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School of English and Drama

Dr Tessa Whitehouse, BA (Cambridge) MRes PhD (London)


Reader in Eighteenth-Century Literature



I’m from the North West of England and was educated at Catholic schools around the country, which made me aware of the social dynamics of religious identity and the importance of literature for community histories. These interests inform my research now, into textual cultures across the Atlantic world in the long eighteenth century (1660-1830) particularly histories of friendship and practices of letter-writing.  I studied at Cambridge and here in London, where I also worked in publishing, before joining Queen Mary as a lecturer in September 2012. I direct the Queen Mary Centre for Religion and Literature in English.



Research Interests:

  • Friendship
  • Epistolary and manuscript culture and the history of the book
  • Childhood
  • Memorial practices
  • Religious minorities in eighteenth-century London

Recent and On-Going Research

I work on literature and religion in the period 1660-1830, focussing on material culture and textual circulation among coteries and across the public sphere. I’m particularly interested in letters: how they enact and reflect friendship and learning, how they were used to construct communities, and how transatlantic epistolary networks operated. I also investigate periodicals, lectures, conduct books, and ethical writings in the context of eighteenth-century manuscript culture.

Friendship in the Atlantic world, among children, and as a literary phenomenon is another project that I’ve been developing. I’ve co-convened a research network and worked with a creative technologies enterprise and a school to develop new methodologies for exploring children’s experiences of friendship in a project funded by Creativeworks London called ‘Making Friends’.

My first book, The Textual Culture of English Protestant Dissent, 1720-1800 (Oxford University Press, 2015) explores the sociable, collective character of dissenters' teaching and writing in the eighteenth century. Since then I have edited three interdisciplinary collections which investigate the creative, commercial and technical aspects of making books in the long eighteenth century; religion and life cycle processes in early modern England; and a special issue of the open access journal É-Rea which establishes a new framework for understanding religious experiences in historical contexts. I’ve held Visiting Research Fellowships at Chawton House Library, the American Philosophical Society, and the Academy of Finland Centre for Excellence in the History of Experiences where I’ve worked on spiritual autobiography, manuscript memorial practices, and female friends and their letters. I’m now leading the project ‘Mapping Multifaith London’ which aims to locate, for the first time, sites of significance for religious minorities in the capital during the eighteenth century. It’s an archival-digital project using a map of London from 1746 produced by the Huguenot cartographer John Roque.



Religion and Life Cycles in Early Modern England (Manchester University Press, 2021). Co-edited with Caroline Bowden and Emily Vine

Textual Transformations: Books and their Meanings from Baxter to Coleridge (Oxford University Press, 2019). Co-edited with N. H. Keeble

The Textual Culture of English Protestant Dissent 1720-1800 (Oxford University Press, 2015)

Book Chapters

Letters, Life-cycle Events, and the Daily Life of Faith’, in Religion and Life-Cycles in Early Modern England (Manchester University Press, 2021), pp. 214-32

‘Friendship and the Production of Nonconformist Memorial’, in Textual Transformations: Books and their Meanings from Baxter to Coleridge ed. N.H. Keeble and Tessa Whitehouse (Oxford University Press, 2019), pp. 37-56

‘Print Culture’, in The Oxford History of Protestant Dissenting Traditions: Volume II Andrew Thompson (Oxford University Press, 2018), pp. 438-56

‘Making Friends: Childhood, the Cultural Economy and Creative Collaboration Through Technology’ (co-authored with Emilie Giles), in Cultural Policy, Innovation and the Creative Economy: Creative Collaborations in Arts and Humanities Research ed. Morag Shiach, Tarek Vinari, and Jana Reidel (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016), pp. 201-15

‘Spiritual Autobiography’, in A History of English Autobiography ed. Adam Smyth (Cambridge University Press, 2016), pp. 103-18


  • ‘Memory, Community, and Textuality in Nonconformist Life Writings 1760-1810’, Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies 41:2 (2018), 163-78
  • ‘Godly Dispositions and Textual Conditions: The Literary Sociology of International Religious Exchanges, c. 1722-40’. History of European Ideas, 39 (2013), 294-308
  • 'Intellectual and Textual Entrêpots: “Moses and Aaron”, Herman Witsius and the International Transmission of Educational Texts', English Studies, 95 (2011), 565-72
  • ‘“Upon reading over the whole of this Letter I am sensibly struck”: Affectionate Networks and Schemes for Academies’, Lives and Letters, 3 (2010
  • ‘The Family Expositor, the Doddridge Circle and the Booksellers’, The Library, 7th ser., 11:3 (2010), 321-44

Online Resources

Dissenting Academies Online: Database and Encyclopedia (2011)

Entries on 'John Jennings (1687/8-1723)', 'Rees, Abraham (1743-1825)', 'David Jennings's Academy, Wellclose Square (1744-1762)', 'Hoxton Academy (1764-1785)', 'Jennings, David (1691-1762)', 'John Jennings's Academy (c.1715-1723)', 'Moorfields Academy (1712-1744)', 'Samuel Morton Savage (1721-1791)'

Available here:

Dissenting Education and the Legacy of John Jennings, c.1720-c.1729 (Dr Williams's Centre for Dissenting Studies, 2011)

An edition of documents relating to teaching at dissenting academies in the 1720s including letters, a treatise, notebooks and timetables

Available here:

Journal Special Issue

‘Reconstructing Early Modern Religious Lives: The Exemplary and the Mundane’, special issue of E-Rea (2020). Co-edited with Anne Dunan-Page and Laurence Lux-Sterritt

Forthcoming Publications

‘"I know I write to a man of Candour": Religious Controversy and International Cross-Confessional friendship c.1700’, Journal of European Ideas (forthcoming)

‘Women’s Writing and the Puritan Tradition of Memorial’, in The Puritan Literary Tradition ed. Johanna Harris and Alison Searle (forthcoming, Oxford University Press)

‘Preaching and Practical Divinity’ (co-authored with Françoise Deconinck-Brossard), in A History of Dissenting Academies in the British Isles 16601860 ed. Isabel Rivers with Mark Burden (contracted, Cambridge University Press)

See also my Queen Mary Research Publications profile




I have supervised PhD projects on the poetics of mental illness in the eighteenth century, religion and the home in early modern London, and queer domesticities in Romantic-era Britain.

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



Public Engagement

I am part of an interdisciplinary team that developed a new exhibition called ‘Ragged Children, Mended Lives?’ and a portfolio of schools resources for the Ragged School Museum, just down the canal from QMUL. This project won the ‘Interact’ award at the 2015 Enterprise Awards. It reassesses the experiences of children cared for by Thomas Barnardo’s organisation in the nineteenth century

The research project ‘Making Friends’ involved children from Stoke Newington School and professionals from museums, galleries, third sector organisations, creative technologies enterprises in a collaborative and exploratory research project investigating the relationships between technology, making, and friendship in childhood.

I also appeared on the BBC Radio 4 Series ‘500 Years of Friendship’.

Conferences/Colloquia Organising

Nonconformist Women and their Literary Practices took place in May 2015. This conference, which I organised, was part of Prof. Timothy Whelan’s visit to QMUL as Distinguished Visiting Fellow. It explored the writing, lives, and personal connections among women such as Anne Steele, Mary Scott, and Jane Attwater.

Concepts and Practices of Friendship in the Long Eighteenth Century:  This network has so far included two interdisciplinary workshops with plans for future events. It’s a collaboration between QMCECS and the Warwick Eighteenth-Century Centre and also involves Tate Britain.

Co-convenor of the Writing and Religion Research Network. Regular activities include panels at the BSECS annual conference, and we held two successful colloquia in Oxford at London in 2013. I am now a member of the project’s Advisory Board.

Co-ordinator and Advisory Board Member of the AHRC-funded international Community Libraries Research Network: Colloquia at Liverpool (January 2014), Chicago (June 2014) and London (January 2015).

Co-convenor of the QMUL Digital Humanities Seminar which meets monthly, and Organising Committee member of the Digital Initiatives Network at QMUL which organises an unconference and Annual Lecture.

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