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Dr Joseph Harley

Senior Lecturer
Faculty of Arts, Humanities, Education and Social Sciences
Humanities and Social Sciences
Areas of Expertise:
Research Supervision:
Courses taught:

Joseph Harley teaches early modern British and European history. He is an expert on early modern, Georgian and Victorian poverty and researches the topic through myriad approaches including consumption, welfare, material culture and social relations. Joseph is Course Leader for the MA History at ARU.

Email: [email protected]


Before joining Anglia Ruskin in 2021, Joseph was a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Derby. Between 2016 and 2017, he held an Economic History Society fellowship at the Institute of Historical Research, where he researched life in the English workhouse during the long eighteenth century. He has extensive teaching experience having worked at a range of UK universities such as the University of Leicester, Derby and Loughborough and a number of secondary schools. He is currently Editorial Assistant to Urban History (2014-) and was formerly employed as a researcher on two Heritage Lottery Fund projects.

Joseph is an expert in the history of poverty and consumption over the early modern, Georgian and Victorian periods. He has published a number of articles on these themes and two books. His book, At Home with the Poor: Consumer Behaviour and Material Culture in England, c. 1650-1850, will be published by Manchester University Press in 2024. He is also currently editing a book for Bloomsbury on the objects that the poor owned from c. 1700-present.

Joseph’s work helps to address a major historiographical gap, in which the poor and their consumer behaviour and material culture has largely been neglected. The work shows that poverty did not necessarily equate to owning very little and taking no pride in living spaces. Rather, most of the poor had an emotional attachment to their homes and strove to improve their domestic spheres by making them more comfortable, convenient and respectable through new consumer goods.

Joseph is also researching dog ownership among the poor and will soon be working on workhouses during the old poor law, c. 1690-1834.

Research interests
  • Britain, c. 1500-1950
  • Poverty
  • Welfare
  • Consumption
  • Material culture
  • Industrial revolution
  • Social relations
  • Everyday life
Areas of research supervision

Joseph welcomes inquiries for PhD supervision on any aspect of the history of Britain between c. 1500 and 1950. He is particularly interested in supervising students interested in any of the broad themes in the list above.


Joseph teaches and has taught the following modules:

  • The Making of Modern Britain, 1714-1832
  • Creating the Past: From the Archive to the Web
  • Global Histories: Britain and the World 1500-1800
  • Life in the English Workhouse, c. 1690-1834
  • Consumption and the World of Goods, 1600-1830
  • History Today
  • The Making of Modern Media
  • From Workhouses to Universal Credit: The Past, Present and Future of the British Welfare State
  • Hanging, Prisons and Community Service: Crime and Punishment in Britain throughout the Ages
  • Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, 2022
  • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, 2020
  • PhD History, University of Leicester, 2016
  • MA History, University of Warwick, 2011
  • BA (hons.), University of Leicester, 2010
Selected recent publications

At Home with the Poor: Consumer Behaviour and Material Culture in England, c. 1650-1850 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2024).

The Working Class at Home, 1790-1940 (Cham: Palgrave, 2022), with Vicky Holmes and Laika Nevalainen.

Norfolk Pauper Inventories, c. 1690-1834 (Oxford: British Academy/Oxford University Press, 2020).


'Domestic Production and Consumption in Poor English Households, 1670-1840', Agricultural History Review, 69:1 (2021), pp. 25-49.

'Pauper Inventories, Social Relations and the Nature of Poor Relief under the Old Poor Law, England c. 1601-1834', Historical Journal, 62:2 (2019), pp. 375-398.

'Consumption and Poverty in the Homes of the English Poor, c. 1670-1834', Social History, 43:1 (2018), pp. 81-104.

'Material Lives of the Poor and their Strategic use of the Workhouse during the Final Decades of the English Old Poor Law', Continuity and Change, 30:1 (2015), pp. 71-103.

Chapters in edited collections

‘“I can barely provide the common necessaries of life”: Material Wealth over the Life-Cycle of the English Poor, 1790-1834’, in Joseph Harley, Vicky Holmes and Laika Nevalainen (eds.), The Working Class at Home, 1790-1940 (Cham: Palgrave, 2022), pp. 25-45.

‘Introduction: The Working Class at Home, 1790-1940’ (with Vicky Holmes), in Joseph Harley, Vicky Holmes and Laika Nevalainen (eds.), The Working Class at Home, 1790-1940 (Cham: Palgrave, 2022), pp. 1-21.

'Consumption and Material Culture of Poverty in Early-Modern Europe, c. 1450-1800', in David Hitchcock and Julia McClure (eds.), The Routledge History of Poverty, 1450-1800 (London: Routledge, 2021), pp. 185-205.

Publications in progress

Books (peer-reviewed)

Objects of Poverty: Material Culture in Britain from 1700 (Bloomsbury), with Vicky Holmes.

Chapters in edited collections (peer-reviewed)

‘The Poor’s Best Friend? Dog Ownership and Companionship in England, c. 1780-1880’, in Joseph Harley and Vicky Holmes, Objects of Poverty: Material Culture in Britain from 1700 (Bloomsbury).

Articles (peer-reviewed)

‘Dogs and Entitlement to Poor Relief in England, c. 1700-1834’

Recent presentations and conferences

2023 ‘Living in Squalor? The Homes and Living Arrangements of the English Poor, c. 1670-1870’, HSS Research Seminar, Anglia Ruskin University.

2021 'The Brave New "Live Brief" assessment', Oh Brave New World Research Conference, Anglia Ruskin University.

2021 '(Dis)comforts of the hearth in poor English households, c. 1650-1850', British Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, St Hugh's College, University of Oxford.

2020 'Consumer behaviour and material lives of the poor in the town and country: A comparison, c.1670-1834', Pre-Modern Towns Conference, Birkbeck, University of London.

2020 'Material poverty or wealth? Pauper consumer behaviour during the 'crisis' years of the old poor law, c. 1780-1834', Economic and Social History of the Early Modern World Seminar, Institute of Historical Research, University of London.

2019 'Pauper inventories and domestic production, c.1670-1834', Domestic Production and Work in Poor British Homes, c. 1650-1850, University of Derby

2019 'Small things in the English pauper home, c.1670-1834', Small Things in the Eighteenth Century conference, University of York.

2019 '"His cottage was his happy home": Industriousness and domestic production in poor English homes, 1670-1830', University of Lincoln History Research Seminar.

2019 'Production in the homes of the English poor, 1670-1830', University of Derby ICR seminar.

2019 'Domestic work and pauperism in England, c.1670-1834', British Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, St Hugh's College, University of Oxford.

2018 'The origins and uses of parish-related inventories in the long 18th century'. Keele University.

2018 'Pauper Inventories and the Nature of Poor Relief in England, c.1670-1834', British History in the Long 18th Century, Institute of Historical Research, SAS, University of London.

Media experience

'Who Do You Think You Are?', BBC, Advisor to historical researchers.

Joseph welcomes media enquiries relating to his research expertise.