Tara Hamling


  • Reader in Early Modern Studies, History

Accepting PhD Students

PhD projects

I welcome graduate students working on any aspect of the visual and material culture, religious, social and cultural history of early modern Britain. This might include any aspect of domestic culture, the intersection between the visual arts and the Reformation, or material practices of everyday life.

I have previously supervised doctoral students working on:

Women and community in early modern Stratford-upon-Avon
Household religious practices in seventeenth-century England
The cultural heritage and material culture of Shakespeare’s England (AHRC collaborative doctorate with the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust)
The material culture of dining in early modern England
The cultural significance and meanings of beds in early modern English drama
Family portraiture and gentry identity in early modern England


Research activity per year

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Personal profile


I joined Birmingham in 2007 as a RCUK Research Fellow from the University of Sussex where I had held a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship. I am a member of the History Department and the Centre for Reformation and Early Modern Studies (CREMS), which includes colleagues in English and the Shakespeare Institute.

I am a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and the Royal Historical Society. In 2010 I was awarded the prestigious Philip Leverhulme Prize for outstanding research in Art History and in 2017 I won the University’s Outstanding Teaching Award for the College of Arts and Law.  

Research interests

My research participates in four key areas of early modern studies:

  • Visual and material culture (esp. decorative arts)
  • Domestic and social life (esp. non-elite material culture and social practices)
  • Reformation Studies (esp. post-Reformation imagery; lived religion)
  • Shakespeare Studies (the material culture of Shakespeare in Stratford-upon-Avon)

Visual culture

I am just starting my next book project on the visual culture of early modern England, building on a long-term interest in the meaning and function of images in this period of British art, especially the so-called ‘decorative’ arts.

Domestic life

I have recently finished a book on domestic life and material culture with Catherine Richardson at Kent called A Day at Home in Early Modern England. Alongside this book project we ran an AHRC research network, Ways of Seeing the English Domestic Interior, 1500-1700: the case of decorative textiles, which investigated peoples’ experience of household life in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and considered how we might use this information to enhance our experience of visiting historic properties in the twenty-first century. There’s more information about this and other projects with Catherine on our Material Histories blog.

Reformation studies

I am particularly interested in the forms and contexts of Protestant visual art and its relationship with pious behaviours, as explored in my monograph Decorating the Godly Household: Religious Art in post-Reformation England and the volume I edited with Richard L. Williams, Art Re-formed: Reassessing the Impact of the Reformation on the Visual Arts (2007). 

Shakespeare and material culture

I am working on a long-term project on the material culture of Shakespeare in Stratford-upon-Avon, in collaboration with the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and based on their wonderful collections. Together with Delia Garratt, Director of Cultural Engagement at the Trust, and a team of Birmingham University PhD students we produced the first book to interpret some of the treasures within their early modern object collection: Shakespeare and the Stuff of Life


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