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School of English and Drama

Professor Markman Ellis, MA (Auckland) PhD (Cambridge)


Professor of Eighteenth-Century Studies



I grew up in New Zealand, in Wellington and Auckland. I attended a local state secondary school in Auckland, and then studied English, History and Philosophy for my BA at the University of Auckland. For my MA degree, I continued in English at Auckland, doing my dissertation on Laurence Sterne. After some time working, I  went to the University of Cambridge to research and write my PhD dissertation on the sentimental novel in the mid-eighteenth century, supervised by Prof Marilyn Butler.  Since 1992 I have taught here in the English Department at Queen Mary.

Undergraduate Teaching

I teach literature from the ‘long eighteenth century’, that is from 1660 to the mid-nineteenth century. In recent years I have taught on Representing London, which I devised with Chris Reid: this is a large lecture course using the idea of the city to organise an approach to a wide range of texts about London (novels, poems, plays, travel writing, criminal biographies, and even tracts and regulations). I also teach a course on gothic literature (Terror, Transgression and Astonishment), on the rise of the novel (Seducing Narratives), and in some years, courses on pastoral poetry, on empire and slavery, and on sociability. As these courses suggest, I like teaching that mixes canonical works with less well-known writing from the period, developing a more richly textured approach to the literature and history of the eighteenth century.

Postgraduate Teaching

In some years I teach a module on the MA in English Studies: Eighteenth Century Literature and Romanticism pathway called Sociability: Literature, Life and the City. This course reads a range of eighteenth century texts, from Ned Ward to the Spectator, city poetry, town georgic, satires on coffee-houses and tea-tables, to explore the interaction between literature and the new urban form of the city.


Research Interests:

  • Eighteenth-century English literature and culture
  • Eighteenth-century London and literature
  • Science, criticism and intellectual culture in the eighteenth century
  • Sensibility and women's writing in the eighteenth century
  • Slavery and empire in eighteenth-century culture

My research concerns eighteenth-century literature and culture in English.  My first book was on the eighteenth-century sentimental novel, entitled The Politics of Sensibility: Race Gender and Commerce in the Sentimental Novel (Cambridge University Press, 1996, now in paperback), which explored sensibility and political controversy in eighteenth-century Britain. My next book was The History of Gothic Fiction (Edinburgh University Press, 2000), on the idea of history in the gothic novel. My monograph entitled The Coffee-House: a Cultural History (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2004) focussed on the representation of the coffee-house in the period 1650-1750. The research for this book formed the basis of a four-volume facsimile edition of coffee-house texts (1657-1780) entitled Eighteenth-Century Coffee House Culture (Pickering and Chatto, 2006). I was the general editor of the History of Tea Project at Queen Mary, which produced a four-volume edition of texts on tea and its cultures entitled Tea and the Tea-Table in Eighteenth-Century England (Pickering and Chatto, 2010).  In 2015 we published a monograph, Empire of Tea (Reaktion, 2014), which was co-authored with Richard Coulton and Matthew Mauger. While writing the book we wrote a blog describing our research called QM History of Tea. I co-edited Discourses of Slavery and Abolition with Brycchan Carey (Palgrave, 2004) and Prostitution and Eighteenth-Century Culture: Sex, Commerce and Morality with Ann Lewis (London: Pickering and Chatto, 2012). Other topics within eighteenth-century studies that I have addressed in articles and chapters include:  panoramas and 1790s spectacle in London; natural history and museums; georgic poetry and ideas of empire; travel writing and the rhetoric of wonder; the invention of the kangaroo; familiar letter and correspondence management systems in the eighteenth century; and slavery and sensibility. My current research is on the sociability of science and literature in the eighteenth century republic of letters, focussing on the archives of Elizabeth Montagu and Thomas Birch. I am a co-organizer of the Queen Mary Centre for Eighteenth-Century Studies, which runs a regular seminar, reading groups and conferences. 


  • Books
  • Books
  • Books
  • Books
  • Books
  • Books
  • Books


Empire of Tea: the Asian Leaf that Conquered the World, co-authored with Richard Coulton and Matthew Mauger (London: Reaktion, 2015).

The Coffee House: A Cultural History (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2004). Paperback published by Orion in 2005.

The History of Gothic Fiction (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2000)

The Politics of Sensibility: Race, Gender and Commerce in the Sentimental Novel (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996)

Editions and edited collections:

Prostitution and Eighteenth-Century Culture: Sex, Commerce and Morality, ed. by Markman Ellis and Ann Lewis (London: Pickering and Chatto, 2011)

Tea and the Tea-Table in Eighteenth-Century England, 4 vols (London: Pickering & Chatto, 2010)

Eighteenth-Century Coffee House Culture, 4 vols (London: Pickering and Chatto, 2006)

Discourses of Slavery and Abolition: Writing in Britain and its Colonies 1660-1832, ed Brycchan Carey, Markman Ellis, and Sarah Salih, (London: Palgrave, 2004)


‘Thomas Birch’s ‘Weekly Letter’ of ‘Literary Intelligence’ (1741-1766): correspondence and history in the mid-eighteenth century Royal Society’, Notes and Records: the Royal Society Journal for the History of Science, 68:3 (September 20, 2014) pp. 261-278

'Novel and Empire', in Alan Downie (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of the Eighteenth Century Novel (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014)

‘The Coffeehouse’, British and Irish Literature: Oxford Bibliographies (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013) — online.

'Reading Practices in Elizabeth Montagu's Epistolary Network of the 1750s', in Bluestockings Displayed: Portraiture, Performance and Patronage, 1730-1830, ed. by Elizabeth Eger (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), pp. 213-232

‘River and Labour in Samuel Scott’s Thames Views in the Mid-Eighteenth Century’, The London Journal, 37: 3 (November 2012), pp. 152-173

‘"An Author in Form": Women Writers, Print Publication, and Elizabeth Montagu's Dialogues of the Dead’, ELH, 79: 2 (Summer 2012), pp. 417-445

‘“That Singular and Wonderful Quadruped”: The Kangaroo as Historical Intangible Natural Heritage in the Eighteenth Century’, in Intangible Natural Heritage: New Perspectives on Natural Objects, ed. E. Dorfman (London: Routledge, 2011), pp. 56-87

‘The Emergence of Cultural History’, Dandelion, 2: 2 (2011)

‘Historical Intangible Natural Heritage: the kangaroo media event of the 1790s’, in Intangible Natural Heritage, ed. by Eric Dorfmann (London: Routledge, 2011)

‘Coffee-house Libraries in Mid Eighteenth-Century London’, The Library: Transactions of the Bibliographical Society, 10: 1 (March 2009), pp. 3-40

‘Coffee-House Library Short-title Catalogue’, Bibliographical Society: Electronic Publications, online pdf publication <>

‘Enlightenment or Illumination: the spectre of conspiracy in gothic fictions of the 1790s’, in Charlotte Sussman and Jillian Heydt-Stevenson (eds), Recognizing the Romantic Novel: New Histories of British Literature (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2008)

‘An introduction to the coffee-house: a discursive model’, Language and Communication, 28: 2 (2008)

‘“Spectacles within doors”: panoramas of London in the 1790s’, Romanticism, 14: 2 (2008)

‘Suffering Things: Lap-dogs, slaves and counter-sensibility’, in The Secret Life of Things: Animals, Objects, and It-Narratives in Eighteenth-Century England, ed. by Mark Blackwell (Lewisburg, Pennsylvania: Bucknell University Press, 2007)

‘Poetry and the City’, in The Blackwell Companion to Eighteenth Century Poetry, ed. Christine Gerrard (Oxford: Blackwell, 2006)

‘Trade', in Jane Austen in Context, ed by Janet Todd (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005)

‘Georgic Poetry and the problem of unfree labour', in Discourses of Slavery and Abolition, ed by Brycchan Carey, Markman Ellis, and Sarah Salih (London: Palgrave, 2004)

‘Islands of empire: the West Indies in eighteenth century georgic and pastoral poetry', in Islands in History and Representation, ed by Rod Edmond and Vanessa Smith (London: Routledge, 2003), pp 120-42

‘Ignatius Sancho's Shandean sentimental letters and the politics of form', in "Genius in Bondage": Literature of the Early Black Atlantic, ed. by Vincent Carretta and Philip Gould (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2001), pp 44-68

‘The coffee-women, The Spectator and the public sphere in the early-eighteenth century', in Women and the Public Sphere, ed by Elizabeth Eger and Charlotte Grant (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), pp 27-52

‘Pasqua Rosee's Coffee House 1652-1666', London Journal, 29: 1 (2004), 1-21

‘The Coffee-house, a discursive model', in A Coffee-House Conversation on the International Art World and its Exclusion , ed by Hatice Abdullah and Geoff Cox, PDF format (London: Kahve-Society, 2002)

See also my Queen Mary Research Publications profile


I would welcome enquiries from potential doctoral students interested in any of the areas of my research.

I have supervised the following successful PhD projects:

  • Ava Arndt, 'Pennies, Pounds, and Peregrinations: Circulation in Eighteenth-Century Literature and Culture' (1999)
  • Brycchan Carey, 'The Rhetoric of Sensibility: Argument, Sentiment, and Slavery in the Late-Eighteenth Century' (2000)
  • Carol Barker, '"To Suffice to Herself": Female Self-Sufficiency in the Work of Women Writers, 1740-1840' (2002)
  • Jennie Batchelor, 'Dress, Distress, and Desire: Clothing and Sentimental Literature' (2002)
  • Richard Coulton, 'Curiosity, Commerce, and Conversation in the Writing of London Horticulturists during the Early-Eighteenth Century' (2005)
  • Megan Hiatt, 'Domestic Regulation: The Marriage Act of 1753 and the Language of Nuptial Reform' (2007)
  • Li Hui Tsai, 'Women, Autobiography, and Criticism: The Life Writing of Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Robinson, 1770-2009' (2009)
  • Annie Watkins, 'Richardson, Barbauld, and the Construction of an Early Modern Fan Club' (2011)
  • Jenn Chenkin, 'The Purse Proud Title-page Monger': Representations of London Booksellers and the Social World of Print, 1730-1760' (2012)
  • Daisy Hildyard, 'The Work of Robert Hooke' (2013)
  • Peter Jones, 'Disowned Relations: Social Exploratory Literature and London's Unsettling Streets, 1838-1914', co-supervised with Sam Halliday (2014)
  • Jill Gage, ‘My Schoolfellows, My Patrons, My Public: English Schoolboy Authorship 1660-1798’, co-supervised with Chris Reid

Public Engagement

Media (selected):

‘Frankenstein’, Discovery Education, 2015

‘Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’: Discovery Education, 2015

'Tea Tables', Thinking Allowed with Laurie Taylor, BBC4, Feb 2010

Coffee-houses’, Thinking Allowed with Laurie Taylor, BBC4, December 2004

London Coffee-House Tour, London Walks Podcast, Guardian, ed Matt Green, 2010

Man-Made Creatures, for Joanna Coates, National Theatre Films, Feb 2011

The Devil’s Ordinary’, Cabinet Magazine (New York), 8 (Fall 2002), pp. 28-33

Canton Tea Company Blog: Blog series on tea in the eighteenth century, 2011