Dr Leonie Hannan

Leonie Hannan 

Email: l.hannan@qub.ac.uk

I work on the social and cultural history of seventeenth - and eighteenth-century England, Ireland and North America with a focus on gender, material culture, intellectual life and the early modern household. I completed my doctoral research at the Department of History at Royal Holloway, University of London in 2009. This project explored the role of letter-writing in women’s engagement with the life of the mind and argued that the material processes of correspondence affected the traffic of ideas in this period. The research took an inclusive approach in its definition of intellectual activity, which facilitated the examination of diverse forms of self-education, self-development and scholarship. This study culminated in a book: Women of Letters: Gender, Writing and the Life of the Mind in Early Modern England which is forthcoming with Manchester University Press. Since 2009, I have expanded my investigation of epistolary practices in two ways: by looking at the material culture of writing and by examining how epistolary networks supporting antiquarian enquiry functioned socially and geographically.

My current research focuses on the practice of scientific enquiry as it took place in the eighteenth-century home. Whilst histories of science have identified the genteel household as an important site for scientific experiment, they have tended to do so via the particular biographies of important men of science.  This study takes the material culture of the home as its starting point and investigate the tools within reach of early modern householders in their search for knowledge. Taking the extensive span of years encompassed by ‘the long eighteenth century’, from c.1660 to 1830, this research engages with the important shifts in scientific thought that emerged in the seventeenth century. In particular, it references the change in emphasis towards personal experience of phenomena, physical contact with artefacts, and the development of instruments that could help expand knowledge. This ethos, which encouraged sensory engagement with objects of study, proved a fertile environment for those who wished to move between cooking and chemistry, transferring knowledge, technique and equipment from one task to the next. This research therefore treats intellectual work as just one of many household rituals and, by doing so, illuminates new connections between the domestic and the investigative.

Over the last ten years I have also worked extensively in museums and heritage and I am committed to building collaborative working relationships between researchers, teachers, museum collections and heritage sites. I am also interested in the ways in which museum objects can provoke cross-disciplinary interactions for students and researchers alike and have worked with colleagues to investigate the creative potential of such engagements.

Current Collaborators:

Olwen Purdue, Queen’s University, Belfast

The 100 Hours Research Group

Kate Smith, University of Birmingham

Sarah Longair, the British Museum

Helen Chatterjee, University College London

Simon Werrett, University College London

Sarah Wilkes, University College London


L. Hannan, Women of Letters: Gender, Writing and the Life of the Mind in Early Modern England (forthcoming with Manchester University Press, 2016).

L. Hannan and S. Longair, Researching Material Culture and Objects (an Institute of Historical Research guide, forthcoming with Manchester University Press, 2016).

L. Hannan and P.J. Corfield (eds), The Changing Arts of Communication in the Eighteenth Century (edited collection forthcoming with Les Éditions Honoré Champion, 2016)

L. Hannan, J. Hamlett & H. Greig (eds), Gender and Material Culture in Britain Since 1600 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015).

L. Hannan, H.J. Chatterjee (eds), Engaging the Senses: Object-Based Learning in Higher Education (Ashgate, 2015).


L. Hannan, ‘Collaborative Scholarship on the Margins: an epistolary network’, Women’s Writing 21:3 (2014), pp. 290-315.

L. Hannan, ‘Women, Letter-Writing, and the Life of the Mind in England, c.1650-1750’ to Literature & History, 22:2 (2013), pp. 1-19.

L. Hannan, ‘Making Space: English Women, Letter-Writing and the Life of the Mind, c.1650-1750’, Women’s History Review, 21:4 (2012), pp. 589-604.

Book Chapters:

L. Hannan, ‘The Imperfect Letter-Writer: Escaping the manuals’ in Hannan and Corfield (eds), Hats Off, Gentlemen: Changing Arts of Eighteenth-Century Communication (forthcoming with Honoré Champion Éditeur series Lumières internationals, 2016).

L. Hannan, ‘Neighbourhoods of Knowledge: the intellectual life history of Anglo-Saxon Scholar and School Mistress, Elizabeth Elstob’ for C. Bartram (ed.), Book Culture in Provincial Society: Authors, Readers and Communities in Kent c. 1400-1700 (forthcoming with Ashgate, 2016).

L. Hannan, ‘Women’s Letters: Eighteenth-century letter-writing and the life of the mind’ in Hannan, Hamlett & Greig (eds), Gender and Material Culture in Britain Since 1600 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015), pp. 32-48.

L. Hannan, A. Sharp, L. Thomson, H.J. Chatterjee, ‘The Value of Object-Based Learning within and between Higher Education Disciplines’, Chatterjee and Hannan (eds), Engaging the Senses: Object-Based Learning in Higher Education (Ashgate, 2015), pp. 97-116.

L. Hannan, R. Duhs, and H.J. Chatterjee, ‘Object Based Learning: A Powerful Pedagogy for Higher Education’, in A. Boddington, J. Boys, C. Speight (eds) Museums and Higher Education Working Together (Ashgate, 2013), pp. 159-68.

L. Hannan, ‘Whose Body Now? The Many Lives of a Museum Medical Collection’, in S. Jandl and M. Gold (eds), Academic Museums: Exhibitions and Education (Museums Etc: Edinburgh, 2012), pp. 376-401.


L. Hannan, The Opened Letter: Networking in the Early Modern British World, by Lindsay O’Neill, Journal of British Studies (forthcoming 2015).

L. Hannan, Female Alliances: Gender, Identity and Friendship in Early Modern Britain, by Amanda Herbert, Reviews in History (February 2015)

L. Hannan, Review: Women in American History to 1880: A Documentary Reader, edited by Carol Faulkner, Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies, 35:3 (Sept. 2012) pp. 458-9.