Laura Alston

Department of History

Research student


Thesis title: Looking at the Localised: The Emotional Language of Women in England 1700-1830




Thesis abstract:

My research explores the ways in which women expressed emotions in their personal correspondence and diaries over the period 1700 to 1830.

The these examines the meaning of these emotions to these women and what this shows about their lives, possible experiences and wider society and culture. 

The study reconstructs emotional language using the contexts it was embedded in such as immediate, relational, and culturally constructed.  This is a study which is fundamentally about approach: taking from social constructionist, psychology, historical pragmatics, micro history, and cultural history methods to create an approach to reading and reconstructing emotional language from the individual outward.

It explores the ways in which meaning was attached to emotion terms and was understood from individual perspectives and experiences of personal aims and everyday life and relationships.

The thesis then examines how these different meanings of emotion impact on knowledge about experiences and practices for women across the eighteenth century and for different sections of society.  

  • PhD History, University of Sheffield, 2013 - present
  • MA Eighteenth Century Studies (History), University of Sheffield, 2012
  • BA (Hons) English Literature and History, University of Sheffield, 2011
Teaching activities
  • University of Sheffield Teaching Assistant on HST115 The 'Disenchantment' of Early Modern Europe, c. 1570-1770 (Autumn 2016 and Spring 2020)
  • Guest lecturer on the University of Sheffield second-year module HST 246 Gender, Culture and Society: Britain, 1689-1837 at The University of Sheffield on ‘Gender and Fashion’( March 2018 and October 2018)
  • Ran a workshop on ‘How to Access Archives’ as part of the Discover History and Archaeology Day at the University of Sheffield for sixth-form students (November 2017). Delivered this workshop at Wath Secondary School (2018).
  • Ran a guest seminar on ‘Pregnancy, Gender and Emotion’ for Professor Karen Harvey’s module HST3152/3 ‘Beauty, Blood, Sweat and Tears: The Body in Britain, 1620-1820’. (March 2017)
  • Currently a WEA tutor and most recently ran a course on ‘Researching your Genealogy and Family History’ at Firth Park Academy. Previously ran a course in Tinsley for women on ‘Tinsley Local History’ (June 2017)
Professional activities

Public engagement:

  • Currently Activities and Engagement Officer for Sheffield City Council’s National Heritage Lottery Funded project at Sheffield General Cemetery 
  • Co-Director/Lead Researcher and Historian for Kidology Arts CIC

Previous roles:

  • REF Impact Evaluator for the Department of History and the English Department at the University of Sheffield (2019-2020)
  • Historical Researcher on the HLF funded project ‘A Better Life in Lowedges’ for Lowedges TARA and Heeley City Farm (2019)
  • Lead historian on the Kidology Arts CIC on the Staffordshire Moorlands Travelling the Green Lanes Project (2019)
  • Learning and Access Officer at Barrow Hill Roundhouse Railway Museum (2018-2019)
  • Researcher for Professor Vanessa Toulmin at the University of Sheffield for ‘Circus 250’ (2018)
  • Heritage Project Officer for the Tinsley Time and Travel Project at Heeley City Farm (2018)
  • Historical Researcher for Bloc Projects Artist Studios for their exhibition ‘An Open Ground’ (2017)
  • Lead researcher on project with Kidology Community Interest Company on the stories of Stokers from NE Derbyshire during WW1 and the first quarter of the 20th Century. (2017)
  • Project lead Community Covenant grant funded project entitled ‘Sheffield Voices in WW1’ for Sheffield Cathedral (2016)
  • Lead research project for Sheffield Cathedral on the history and people of the Cathedral Graveyard (2016).
  • Collaborated on the Exploring Tinsley Manor Project. A three-year lottery heritage funded community project in Tinsley (2015)
  • Undertook Research Assistant work for Professor Karen Harvey on Mary Toft (2014)
  • Collaborated on the setting up and delivering of an annual heritage festival in Sheffield entitled 'Before the Smoke'. 
Publications and conferences

Conference and seminar papers:

  • Gave talk entitled ‘Researching your Genealogy’ at BLOC Projects Studios in April 2019)
  • September 2018 co-organised and delivered an international visiting speaker lecture and workshop for internationally renowned academic Professor Barbara Rosenwein from the University of Chicago. This was supported by WRoCAH, MARCUS and SCEMS funding. 
  • Gave paper ‘Aristocratic Women and the Emotional Meanings of Scandal in the Micro: Public Censure and Private Gain? 1714-1797 at a workshop on ‘Negative Sociability’ in September 2018 at St John’s College University of Cambridge. 
  • Delivered paper ‘Aristocratic Women, Emotion, Scandal, Sociability and the Self: Public Censure and Private Gain 1714 – 1797’ at the ‘Gendered Emotions’ Conference at the University of Sheffield 29th June 2018 
  • Gave a talk at Sheffield Civil Service on 'Sheffield Women in WW1' March 9th 2017.
  • Roundtable talk at the Alternative Families Conference February 7th ,2017 on 'Public History and Alternative Families'.
  • BSECS annual conference January 4th-6th 2017 gave a paper in the panel on ‘Mean Girls’ entitled '‘Wretched Education’: Mothers, Daughters and the Emotional Role of Families in Shaping Sociability over the Eighteenth Century'. The paper was nominated for the Presidents Prize. 
  • Co-organised ‘Objects and Emotion’ workshop with visiting speaker Dr Mary Laven in June 2016
  • Co-organised two-day conference entitled ‘The Concept of Communities’ which was awarded departmental funding in March 2016
  • Gave paper ‘Women's Negative Emotions and Micro-Emotional Communities 1700-1830: Examining Experiential Possibilities through Emotional Linguistics’ at the 2015 PhD Colloquium at the University of Sheffield.
  • Gave paper ‘The Fork of Anger and Emotional Communities in Eighteenth Century Britain’ at a CDA Collaboratory at Queen Mary University of London in March 2014

Journal articles:

  • Contributed to a co-written chapter with Dr Karen Harvey entitled 'In Private: the individual and the domestic community' which is due to be published in Merridee Bailey, David Lemmings and Claire Walker (eds.) A Cultural History of the Emotions in the Baroque and the Enlightenment Age (1600-1780).
  • Sally Rodgers and Laura Alston, ‘Better ways in: Creative History in Tinsley, South Yorkshire’ in History Workshop [Article accepted, pending publication in 2020] 
  • Abstract pending for publication by Laura Alston, Elizabeth Goodwin, Sally Rogers and Courtenay-Elle Crichton-Turley, ‘Integration and Representation: Including Public Engagement Projects within Academic Arts and Humanities Departments’ in Brendan Stone and Mary Going [ed.] Engaged Learning edited collection [due for publication 2020] 

Book reviews:

  • Book Review for The Journal of Social History (Oxford, 2019) on Sally Holloway, The Game of Love in Georgian England: Courtship, Emotions, and Material Culture (Oxford, 2019)
  • The English Historical Review on Susan Broomhall (ed), Spaces for Feeling: Emotions and Sociabilities in Britain, 1650-1850 (London, 2015). Published 19 April 2017.