Dr William Tullett

Associate Professor

Faculty:Faculty of Arts, Humanities, Education and Social Sciences

School:Humanities and Social Sciences

Location: Cambridge

Areas of Expertise: History

Research Supervision:Yes

William researches and teaches British, European, and American history from the 1600s to the present. His research focuses on sensory history, especially histories of smell and sound. He is currently working on a €2.8 million project to create a unique archive of European smells.

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Before coming to ARU in 2019, William held posts at King’s College London, the University of Derby, and a Past and Present Fellowship at the Institute of Historical Research.

William's research focuses on sensory history from 1600 to the present. His first project was on the history of smell from the seventeenth to early nineteenth centuries and the book from this project, Smell in Eighteenth-Century England: A Social Sense, was published by Oxford University Press in the Past and Present series in 2019 and paperback in 2021. His second major project focussed on sound in eighteenth and nineteenth-century England.

He is currently a Work Package Leader on the major EU Horizon-2020 funded project 'Odeuropa', which aims to trace, understand, and preserve the olfactory heritage of Europe from the 1600s to the 1920s. As part of this project, he is producing a major online Encyclopaedia of Smell Heritage and is working on several articles and books, including his next major monograph Synthetic Imaginations: a history of smell and a short-form book on smell and historical method titled Falstaff’s Nose.

He is also currently working on British Academy-funded projects on the history of the future and the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on people’s sensory worlds.

William believes that the senses, central to our daily lives, are crucial to understanding the past, comprehending the present, and planning for the future of the globe.

Whilst heritage often packages up the sensory past for comfortable modern consumption, the senses have been historically central in framing un-comfortable inequalities. Instead of understanding the past as something to be consumed, William’s research and teaching aims to engage empathy, heighten understanding, and develop the tools for a critical examination of the way people perceive themselves, their environment, and their society through their senses today.

Understanding the senses and their history will be crucial in trying to understand and confront contemporary and future inequalities of economic access, political power, environmental change, and health and well-being. A commitment to unveiling that history and making it accessible to a wide variety of audiences underwrites all of William’s work as an academic.

Research interests

  • Sensory history
  • Cultural history
  • Interdisciplinary Smell Studies
  • Britain, Europe, and America 1600 to the present.

Areas of research supervision

  • Britain between 1600 and 1850
  • Sensory History
  • Emotions History
  • Disability History
  • Cultural and Social History
  • Urban Life
  • The Body
  • Medicine
  • Space
  • Gender
  • Material Culture

Current and past PhD students:

  • First Supervisor, ARU: Victoria Anne-Michelle, 'Smellscapes and identity in heritage sites and GLAMs - The role of smells in experiencing space and making sense of place' (2021-)
  • Second Supervisor: Sean Barrs, 'Romantic Vegetable Eaters: The Politics and Poetics of an Active Diet' (2020-)
  • Second Supervisor: Andrea Lambert, ARU, 'Byron's Women', (2019-)
  • Third Supervisor: Paul Jackson, ARU, 'The Round Letters of Percy Grainger', (2018-2020).
  • Third Supervisor: Gareth Davies, ARU, 'The meaning and significance of bells in the soundscape of eighteenth and nineteenth century Cambridge: public service or private indulgence?', (2015-)


William currently teaches on the following modules:

  • The Making of Modern Britain, 1688-1832
  • Creating the Past
  • Global Histories
  • Histories of Emotion: 1100-1850
  • Bells to Boomboxes: Sound in Britain, Europe and America, 1500-1980


  • Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, 2020
  • PhD, King’s College London, 2016
  • MA in Eighteenth-Century Studies, King’s College London, 2013
  • BA (Hons) in History, University of Oxford, 2012

Research grants, consultancy, knowledge exchange

  • Odeuropa, EU Horizon 2020 grant, 2021-2024, €2.8 million
  • British Academy Knowledge Frontiers Forum seed grants, 3 grants totalling c.£10,000

Selected recent publications

Tullett, W., 2020. Political Engines: The Emotional Politics of Bells in Eighteenth-Century England, Journal of British Studies, 59(3), pp.555-581.

Tullett, W., 2019. Smell in Eighteenth-Century England: A Social Sense. Oxford University Press: Past and Present Series.

Tullett, W., 2019. Re-Odorization, Disease, and Emotion in Mid-Nineteenth-Century England. Historical Journal, 62(3), pp.765-788.

Tullett, W., 2016. Grease and Sweat: Race and Smell in Eighteenth-Century English Culture. Cultural and Social History, 13(3), pp.307-322.

Tullett, W., 2015. The Macaroni's 'Ambrosial essences'. Perfume, Identity and Public Space in Eighteenth-Century England. Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies, 38(2), pp.163-180.

Tullett, W., 2015. The Success of Sweet Smells. History Today, 65(8), pp.28-35.

Recent presentations and conferences

May 2021, Uncommon Senses, Concordia University (online): 'Historical Taxonomies of Smell: Histories of Knowledge, 1750s-1920s'.

January 2019, Invited paper, Early Modern Global Soundscapes, University of York: 'Hearing the Past? Soundscape, Soundspace, and Soundplace'.

January 2019, Invited paper, Centre for Urban History Seminar, University of Leicester, 'Rhythm, Habituation, and the Soundscape in Eighteenth-Century London'.

January 2019, BSECS conference, Oxford, ''Please [not] to ring the bell'': Sound and the Eighteenth-Century Home'.

February 2017 Invited paper, University of Oxford, History Faculty, 1650-1850 Seminar, 'Sound, Rhythm, and Community in Eighteenth-Century London'.

February 2017 Invited paper, Pre-Modern Medicine seminar, Wellcome Library, London. 'Smell and Medical Efficacy in Eighteenth-Century England'.

February 2017 Invited paper: Early Modern Senses Symposium, Ludwig Maximilien University, Munich. 'Smell and the Atmospherics of Privacy in Eighteenth-Century England'.

October 2017 Invited talk: Royal Holloway Material Culture and the Body seminar, Senate House, London. 'Material Culture and the Senses' roundtable.

May 2016 Invited Paper: Cardiff RHS 'Emotion and Evidence' conference. 'Habituation, Emotion, and the Olfactory Archive of Eighteenth-Century England'.

Media experience

William's research has appeared on (or in) BBC Radio 4, BBC World Service, a long list of BBC local radio stations, Times radio, Sky News, EuroNews, BBC Look East, CBC Canada, NPR in the US, Fox news radio US, Marketplace (major US business radio) as well as interviews for articles in The Guardian, Le Monde, Metro, New York Times, Süddeutsche Zeitung and many more. He has run public engagement events at the Victoria & Albert Museum and the Institute for Historical Research and he is always keen to hear from and work with heritage organisations looking to expand the sensory elements of their activities.