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Prof Vanessa Harding

  • Overview


    Office hours

    I am employed part-time, teaching mostly in the autumn term. Please contact me by email to arrange an appointment.


    • MA, University of St Andrews, 1974
    • PhD, University of St Andrews, 1983

    Administrative responsibilities

    • Joint Course Director, MA Early Modern History
    • Chair, Joint Sub-Board of Examiners for MA/MSc degrees in History, Classics, Archaeology, and Gender

    Professional activities

    British Historic Towns Trust: Committee member, 1997- ; Honorary Secretary, 2012

    International Commission for the History of Towns, British representative, 2019-

    British Academy Records of Social and Economic History: General Editor, 2012-

    British Academy Hearth Tax project, Member, management committee, 2011-

    London Record Society: Honorary General Editor, 1983-2006; Council Member, 2020-

    Professional memberships

    • Fellow of the Royal Historical Society (elected 1991); Honorary Secretary, 2007-11; Honorary Vice-President (from 2019)

  • Research


    Research interests

    • Medieval and early modern London
    • Urban health and disease, including plague
    • Early modern housing, households and family
    • Death and burial
    • Archives, records, and record publishing

    Research overview

    My research focuses on medieval and early modern London, with a particular interest in housing and the built environment; family and household; health and disease, including plague; death and burial.

    I am working on a study of early modern London, focusing on the Londoner Richard Smyth (1590-1675), city law officer and book collector. Smyth's writings offer insights into family, neighbourhood, professional life, and antiquarian circles, as well as on the experience of plague in early modern London.

    I am developing a project to map London on the eve of the Great Fire of 1666 for the Historic Towns Trust, following on from collaboration on the Trust's maps of The city of London c. 1520, and Medieval London: see and

    As Trustee and Hon. Secretary of the Historic Towns Trust, publisher of the British Historic Towns Atlas and Town and City Historical Maps, I particpate in the oversight of planning, preparation, and publication of historic towns atlases and maps. The Trust's recent publications include atlases of York and Winchester and maps of Hull and Bristol: I am one of the British representatives on the International Commission for the History of Towns, and regularly attend the conference of the European Association of Urban Historians.

    The records of the hearth taxes of the 1660s document the social topography of Restoration London, including the impact of plague and fire. I am a Research Fellow at the Centre for Hearth Tax Research, Roehampton University, and was co-director of ‘The London Hearth Tax project’ (AHRC, 2007-10). I contributed to M.Davies et al., eds. The London and Middlesex Hearth Tax Returns (British Academy, 2014),

    I have written quite extensively on families and households in medieval and early modern London. I directed or co-directed three funded research projects on families and housing in early modern London: 'People in place: families , households and housing in early modern London' (AHRC, 2003-6); 'Housing environments and health in London, 1550-1750' (Wellcome Trust, 2006-8); ‘Life in the suburbs: health, domesticity and status in early modern London’ (ESRC, 2008-11). See

    Research on death and burial, published in The dead and the living in Paris and London, 1500-1670 (2002) and elsewhere, is an ongoing interest. From time to time I have advised MOLA archaeological projects, including the investigation of the Crossrail New Churchyard site at Broad Street and the burials at St Benet Sherehog.

    I am also particularly interested in archives and in editing records for publication. I am General Editor of the British Academy Records of Social and Economic History series, and was Hon. General Editor of the London Record Society, 1983-2006.

    Research Centres and Institutes

  • Supervision and teaching

    Supervision and teaching


    I currently supervise research on later medieval and early modern London, with particular interest in Londoners, health and disease, and the history and historiography of  London.  I am happy to discuss research proposals in these areas.

    Current doctoral researchers


    Doctoral alumni since 2013-14

    • XU YANG
  • Publications




    Book Section

  • Business and community

    Business and community


    I am happy to receive enquiries from the media on the following topics:

    • History of London, 1200-1800
    • Medieval and early modern health and disease, including plague


       'Living with the Great Plague of 1665':

      Gresham lecture, 2015: London's last great plague:

      Contribution to The Great Plague (2020):