12 Jun 2015 9:30am - 6:00pm Room SG1, Alison Richard Building.


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Conference Storify can be found here,



Dr Helen Smith (Department of English and Related Literature, University of York)


We are pleased to announce the one-day conference, Matter and Materiality in the Early Modern World, in collaboration with the CRASSH graduate group Things that Matter seminar series. The conference is funded by the School of Arts and Humanities and supported by the Centre for the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH). It will be held in the Alison Richard Building, the home of CRASSH.

The conference will be centered around the theme of ‘materiality’ in order to acknowledge the current ‘material turn’ in scholarship. This will allow speakers to emphasise how the economic, cultural, and physical attributes of certain materials contributed to understanding the value and connotations of objects in their original contexts. Discussions will also encourage a deeper awareness of the theories of matter that permeated early modern thought and how these philosophies contributed to understanding the meanings of objects in the early modern world.


Dr Helen Smith is a historian of the early modern book, social and religious history. Her current research explores theories of matter in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and how the materiality of books and more ephemeral paper objects, such as wastepaper, contributed to these theories.


Organised by Margaret Carlyle, Sophie Pitman, Katie Reinhart, Lesley Steinitz and Katie Tycz.



Registration and Welcome


Ephemera and the Body

Michelle Wallis (University of Cambridge) 
Papering Over the Past: Ephemeral Print and the History of Medicine in England before 1720

Sarah Anne Bendall (University of Sydney)
Imagining Farthingales: Women, the Farthingale and the Transgression of Space in England and France during the long Seventeenth Century

Elizabeth Sharrett (Birmingham City University)
'This is a decent garment will never be out of fashion': Dressing for death in John Webster’s The Devil’s Law Case

Nailya Shamgunova (University of Cambridge)
European perceptions of penis bells as a method of prevention of sodomy among the peoples of South East Asia in the 17th Century

Miranda Clow (Royal College of Art)
Negotiating Value: Printed Paper and the Beginning of the Fire Insurance Industry


Tea/Coffee break


Materials I

Alice Dolan (University of Hertfordshire)
'A kind of coarse linen': Material Ambiguities in Eighteenth-Century England

Anna Reynolds (University of York)
'A Waste and Roaring Wilderness': Scriptural Wastelands and Early Modern Wastepaper

Heidi Carlson (University of Cambridge)
Thatch, stone and brick: the domestic buildings of early colonial Ireland




Materials II

Rachael Morton (University of Warwick)
Changing Perceptions of Quality in the English Metalware Trade, c.1674–1774

Raymond Carlson (Columbia University)
Joos van Ghent and the Problems of Oil Paint in Fifteenth-Century Italy

Lindsey Cox (University of Kent)
How and why materials matter in relation to Tudor and Jacobean portrait miniatures


Tea/Coffee break


Senses and Emotion

Amparo Fontaine (University of Cambridge)
The commodification of sound. Making, trading, and judging instruments in mid-18th century France

Rebecca Unsworth (Quee Mary University of London / V&A)
Material or Metaphor: Examining Early Modern Gloves

Sarah Ann Robin (Lancaster University)
'And true love better is than Gold': The Enticing Amour of Gold in the Seventeenth Century

Esther Helena Arens (University of Cologne)
Material Power: Food in the VOC Moluccas, 1650 to 1700

Luisa Coscarelli (University of Hamburg)
The Materiality of Smell in Early Modern Religious Practices





Helen Smith (University of York)
Out of this World: Matter and Materiality on the Early Modern Moon


Concluding Remarks

Upcoming Events


Tel: +44 1223 766886
Email enquiries@crassh.cam.ac.uk