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School of English and Drama

Dr Clare Stainthorp, MA Hons and MLitt (Glasgow), PhD (Birmingham)


Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellow



I joined QMUL as a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow in January 2021 to work on a project about nineteenth-century atheist, secular, and agnostic movements and the associated periodical press. I am a co-director of QMUL's Centre for the Study of the Nineteenth Century and its Legacies.

I have previously worked at University College London in a role facilitating impact activities and REF case studies across the Faculties of Arts & Humanities and Social & Historical Sciences. Prior to that I provided postgraduate and admissions support in the Department of English. In 2019, I was a research assistant on a collaborative project between UCL and the Resolution Foundation exploring the intersections of structural inequalities: ‘Exploring Inequalities: Igniting research to better inform UK policy’.

I was awarded my PhD by the University of Birmingham in 2017 for research on the Victorian poet, philosopher, and scientist Constance Naden, the subject of my first monograph. In 2017/18 I was the Nineteenth-Century Matters Early Career Fellow at Cardiff University, a position supported by the British Associations of Victorian Studies and Romantic Studies. I have taught undergraduates and postgraduates at QMUL, UCL, and the University of Birmingham.

I am the Newsletter Editor for the British Association for Victorian Studies. I am an associate director of the International Society for Historians of Atheism, Secularism, and Humanism.

I sat on the QMUL Public Engagement Small Grants Funding Panel as a representative for the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences from 2021-23. I was the editorial assistant for the journal Modernist Cultures 2014-18.

You can find me on Twitter here.


In 2023/24 I am teaching:

  • ESH6076 'Identity and Belief in Victorian Britain'

In addition, I am very happy to discuss topics related to my areas of research with both undergraduate and postgraduate students.


Research Interests:

  • Nineteenth-century literature and intellectual history
  • Freethought movements
  • Victorian periodicals
  • Literature and science
  • Victorian poetry

Recent and On-Going Research

I am primarily working on my Leverhulme-funded project (‘Reading the Freethought Movement: Atheism, Agnosticism, and Secularism, 1866–1907'), writing a monograph provisionally titled Forms of Freethought: Britain's Atheist, Agnostic, and Secularist Periodicals, 1860-1910. This research focuses on how freethinkers harnessed the power of periodicals as networks to shape conversations about faith and society in Victorian Britain. I am interested in the forms of writing - from dialogues and editorials to life writing and poetry - that freethinkers used to fashion their sense of themselves. I also look at how the freethought press fostered a sense of collective identity as a radical reform movement and how these writings can enhance our understanding of nineteenth-century society as well as provide a new perspective on modern-day secularism. In 2022, I organised the conference Freethought in the Long Nineteenth Century: New Perspectives at QMUL.

My 2019 monograph was the first major study of the freethinking poet, philosopher, and student of science Constance Naden (1858–1889), about whom I have also published several shorter pieces. The book introduces Naden’s life and diverse works, demonstrating how a rigorous scientific education, a thorough engagement with poetry and philosophy of the long nineteenth century, an involvement with the Victorian radical atheist movement, and a comic sensibility each shaped her intellectual achievements. I argue that Naden’s guiding principle was ‘unity in diversity’, a concern that resonated across a century shaped by scientific discovery, secularisation, and political agitation. This research was underpinned by my discovery of three of Naden’s adolescent notebooks, dating from the 1870s. The notebooks’ contents doubled her poetic corpus and were the first manuscript materials attributable to Naden. In collaboration with her descendants, I facilitated the deposit of these documents at the University of Birmingham’s Cadbury Research Library where they are now publicly accessible.

I was co-editor, with Naomi Hetherington, of a Routledge Historical Resource, Nineteenth-Century Religion, Literature and Society: Disbelief and New Beliefs (2020). This volume reproduced and contextualised important but inaccessible primary texts to illuminate transformations in Britain’s religious landscape, for which I co-wrote the introduction and was reponsible for the sections 'Scientific Approaches', 'Spiritualism', and 'Freethought'.

Other strands of my current research include nineteenth-century esotericism and the works of George Egerton, the periodical as a form, and freethought writing for children; more broadly, I am interested in Victorian women's poetry, the dialogue as a literary form, and the development of the social sciences in Britain.





Articles and chapters



  • Structurally Unsound. UCL and Resolution Foundation ‘Exploring Inequalities: Igniting research to better inform UK policy’ project report [PDF] (2019). Co-authored with Siobhan Morris, Oliver Patel, and Olivia Stevenson.


Short articles



  • 'The Humanist Movement in Modern Britain: A History of Ethicists, Rationalists and Humanists, by Callum Brown, David Nash, and Charlie Lynch', Cultural and Social History (forthcoming 2023)
  • 'The Cambridge History of Atheism, ed. by Stephen Bullivant and Michael Ruse', Global Intellectual History (2022)
  • Victorian Poetry and the Culture of Evaluation by Clara Dawson’, BAVS Newsletter, 20.3 (2021)
  • The Cambridge Companion to Victorian Women's Poetry’ ed. by Linda K. Hughes’, Women: A Cultural Review, 30.4 (2019), 491–94
  • The Political Poetess Victorian Femininity, Race, and the Legacy of Separate Spheres by Tricia Lootens’, Nineteenth-Century Gender Studies, 14.2 (2018).
  • ‘The Victorian Period: Poetry’, The Year’s Work in English Studies, 97 (2018), 844–71. Co-authored with Michael J. Sullivan
  • ‘The Victorian Period: Poetry’, The Year’s Work in English Studies, 96 (2017), 872–97. Co-authored with Michael J. Sullivan
  • ‘The Victorian Period: Poetry’, The Year’s Work in English Studies, 95 (2016), 914–40. Co-authored with Clara Dawson

If you are interested in reading any of my published work but are unable to access it, please get in touch and I'll be happy to share preprints.

    Public Engagement

    I have a keen interest in the theory and practice of public engagement, stemming from my time working as a Research Impact Officer at UCL. I welcome opportunities to share my research with, and learn from, those outside academia.

    My public facing and impact activities include:

    Radio and Podcasts:


    Talks and Events:


    • In partnership with Constance Naden’s descendants, I led a successful campaign to replace Naden’s gravestone in Birmingham’s Key Hill Cemetery, which was illegible and in a state of disrepair. The appeal featured in local media and led to an ‘In-Conversation’ event on Naden at the Birmingham and Midland Institute (March 2018) and other public talks. The new gravestone was installed in May 2019.
    • Historical consultant for ‘Making Space’, an art installation and exhibition by Liz Hingley commissioned by University of Birmingham for International Women’s Day (April 2017).
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