Professor Phil Withington

Department of History

Professor in Social and Cultural History

Photo of Phil Withington
p.withington@sheffield.ac.uk

Full contact details

Professor Phil Withington
Department of History
2.03
Jessop West
1 Upper Hanover Street
Sheffield
S3 7RA
Profile

I’m a historian of the early modern period, committed both to understanding the past on its own terms and to bringing historical perspectives to bear on contemporary issues and problems. I was born in Yorkshire, trained as a historian in Cambridge, and have worked in Aberdeen, Leeds, and Cambridge. I joined Sheffield as Professor in Social and Cultural History in September 2012.

Research interests

My current research interests divide into three broad areas.

Since my first monograph, The politics of commonwealth. Citizens and freemen in early modern England (Cambridge, 2005), I’ve been interested in urbanism, urbanisation, and the structures, culture, and political possibilities of associational life. I wrote the chapter on ‘Urbanisation’ in the Cambridge Social history of England, 1450 to 1750 (2017) and most recently I’ve been asked to write the chapter on ‘The British Isles’ for the new Cambridge Urban History of Europe, 700–1850 (forthcoming).

A second area of interest is the dynamic relationship between ‘renaissance’ and popular culture – a relationship I like to approach through the methods of semantic history and the study of everyday practices. Society in early modern England. The vernacular origins of some powerful ideas (Cambridge, polity, 2010) was an early contribution in this area and has been followed by an ongoing series of articles and book chapters on the mutability of vernacular words, concepts, and practices. I am also writing a book for Princeton University Press on the social history of renaissance and co-editing with Cathy Shrank the Oxford Handbook of Thomas More’s Utopia.

Thanks to generous funding from the ESRC (https://www.intoxicantsproject.org/) and HERA (https://www.intoxicatingspaces.org/) I’ve been able to spend a good deal of time and energy helping to develop historical and social scientific interest in the study of intoxicants and intoxication. This resulted in a ‘Special Supplement’ for Past & Present on Cultures of intoxication in 2014 (co-edited with Angela McShane) plus recent articles in journals like the Economic History Review, The Historical Journal, The Lancet, and The Journal of Modern History. I am currently writing a large book on the world of intoxicants in early modern England, provisionally called The holy herb and other stories.

Publications

Books

Edited books

Journal articles

Chapters

  • Withington P (2017) The Invention of 'Happiness' In Innes J & Braddick M (Ed.), Suffering and Happiness in England 1550-1850: Narratives and Representations: A collection to honour Paul Slack Oxford: Oxford University Press. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Withington P (2017) An 'Aristotelian moment': democracy in early modern England In Braddick M & Withington P (Ed.), Popular Culture and Political Agency in Early Modern England and Ireland: Essays in Honour of John Walter Woodbridge: Boydell & Brewer. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Withington P (2017) Urbanization In Wrightson K (Ed.), A Social History of England, 1500–1750 Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Withington P (2016) Food and drink, The Ashgate Research Companion to Popular Culture in Early Modern England (pp. 149-162). RIS download Bibtex download
  • Gell L, McLeod J, Holmes J, Allamani A, Baumberg B, Bjerge B, Bühringer G, Eiroa-Orosa FJ, Forberger S, Frank V , Lingford-Hughes A et al (2016) Determinants of harmful substance use and harmful gambling, What Determines Harm from Addictive Substances and Behaviours? (pp. 77-112). Oxford University Press RIS download Bibtex download
  • McLeod J, Gell L, Holmes J, Allamani A, Baumberg B, Bjerge B, Bühringer G, Eiroa-Orosa FJ, Forberger S, Frank V , Lingford-Hughes A et al (2016) Determinants of transitions from harmful to low-risk substance use and gambling, What Determines Harm from Addictive Substances and Behaviours? (pp. 113-156). Oxford University Press RIS download Bibtex download
  • Braddick MJ & Withington P (2015) Urban Citizens and England’s Civil Wars, The Oxford Handbook of the English Revolution Oxford University Press RIS download Bibtex download
  • Withington P (2014) Food and drink, The Ashgate Research Companion to Popular Culture in Early Modern England (pp. 149-162). RIS download Bibtex download
  • Withington P (2013) Honestas, Early Modern Theatricality (pp. 516-533). Oxford: OUP. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Withington P (2012) Renaissance Drinking Cultures and Popular Print, Intoxication and Society: Problematic Pleasures of Drugs and Alcohol (pp. 135-152). Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Withington P, Herring J, Regan C & Weinberg D (2012) Starting the Conversation In Herring J, Regan C, Weinberg D & Withington P (Ed.), Intoxication and Society: Problematic Pleasures of Drugs and Alcohol (pp. 1-33). Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Withington P (2012) Plantation and civil society In O' Ciardha E & O Siochru M (Ed.), The Plantation of Ulster: Ideology and Practice (pp. 55-77). Manchester: MUP. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Withington P (2011) Intoxicants and the early modern city, Remaking English Society Social Relations and Social Change in Early Modern England (pp. 135-164). RIS download Bibtex download
  • Withington P (2010) Andrew Marvell’s citizenship, The Cambridge Companion to Andrew Marvell (pp. 102-121). Cambridge University Press RIS download Bibtex download
  • Withington P (2009) ‘For This is True or Els i do Lye’ Oxford University Press RIS download Bibtex download
  • Withington P & Shepard A (2000) Introduction: Communities in Early Modern England In Shepard A & Withington P (Ed.), Communities in Early Modern England Networks, Place, Rhetoric (pp. 1-18). Manchester University Press RIS download Bibtex download
  • Withington P (2000) Citizens, Community and Political Culture In Shepard A & Withington P (Ed.), Communities in Early Modern England Networks, Place, Rhetoric (pp. 134-156). Manchester University Press RIS download Bibtex download
  • Withington P () Putting the city into Shakespeare's city comedy, Shakespeare and Early Modern Political Thought (pp. 197-216). Cambridge University Press RIS download Bibtex download
Research group

Research supervision

I supervise masters and postgraduate research students on most areas of early modern history as well as the broader history of cities, intoxicants, language, and popular culture.

Current Students

All current students

Completed Students
  • Apurba Chatterjee - Images of Empire: A Study of Visual Representations in Early British India c.1757-1820.
  • Alex Taylor - Venting Smoke: The Trade and consumption of Tobacco in Early Modern England and Wales c 1625-1685.
  • Jose Cree - The Invention of Addiction in Early Modern England.
  • Ryo Yokoe - Medical understandings of alcohol and the liver in twentieth-century Britain.
  • Harriet Smart (second supervisor) - Choreography, Flexibility and Conformity in Postclassic Nahua Rituals.
  • Kate Davison - Ned Ward and a Social History of Humour in Early Eighteenth-Century England.
  • Jennifer Bishop (Cambridge, AHRC, 2011–15) - Alchemy, metallurgy, and the coinage as features of ‘commonwealth’ discourse and practice in mid-sixteenth century England and Ireland.
  • John Gallagher (Cambridge, AHRC, 2011–15) - The linguistic encounters of English speakers in the early modern world, c. 1483-1730.
  • Kristen Klebba (Cambridge, self-funded, 2011–15) - Early modern Moorfields.

 

Find out more about PhD study in History

Teaching activities

Undergraduate

  • HST31026 - The World of Intoxicants in Early Modern England

Postgraduate

  • HST61018 - Language and Society in Early Modern England
  • HST6602 - Early Modernities
Professional activities
  • The Historical Journal – co-editor 2013 to 2018 and Advisory Board Member from 2018
  • Cultural and Social History – co-editor 2011 to 2013 and Editorial Board Member from 2013
  • Urban History – Editorial Board Member from 2009

I am a peer reviewer for the ESRC, AHRC, and Wellcome and have reviewed or sat on selection panels for national funding bodies in Belgium, Canada, Ireland, the Netherlands, Poland, and Switzerland and well as the European Science Foundation.

I am a referee and reader for leading academic journals and publishers and have advised on large collaborative projects in Australia and Sweden.

In Sheffield I have served as departmental Director of Research and Innovation (2012 to 2015), Head of Department (2015 to 2018), and member of the university’s Human Resources Committee (2017 to 2019).

Public engagement

Public engagement

I regularly contribute to The Lancet and the BBC History Magazine as well as The London Review of Books and History Today. I appeared as lead historian on BBC Radio 4’s The Long View (on a programme about snuff) and a two-hour programme dedicated to the problem of addiction with Evan Davis, and I’ve given public lectures at locations as diverse as the British Library and Kew Gardens. I was historical advisor to the Parliamentary Select Committee on Health in 2008-9.

For my most recent media activities see https://www.intoxicatingspaces.org/outputs/

In the media

  • Alcohol consumption in Historical Perspective, The National Archives podcast
  • Speaker at 'What is Addiction?', Battle of Ideas debate, 19 October 2013
  • The Long View, electronic cigarettes and snuff, BBC Radio 4
  • ‘Shakespeare’s Psyche’, BBC History, April 2016
  • ‘Utopia, Health and Happiness’, The Lancet, June 2016
  • ‘The Art of Intoxication’, The Lancet 483 (2014): 2118–9
  • ‘Modernity’s Bodyguard’, London Review of Books, 35, 1, 3 January 2013, 15-16
  • ‘Past v Present’, London Review of Books, 34, 9, May 2012, 19-21
  • 'The Elizabethan Big Society', BBC History Magazine, 12, 4, 2011