Laura Alston

Title: Women's Negative Emotions and Micro-Emotional Values 1700-1830: Examining Experiential Possibilities through Emotional Linguistics
Period: 1500-1800
Start year: 2013

Primary: Professor Bob Shoemaker | Secondary: Professor Karen Harvey (Birmingham)

Semester Two 2019/20 Office Hour: Mondays 12:00 - 13:00 (Jessop West 2.01a)


Academic background

  • M.A. Eighteenth Century Studies (History), University of Sheffield, 2012
  • B.A. (Hons.) English Literature and History, University of Sheffield, 2011

Research topic

My research explores the ways in which women expressed emotions that can be considered 'negative' in their personal correspondence and diaries over the period 1700 to 1830. In this micro study of emotional language I explore the ways in which meaning was attached to emotion terms and was understood from individual perspectives and experiences of personal goals, everyday life and relationships. These understandings I argue were formed and mediated within close relationships or 'micro-emotional communities', either with others or with objects such as a diary, and taken from wider 'Emotional Communities', a concept created by Barbara Rosenwein.

According to Rosenwein 'Emotional Communities' are broad cultural forms of emotional understanding dispersed over a society. Using individual case studies I examine their discrete language and understanding of emotion. I then explore where in wider culture the individual drew their emotional understandings from, why this might be, what impact that had on their experience of the everyday and how this changes the historical perspective on comprehensive notions of society and experience. Importantly, I explore how the 'micro-emotional communities' the individual women were part of were vital for mediating these wider meanings and bringing personal emotional needs and understanding into communal forms of knowledge and practice.


Conference papers

  • Women in Sheffield's History: a lecture as part of the International Women's Day Conference held in Sheffield Town Hall on Saturday 9th March 2013.
  • The Fork of Anger and Emotional Communities in Eighteenth Century Britain: A presentation given at a CDA Collaboratory at Queen Mary University of London in March 2014
  • Women's Negative Emotions and Micro-Emotional Communities 1700-1830: Examining Experiential Possibilities through Emotional Linguistics: A talk given at the 2015 PhD Colloquium at the University of Sheffield.
  • Attended BSECS annual conference January 4th-6th 2017 and 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.
  • Took part in a roundtable talk at the Alternative Families Conference February 7th 2017 on 'Public History and Alternative Families'.
  • Gave a talk at the Civil Service on 'Sheffield Women in WW1' March 9th 2017.
  • Gave the 'Wretched Education talk' at the 2017 PhD Colloquium held at the University of Sheffield on the 18th of May 2017.


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).

Book reviews

The English Historical Review on Susan Broomhall (ed), Spaces for Feeling: Emotions and Sociabilities in Britain, 1650-1850 (London, 2015). Published 19 April 2017


Previous Teaching

Associate Tutor: HST115 The 'Disenchantment' of Early Modern Europe, Autumn 2016

Gave one seminar on the special subject HST3152: Beauty, Blood, Sweat and Tears: The Body in Eighteenth-Century Britain on 'Pregnancy, Emotion and Pain' [March 21st 2017]

Public Engagement

Public engagement

  • Undertook Research Assistant work for Professor Karen Harvey on her Mary Toft project in March 2014.
  • Collaborated on the Exploring Tinsley Manor Project. A three year lottery heritage funded community project in Tinsley which culminated June 2015.
  • Collaborated on the setting up and delivering of an annual heritage festival in Sheffield entitled 'Before the Smoke'.
  • Lead research project for Sheffield Cathedral on the history and people of the Cathedral Graveyard in March 2016.
  • Undertook a 6 month project [April to November 2016] for Sheffield Cathedral on introducing the experiences of Sheffield people in WW1 called 'Sheffield Voices in WW1' for KS2 school children. This included creating an exhibition, schools tours and a schools learning resource which reached over 1000 school children across the city.
  • Began a 4 year project in January 2017 with Kidology Community Interest Company on the stories of Stokers from NE Derbyshire during WW1 and the first quarter of the 20th Century.