Dr Kate Gibson

Title: Perceptions and Experiences of Illegitimacy in the Long Eighteenth Century.

Period: 1500-1800

Funded by: Wolfson Foundation Postgraduate Scholarship

Status: PhD completed (2018)

Email: kate.gibson@sheffield.ac.uk

Primary: Professor Bob Shoemaker | Secondary: Professor Karen Harvey

Semester One 2018/19 Office Hours: Thursdays 15:00-16:00 (Jessop West 2.01a)


Academic Background

  • M.A. Early Modern History, Distinction, University of York
  • B.A. (Hons.) Modern History, First Class, University of Oxford

Research Topic

My study examines the experience of being an illegitimate child in England in the period 1660 to 1830, using qualitative sources such as correspondence, life-writing, parish records and cultural production such as ballads. Previous scholarship has examined the quantitative increase in illegitimacy during this period, but has neglected the individual experience behind the statistics.

My research focuses firmly on the experience of the child rather than the relationship of their parents, examining their status within the family and kin unit as well as broader cultural attitudes towards their place in society. Moving away from a traditional historiographical focus on illegitimacy as a phenomenon experienced primarily by the poor, I am conducting a cross-class analysis to find out the extent to which attitudes were governed by socio-economic status.

The project combines changing ideas about identity, childhood, parenting, emotion and gender to investigate not only the social experience of the child but also the existence of illegitimacy in the public imagination


Conference Papers

  • November 2015: Postgraduate Lightning Talks series, British History in the Long Eighteenth Century Seminar, Institute of Historical Research.
  • July 2015: 'Natural Alliances: Connections between Illegitimate Children and their Families', British Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies Postgraduate and Early Career Conference, Queen's University Belfast.
  • May 2015: 'Life Writing and the Illegitimate Child in the Long Eighteenth Century', History Postgraduate Colloquium, University of Sheffield.
  • May 2015: 'For Love nor Money: Motivations for Adultery in the Late Eighteenth Century', Centre for Eighteenth Century Studies Postgraduate Forum, University of York.

Journal Articles

'"A providential match betwixt our families": Marriage Choice and Kinship amongst the English Catholic Elite, 1680-1730', The Journal of Family History (2016)

Book Reviews

To follow.

Public Engagement

Public Engagement

  • Co-curator, 'Goddards Revealed' visitor experience project, National Trust, 2013.
  • Convenor of the Gender History Discussion Group, University of Sheffield

In The Media

To follow.

Affiliations and Awards

Professional Affiliations

To follow.


Wolfson Foundation PhD Scholar, 2014-2017