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School of English and Drama

Research Seminar


QMCECS offers a programme of early evening seminars with speakers from a range of disciplines. We have six seminars a year, and recent speakers have included Sophie Gee (Princeton), Chloe Wigston-Smith (York), Karen Harvey (Birmingham), and Suvir Kaul (Penn). For a list of speakers in the last five years see the seminar archive.

Winter 2022 / Spring 2023 Programme   

*Seminars will be available both digitally and in-person: sign up links are available here and on the mailing list a fortnight before each event* 

All seminars 17:15–19:00.

5 Oct  2022: Sarah Fox, Karen Harvey and Emily Vine (University of Birmingham), 'Material Identities, Social Bodies: Embodiment in British Letters c.1680-1820'.

9 November: Brycchan Carey (Northumbria): ‘The parson-naturalist abroad: William Smith and Griffith Hughes’s dubious natural histories of the Caribbean'.

7 December: Joseph Cozens (UCL): ‘In Defiance of Law and Justice’: Smuggling Gangs and the English State, 1720-1820.

The eighteenth century was the ‘golden age’ of smuggling. Throughout the period, smugglers landed enormous quantities of tea, tobacco, brandy, and gin on the English coast while gangs of ‘runners’ rapidly dispersed these untaxed items inland. The open defiance with which the smugglers operated was an embarrassment to those in authority. And, to improve revenue collection, successive eighteenth-century governments sought to suppress the smuggling ‘trade’. However, defeating the smuggling gangs was no easy task. This paper considers how contemporaries (both in government and in coastal communities) viewed the smuggler. It traces the development of smuggling over the century and demonstrates that, at several points in the period, the English authorities found smuggling gangs to be the single most pressing challenge to public order. Finally, the paper will assess state responses to smuggling. Although the strategies of legal repression, military force, and changing of the tax laws had their limits, historians have been too quick to dismiss the eighteenth-century state as maladapted and powerless. In fact, the activities of the gangs, and their stout resistance from below, contributed to the pace and shape of state formation from above. By the 1820s, the efforts of government had borne fruit, and the golden age was brought to a close.

Online sign up: 

In person: Francis Bancroft Building 1.02.6, Queen Mary University of London (i.e. on these first floor of the Bancroft building, which is on Library Square).


25 January 2023: Philippa Hellawell (The National Archives) ‘African botanical knowledge in the Royal African Company papers at the National Archives’.

8 February: Mathelinda  Nabugodi (Cambridge), 'Reflections of a Black Woman in the Romantic Archive'.

22 February:  Ian Newman (Notre Dame), 'Ballad singing'.

22 March: James Streintrager (UC Irvine): 'Erotic Antiquarians: Excavating the Libertine Networks of Eighteenth-Century Europe'

Location  for in-person attendees: QMUL Mile End Campus, Bancroft 1.02.6.


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