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Dr Phil Withington

Dr Phil Withington

University Lecturer

Fellow of Christ's College

Christ's College
St Andrew's Street


Phil Withington trained as a historian in Cambridge and worked in Aberdeen and Leeds before returning to Cambridge in 2007.

Departments and Institutes

Christ's College :

Research Interests

My research centres on the social, cultural, political and economic history of early modern Britain. Between 2007 and 2010 an ESRC Research Fellowship funded two related projects which are still ongoing. The first looks at intoxicants and intoxication as both trans-historical phenomena and, more particularly, as drivers of cultural, social, economic and political change in early modern Britain. The second considers the relationship between early modernity and the development of theories and practices of ‘society’ in sixteenth and seventeenth century England. In addition to these projects I am interested in urban society, corporatism, and citizenship; in reading early modern authors and their texts in their social contexts; and in the militarism of early modern society in terms of both civic militias and the impact of standing armies on local social relations and identities. I also have a more general concern with inter-disciplinary approaches to the past and the relationship between language and social practices and social change.

Research Supervision

I’m interested in supervising dissertations (undergraduate, masters, and doctoral) in most areas of British social, cultural, and political history between 1500 and 1800. I also welcome projects on historical method and its relationship to modern cultural and social theory.


Part I, Paper 9, 'British Economic and Social History c.1500-1750'

Part I, Paper 4, 'British Political and Constitutional History 1485-1750'

Themes and Sources, Paper V, 'History of the Emotions'

Part II, 'Food and Drink in Britain and the Wider World'

MPhil in Early Modern History, 'Approaching the Early Modern'

MPhil in Early Modern History and Economic and Social History, 'Language and Society'

Other Professional Activities

Editor of Cultural and Social History

International Advisory Board Member of Urban History

Member of the Royal Historical Society

Peer Reviewer for the European Science Foundation

Peer Reviewer for the Economic and Social Research Council

Co-convenor of the ESRC 'Intoxication' Network

Co-convenor of the Cambridge Food and Drink Network (running CRASSH seminars 2011-12)

Member of the Cambridge Socio-Legal Group

Advisor to the Parliamentary Select Committee on Health, 2008-09

Member of the International Reference Group for the Australian 'Network of Early European Research', 2006-08

Key Publications

  • Edited with Alexandra Shepard., Communities in Early Modern England (Manchester, 2000)

  • The Politics of Commonwealth: Citizens and Freemen in Early Modern England (Cambridge, 2005)

  • Society in Early Modern England. The Vernacular Origins of Some Powerful Ideas (Cambridge, Polity Press, 2010)

Other Publications

Refereed articles and book chapters

  • ‘Views from the Bridge: Revolution and Restoration in Seventeenth-Century York’, Past & Present (2001)

  • ‘Two Renaissances: Urban Political Culture in Post-Reformation England Reconsidered’, The Historical Journal (2001)

  • ‘Agency, Custom, and the English Corporate System’ in Henry French and Jonathan Barry, eds., Identity and Agency in English Society, 1500–1800 (Basingstoke, 2004) 200–223

  • ‘Public Discourse, Corporate Citizenship and State-Formation in Early Modern England’, American Historical Review (2007)

  • ‘Company and Sociability in Early Modern England’, Social History (2007)

  • ‘Citizens, Soldiers and Urban Culture in Early Modern England’, English Historical Review (2008)

  • ‘‘For This is True or Els I do Lye’: Thomas Smith, William Bullein and the Mid-Tudor Dialogue’ in The Oxford Handbook of Tudor Literature, 1485–1603, eds. Cathy Shrank and Mike Pincombe (Oxford, 2009)

  • ‘Putting the City into Shakespeare’s City Comedy’ in David Armitage, Conal Condren and Andrew Fitzmaurice, eds., Shakespeare and Early Modern Political Thought (Cambridge, 2009)

  • ‘Skill and Commonwealth in Early Modern English Cities’ in Maria Pia Paoli, ed., Saperi a Confronto nell’Europa dei Secoli XIII–XIX, Edizioni Della Normale, Scuola Normale Superiore Pisa (2009), pp. 57–83

  • ‘Andrew Marvell’s Citizenship’ in The Cambridge Companion to Andrew Marvell, eds. Derek Hirst and Steven Zwicker (Cambridge, 2010)

  • Co-written with The Early Modern Research Group, ‘Towards a Social and Cultural History of Keywords and Concepts by the Early Modern Research Group,’ History of Political Thought XXXI (Autumn, 2010), pp. 427-48

  • Guest Editor of Journal of Early Modern History, 15 (2011)

  • 'Introduction - Citizens and Soldiers in Early Modern England', Journal of Early Modern History, 15 (2011)

  • 'Tumbled into the Dirt: Wit and Incivility in Early Modern England', Journal of Historical Pragmatics, 12 (2011)

  • 'Intoxicants and Society in Early Modern England', The Historical Journal, 54, 3 (2011)

  • Co-written with The Early Modern Research Group, 'Commonwealth: the Social, Cultural, and Conceptual Contexts of an Early Modern Keyword', The Historical Journal, 54, 3 (2011)

  • See also

  • 'The history of public drinking in England', Report for the Parliamentary Select Committee on Health, April 2009,

  • 'The Elizabethan Big Society', BBC History Magazine, 12, 4, 2011