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School of English and Drama

Dr Richard Coulton, BA (Oxford) MA PhD (London)


Senior Lecturer in English and e-Strategy Manager

Telephone: +44 (0)20 7882 7353
Room Number: ArtsOne 3.19
Twitter: @RXCoulton
Office Hours: See QMPlus


I grew up in North Wales and attended secondary school in Chester before reading English at the University of Oxford. Despite (or rather in order to rectify) my undergraduate failure to finish either Clarissa or Tristram Shandy, I came to Queen Mary in 1999 and completed an MA in Eighteenth-Century Literature and Romanticism. An AHRC-funded PhD followed (under the supervision of Markman Ellis) on horticultural networks and discourse in eighteenth-century London. Since that time I have held a Fellowship in Garden and Landscape Studies at Dumbarton Oaks (Washington, DC). Currently my work tends to explore intersections between digital humanities, plant humanities, and eighteenth-century studies, with particular interests in histories of natural history and the Indian Ocean / East India Company worlds. 

In addition to my academic post I job-share the senior professional services role of e-Strategy Manager in the School with Matthew Mauger.

Undergraduate Teaching

I teach or have recently taught on:

  • Criticism and Code: Digital Practices for English Studies (ESH6087)
  • The Digital Critic (ESH284)
  • Digitizing Eighteenth-Century Literature (ESH6059)
  • English Research Dissertation (ESH6000)
  • Representing London: Writing and the Eighteenth Century City (ESH288)
  • Seducing Narratives: Inventing the English Novel (ESH6013)
  • Terror, Transgression and Astonishment (ESH264)

Postgraduate Teaching

I teach or have recently taught on:

  • English Literature Eighteenth-Century Literature and Romanticism pathway
  • ESH7047: Sociability: Literature and the City, 1660-1780


Research Interests:

  • networks, communities, and practices of knowledge production in the eighteenth century
  • the intellectual and material histories of natural history, in local and global contexts
  • landscape, horticulture, and georgic in eighteenth century Britain
  • the cultural, social, and imaginative life of the global metropolis, London in particular
  • digital humanities methods and approaches

Recent and On-Going Research:

My research focuses on the life and culture of eighteenth century Britain. More particularly, my work explores discourses and practices of natural knowledge during the period, in the context of local and global currents of social negotiation, material exchange, and intellectual production.

I recently edited a special issue of Notes and Records of the Royal Society addressing the life and legacy of the apothecary and naturalist James Petiver (1663-1718) who was an intimate acquaintance of Sir Hans Sloane. Petiver was the subject of a conference I co-ordinated at the Linnean Society in April 2018 to commemorate the tercentenary of his death. I am also collaborating with Charlie Jarvis at the Natural History Museum to research the collecting and commercial activity of James Cuninghame, an East India Company surgeon and factor who was the first European to dispatch botanical and zoological specimens home from China. We have been awarded a a series of grants by Oak Spring Garden Foundation to investigate a series of unique botanical watercolours that Cuninghame purchased in Amoy (Xiamen) in 1699 (a parallel grant has supported digitization of the paintings by the British Library).

My doctoral dissertation examined the status, networks, and writings of professional horticulturists (above all commercial nurserymen) in eighteenth-century London. A journal article summarising the thesis of my PhD was published in The London Journal. Later research (including my work on Petiver and Cuninghame) has explored complementary directions. In collaboration with Markman Ellis and Matthew Mauger I wrote Empire of Tea (2015), a cultural and social history of the beverage in Britain that was reviewed in the London Review of Books and Times Literary Supplement, and has been translated into Mandarin and Japanese. In June 2022 I will be co-organising a major conference titled ‘Tea: Nature, Culture, Society, 1650-1850’ at the Linnean Society. Stealing Books in Eighteenth-Century London (2016) was another collective endeavour, this time with Chris Reid and Matthew Mauger. My contribution examines the victim-prosecutors of book-theft, and includes material on the technologies of article surveillance and networks of communication implemented by booksellers in order to counter property crime.

Alongside these thematic research interests, I am keen to examine and understand the impact of digital and electronic tools and methods upon the humanities. Stealing Books in Eighteenth-Century London explicitly exploits an online resource, Old Bailey Online, and incorporates a methodological statement that details the search, analysis, and documentation processes that underpin the project. In the last couple of years I have developed undergraduate modules in digital humanities methods. The most ambitious of these, Digitizing Eighteenth-Century Literature, aims to generate with students a co-curated digital facsimile and critical edition of Laurence Sterne’s A Sentimental Journey (1768).



‘Picturing the Flora of China: Early Qing dynasty plant paintings in Britain’, Journal of the History of Collections (2024)

‘Crowd-Sourcing Global Natural History: James Petiver’s Museum’, in Global Exchanges of Knowledge in the Long Eighteenth Century: Ideas and Materialities  c. 1650-1850, edited by James Raven and Mark Towey (Boydell and Brewer, 2024)

editor of ‘Remembering James Petiver’, special issue of Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London, 74 (2020)

'Knowing and Growing Tea: China, Britain, and the Formation of a Modern Global Commodity', in Oriental Networks, ed. by Greg Clingham and Bärbel Czennia (Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell University Press, 2020)

contributions on James Petiver and James Cuninghame to The Collectors: Creating Hans Sloane's Extraordinary Herbarium, ed. by Mark Carine (London: Natural History Museum, 2020)

‘Curiosity, Commerce, and Conversation: Nursery-Gardens and Nurserymen in Eighteenth-Century London’, The London Journal, 43 (2018), 17-35

Stealing Books in Eighteenth-Century London (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016), monograph co-authored with Matthew Mauger and Chris Reid.

Empire of Tea: The Asian Leaf that Conquered The World (London: Reaktion, 2015), monograph co-authored with Markman Ellis and Matthew Mauger

''The Darling of the Temple-Coffee-House Club': Science, Sociability and Satire in Early Eighteenth-Century London', Journal for Eighteenth Century Studies, 35 (2012), 43-65

ed., Tea and the Tea-Table in Eighteenth-Century England, vol. 2: Tea in Natural History and Medical Writing (London: Pickering and Chatto, 2010)

See also my Queen Mary Research publications profile


I am interested in supervising doctoral research in areas including digital humanities, garden and landscape studies, plant humanities, and eighteenth-century studies. I am currently supervising the following PhD projects:

  • 2017-, Stephen Smith, The Continuation of the Geometric Garden Tradition Among the East India Company Plant Collectors of the 18th and Early 19th Centuries (part-time)
  • 2020-, Francesca Murray, English Philanthropy and Fundraising in the Horticultural Industry
  • 2021-, India Cole, The Duchess of Botany: Mary Somerset, Jacob Bobart, and the Formation of the Oxford Botanic Garden (AHRC CDP studentship with Oxford Botanic Garden and Arboretum)
  • 2021-, Kimberly Glassman, Gender, Botany, and Empire: The Female Transatlantic Information Networks Behind William Jackson Hooker’s Flora Boreali-Americana (1829-1840) (co-supervised with Prof Miles Ogborn at QMUL and with Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew)
  • 2021- Brad Scott, Decolonizing the Sloane Herbarium (AHRC CDA co-supervised with Dr Mark Carine at the Natural History Museum, London)

I have previously supervised:

  • 2017-21, Dr William Burgess, Collection Paratexts: Reconstructing the rhetorical formation of Britain’s public museums in the eighteenth century (supervised with Prof Claire Preston)
  • 2021-22, Dr Caitlin Burge, Letters, Networks of Power, and the Fall of Thomas Cromwell, 1523-1547 (lead supervisor during Prof Ruth Ahnert’s leave)
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