Lecturer in Long Eighteenth-Century History

Department of History, the University of Sheffield

Research expertise

The history of humour and laughter; histories of print culture; sociability, gender, race and public politics; the ‘civilising process’ and rise of politeness; the development of a ‘public sphere’ of sociability and political debate; the figure of Edward ‘Ned’ Ward (1666-1731); women and intoxicants.




Laughter was considered fundamental to sociability in eighteenth-century Britain, but it was a complex social signal: as Samuel Johnson observed, ‘you may laugh in as many ways as you talk’. In its various guises, laughing could communicate anything from warmth to outright hostility; a well-placed chuckle could be the epitome of politeness, while an uncontrolled guffaw – especially triggered by a ‘lowbrow’ joke – was anything but.

Ned Ward

Edward ‘Ned’ Ward was a satirist and tavern keeper active in early eighteenth-century London, best known for his London Spy (1698-1701) – a walkabout tour of the metropolis that typified his hearty comic style and eye for graphic detail. For the history of sociability, his works offer vivid contemporary representations of meeting and mixing among both the high-life and low.