three other researchers (Dr Helen Clifford, Ms Ellen Filor and Dr Kate Smith) on a 3-year project funded by the Leverhulme Trust entitled 'The East India Company at Home, 1757-1857'. This project, which combines research by academic, museum-based, local and family historians, examines the flow into and significance of the 'Oriental' objects that furnished Georgian and Victorian country houses in England, Scotland and Wales. A preliminary description of the project is available from the Leverhulme Trust Newsletter for April 2011: . The project website (still very much under construction) is . The project email address is ; we're also on Twitter: @EICatHome .

I am happy to supervise PhD students on topics that fall within the broad social, cultural, economic, legal and material history of Britain and its empire in the very long nineteenth century.

Research Dissertation Supervised (Completed PhDs)

William Rupp, 'A New Perspective on British Identity: The Travel Journals of John Byng, 1781-1794' (University of Warwick, 2011)

Stephen Murray, 'Nineteenth-Century Trade Union Sponsored Migration to and from North America, c. 1850-1885' (University of Warwick, co-supervised, 2009)

Katherine Foxhall, 'Migrant Cholera: Medical Experience of Emigration from Britain and Ireland, 1815-1870' (University of Warwick, co-supervised, 2008)

Kevin Bradley, 'The Development of the London Underground 1840-1933: The Transformation of the London Metropolis and the Role of Laissez-Faire in Urban Growth' (Emory University, 2006)

Paul Menair, 'Bohemianism in Victorian London' (Emory University, 2003)

Alexander Auerbach, ' "In the Courts and Alleys": Public Authority and the Laws of Children's Education and Labor in Britain, 1870-1904' (Emory University, 2001)

Sarah Hudson, 'Attitudes to Investment Risk amongst West Midland Canal and Railway Company Investors 1700-1850' (University of Warwick, co-supervised, 2001)

Jeffrey Reznick, 'Rest, Recovery and Rehabilitation: Healing and Identity in Great Britain in the First World War' (Emory University, 1999)