Kate Davison Profile Picture

Dr Kate Davison

BA (Hons), Exeter

MPhil, Cambridge

PhD, Sheffield

Lecturer in Long Eighteenth-Century History


+44 (0)114 22 22562 | Jessop West 3.15

Semester One 2019-20 Office Hours: Mondays 14:00-16:00



After an undergraduate degree at Exeter and an MPhil at Cambridge, Kate completed her PhD at the University of Sheffield, supported by a scholarship from the Wolfson Foundation. She then spent a year as a lecturer at Merton College Oxford, before joining Sheffield’s Department of History in 2017. As well as teaching at Sheffield, Exeter and Oxford and working on Sheffield’s ‘Intoxicants and Early Modernity’ project, Kate has previously held a number of non academic roles, including temporary posts at The British Museum, the BBC, and as a speechwriter in the Civil Service.

Kate is an early modernist whose work concentrates on the history of Britain in the ‘long’ eighteenth century, from around 1650 to 1800. Her research has been supported by grants from the Wolfson Foundation and the magazine History Today. She is currently working on her first book, Humour and Society in Eighteenth-Century Britain: Ned Ward’s World, which uses the popular satirist Edward ‘Ned’ Ward (1666-1731) to explore the role of humour in social practices and political processes in early eighteenth-century Britain.



Kate is a social and cultural historian of Britain in the ‘long’ eighteenth century, with broad research interests in urban society, print culture, public politics, and gender. Her current work is focused on the history of humour and laughter, and it asks two central questions: what did people laugh at in eighteenth-century Britain, and what did that laughter do in social and political contexts? Through the exploration of laughter’s role in social practices and the significance of humour as a vehicle for political ideas, Kate’s work engages with key historiographical debates around the ‘civilising process’ and rise of politeness, the development of a ‘public sphere’ of sociability and political debate, and the expansion trade and commerce in the British Atlantic world.

She is currently working on her first monograph, which is based on this research and centres on the figure of Edward ‘Ned’ Ward (1666-1731)—a tavern keeper and prolific satirist active in early eighteenth-century London.

Kate is also interested in changing historical methods. Her work has been influenced by a variety of disciplinary approaches, including those from anthropology, sociology and literary studies, while her use of social network methodologies has integrated innovative techniques and digital methods with more traditional ways of studying historical communities.

Research Supervision

Current students:

  • Jamie Graves (second supervisor) - Emotions and Social Status in Early Modern England.

All current students by supervisor | PhD study in History



Laughter in Eighteenth-Century Britain: Ned Ward’s World 

Journal Articles

‘Occasional Politeness and Gentlemen’s Laughter in 18 th Century England’, The Historical Journal
52, 4 (2014), pp. 921-45.


Review of A Sixpence at Whist: Gaming and the English Middle Classes, 1680-1830 (Boydell Press,
2015) by Janet E. Mullin, Cultural and Social History, 14, 1 (2017), pp. 134-5.

Other Publications

Kate has written for the magazines History Today and BBC History


Module Leader

HST115 The ‘Disenchantment’ of Early Modern Europe

This module explores the fundamental shifts in mental attitudes and public behaviour that occurred in Europe between the age of the Reformation and the age of the Enlightenment. The central focus of the course will be the examination of the supernatural – religious beliefs, but also witchcraft and magic. You will explore the changing ways in which beliefs impinged on people's lives at various social levels. You will also have an opportunity to study the impact on people's world views of such changes as rising literacy, urbanisation, state formation and new discoveries about the natural world. All these will be investigated in the institutional contexts of state and church and the ways in which they sought to channel and mould beliefs and behaviour. This module enables you to understand how the early modern period is distinctive from and links medieval and later modern historical studies.


HST246 Gender, Culture and Society in Britain 1650-1850

This module will give students the chance to consider one of the most important, exciting and original areas of recent historical research: gender. The module aims to encourage students to consider broad questions and theories about gender history through one specific context: Britain between the years 1689-1837. It was during this period that Britain was transformed from an early-modern to a modern nation. Students will explore the comparative experiences of men and women during a series of momentous developments, including the Enlightenment, the industrial revolution, the emergence of a class society, the emergence of popular participation as a significant feature in political life, and the development of the ideology of separate spheres. The module will thus enable students to assess the part played by gender in the emergence of 'modern' British society. Students will be encouraged to explore how a focus on gender encourages new interpretations of the key economic, political, social and cultural developments of this period.



HST112 Paths from Antiquity to Modernity

Taking you from the height of the Roman Empire to the Fall of the Berlin Wall, this module is an introduction to the dominant narrative of History, from a European perspective (though the module ventures widely beyond Europe when appropriate). Each lecture looks at a particular historical ‘turning point’, while the weekly seminar takes a more thematic approach, tackling historical notions such as revolutions, progress, globalisation and renaissance. By the end of the module, you’ll have a sense of the broad sweep of History, fascinating in itself but particularly useful for single and dual honours students as preparation for more detailed study at Levels II and III. You will also have an appreciation of the importance of periodisation (how historians divide up time), and the problematic concept of modernity. This module is explicitly intended to aid with the transition to the study of History at University.


HST120 History Workshop

In the History Workshop you will learn the craft of the historian by working with closely with one of our academics on a particular area of their research while simultaneously developing the skills you’ll need to make the step up to university-level historical study.

How do professional historians go about their work? What skills do they need? And, how do they develop them? In this module, you’ll consider these questions by engaging with real historical questions.

Tutors will base their seminars on their own specific research interests, making this module a great way of integrating you into the research culture of the department and giving you real insight into what our historians actually do. Each tutor will then use this area of research as a means of exploring how historians identify and analyse relevant primary sources and navigate historiographical debates, while teaching a range of skills such as critical reading, bibliographic techniques and effective written and oral communication.

You will also develop skills at working both independently and as part of a wider team. The History Workshop has its own on-line learning environment, which enables you to work at your own pace on a series of research exercises. One of the main assessments for this module is a group presentation where you’ll work with other students to research a particular topic and present your findings to the rest of the group.


HST296 Becoming America, 1690-1763

This module investigates the proposition that modern America took shape in the period 1690-1763, prior to and, as we will consider, in many ways productive of the transformation often associated with the era of the American Revolution. The module will consider primary sources and associated secondary debates relating to five key themes: ethnic diversity and religious pluralism, geographic dispersal, the growth of domestic and international market economies, the emergence of popular, partisan politics, and the reconfiguration of notions of power, authority, and control. The module considers longstanding and emerging historiographical debates, including but not limited to the prevalence and manifestations of monarchical versus liberal political culture, anglicisation and colonial consumption, and geography/regionalism and periodization in colonial American history.


Membership of Professional Bodies

Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy

Public Engagement

Membership of Professional Bodies

To follow

Administrative Duties

Current Administrative Duties

Kate currently works as part of the Undergraduate Admissions Team and sits on the Postgraduate Committee.