Dr John Gallagher

Dr John Gallagher

Lecturer in Early Modern History

Summary: Lecturer in Early Modern History

Location: Parkinson Building


I studied History and French at Trinity College Dublin, before moving to Cambridge for an MPhil in Early Modern History. I wrote my PhD at Cambridge on ‘Vernacular Language-Learning in Early Modern England’. Both my MPhil and PhD research were supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the Robert Gardiner Studentship, and Emmanuel College, Cambridge. In 2013, I travelled to Italy as a Mellon Foundation-funded Fellow of the Academy for Advanced Studies in the Renaissance. In 2014, I was elected as a Research Fellow in History at Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge. In 2017 I came to Leeds as a Lecturer in Early Modern History.

Research Interests:

I work on the histories of early modern Britain and Europe, with a particular interest in language, multilingualism, education, migration, travel, and identity. My research crosses boundaries between British and European history and stretches from the sixteenth to the early eighteenth century.

My first book, Learning Languages in Early Modern England, will appear with Oxford University Press in 2019. In 1578, the Anglo-Italian writer and teacher John Florio wrote that English was “a language that wyl do you good in England, but passe Dover, it is woorth nothing”. Using sources ranging from early printed phrasebooks to travellers’ letters and diaries, my work asks how English-speakers made themselves understood at a time when English was practically unknown on the continent, and explores what it meant to be competent in another language in this period.

I am deeply interested in the history of education, and am currently co-editing a volume of essays with Dr Jennifer Bishop (Cambridge) titled Teaching and Learning in Early Modern England. At the same time, I am working on an article about the ‘educational economy’ of seventeenth-century London, with a particular interest in the educational labour performed by early modern women.

My work is concerned with the oral history of early modern Europe, and I explore the social and cultural histories of speech, language, and communication. I have recently collaborated with Prof Virginia Reinburg (Boston College) on the beginnings of a new international network and project on oral culture in early modern Europe.

I am in the early stages of planning my next large-scale project, tentatively titled Strangers: Migrants and Language in Early Modern England. Working with the rich and multilingual records of immigrant communities in sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century England, this project will explore urban multilingualism and polyglot lives, offering new perspectives on identity, language, urban life, and migration in early modern England and Europe.

Recent publications:

Learning Languages in Early Modern England (Oxford University Press: forthcoming, 2019). 

'"To heare it by mouth": Speech and Accent in Early Modern Language-Learning', Huntington Library Quarterly (forthcoming, 2019). 

'Language and education on the grand tour of Sir Philip Perceval', in Helmut Glück, Mark Häberlein, and Andreas Flurschütz da Cruz (eds.), Adel und Mehrsprachigkeit in der Frühen Neuzeit. Ziele, Formen und Praktiken des Erwerbs und Gebrauchs von Fremdsprachen (forthcoming: Wolfenbüttel, 2018).

'The Italian London of John North: Cultural Contact and Linguistic Encounter in Early Modern England', Renaissance Quarterly 70:1 (2017), pp. 88-131. 

'"Ungratefull Tuscans": Teaching Italian in Early Modern England', The Italianist 36:3 (2016), pp. 392-413. 

Postgraduate Supervision:

I would be interested to hear from students seeking to pursue postgraduate research in the cultural and social history of Britain, Europe, and Britain in Europe in the early modern period. I am particularly well-placed to supervise research into the history of language, education, travel, and migration.

At Cambridge, I supervised an MPhil dissertation by Nailya Shamgunova on ‘Anglophone conceptualisations of sexual diversity in Southeast Asia and Japan, c. 1590-1670’. Nailya is now pursuing a fully-funded PhD at the University of Cambridge.

Undergraduate Teaching:

HIST2080: Voices of the People: Speech, Language, and Oral Culture in Early Modern Europe

Early modern Europe was alive with voices. Exploring gossip, rumour, blasphemy, insult, slander, news, oratory, and song, this course offers a new way of understanding the history of speech, language, and communication in the early modern world. We will use a wide range of sources, from broadsheet ballads to anatomical texts, and from Inquisition records to accounts of New World explorations, to rediscover the cultures of orality and communication of the past. How do we write histories of speech in premodern periods? Is there an oral history of the Renaissance, or the Reformation? How can we listen to the voices of ordinary people in early modern Europe? This course uses the noisy world of early modern Europe to think about questions of politics, media, urban history, gender, social hierarchies, religious change, intellectual history, and the birth of European global empires. 

HIST3388: Teaching and Learning in Early Modern England: Skill, Knowledge, and Education

This course explores the social and cultural history of early modern England through the history of education and skill. The sixteenth and seventeenth centuries saw enormous changes in the educational culture of early modern England. On the streets of London and provincial towns, fencing-schools run by immigrant swordsmen jostled for space with private academies teaching writing and accounting to apprentices or trainee merchants. Would-be learners could choose between private tuition in singing, dancing, or languages; new academies teaching pastrywork or embroidery; and coffee-house lectures in experimental science. At the same time, England witnessed an explosion of printed how-to books and instructional literature, feeding a desire of for knowledge and skills among an increasingly literate public. Education was central to the great questions and changes of the early modern period: in this module, we will explore the relationship between education and religion, gender, labour, state formation, social hierarchies, and social mobility. We'll be working closely with early modern texts, from manuscript household recipe books to printed how-to guides, and with early modern objects in museum collections (some hands-on source seminars will take place in the Brotherton Library's Special Collections). Through studying practices and experiences of education and training - from first steps in literacy to the apprenticeships of boys and girls, and from household education in cooking and crafts to educational travel and the Grand Tour - you will consider new ways of thinking about the social and cultural history of early modern England. This course will encourage new approaches and new answers to the question of whether early modern England witnessed an 'educational revolution'.

In 2017, I will be convening HIST1060: Faith, Knowledge, and Power in Early Modern Europe.

My teaching is inspired by my own research, ensuring that students are working at the cutting edge of ongoing historical debates. I think it’s important for students to get hands-on experience of working with sources and doing historical research from an early stage, so my teaching includes introductions to early modern primary sources and source collections and databases (like Early English Books Online and the Burney Collection of 17th - and 18th -Century Newspapers), as well as sessions in which students get to handle early modern manuscripts and printed books themselves.

Advisory roles:

I have a strong commitment to public engagement and research impact. In 2013 I was chosen as a BBC/AHRC New Generation Thinker. I have written and presented essays and a documentary based on my research for BBC Radio 3, while also featuring in studio discussions on early modern topics on BBC Radio 3 and Radio 4. As a writer and reviewer, my work has appeared in the London Review of Books, the Guardian, the Observer, the Telegraph, the Irish Times, and the New Statesman. With the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences, and Humanities (CRASSH), I co-founded and presented the ‘Cambridge PhDcasts’, a series of video interviews with PhD students aimed at disseminating doctoral research to a wider audience. In 2017, I won a British Academy Rising Star Engagement Award, to fund an event to be held at Leeds in early 2018 with the title ‘Migration and language-learning: histories, approaches, policies’.

I am available to comment and consult on matters relating to my (increasingly relevant) research.