William Tullett, Past & Present Fellow

Listening to London: The Practice of Sensory History

Will Tullett’s main research interests are the senses, the body, and urban space in England between the 1660s and 1830s. He recently completed his PhD at King’s College London, where it won the Graduate School prize for Outstanding Doctoral Thesis. This was a study of smells and smelling in eighteenth-century England, grounded in sources covering topics ranging from chemical experiments to tobacco smoking, and places ranging from pleasure gardens to pacific islands. He is currently developing this into his first book. This will demonstrate that, far from being the birthplace of a deodorizing modernity that feared odours, the eighteenth-century was a vibrant olfactory world in which new ideas of personal space and selfhood emerged on the back of changing ideas about scent.

Will’s postdoctoral project, ‘Listening to London: The Practice of Sensory History’, shifts his focus from smells to sounds. This project will trace soundscapes and their witnesses through the streets and buildings of eighteenth-century London. It seeks to ask how the changing material, legal, and cultural character of London’s acoustic environment affected and reflected the relationship between individual and community at the blurring point of urban early modernity and modernity. The project also uses this case study to ask a series of questions about how sensory history, history pursued through the senses, can offer new theoretical tools for social and cultural historians – including for confronting the vexed question of how we study ‘experience’ in past societies.

Research and publications

Articles

  • W. Tullett, ‘The Macaroni’s ‘Ambrosial essences’. Perfume, Identity and Public Space in Eighteenth-Century England’, Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies, 38:2 (2015), pp. 163-180
  • W. Tullett, ‘Grease and Sweat: Race and Smell in Eighteenth-Century English Culture’, Cultural and Social History, 13:3 (2016), pp. 307-322