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Emma Nicholls

Emma Nicholls

PhD student in the Faculty of History

Gates scholar

Clare Hall
Herschel Road

Cambridge CB3 9AL


I am a current PhD student working under the supervision of Dr Mary Laven. My interests are broad but focus on Italy 1350-1600 and questions of gender, material culture, self-writing and authority. In particular, my dissertation explores the self-formation of convent women in Prato and Pistoia during a period of Florentine territorial expansion.

In 2013 I completed a research MA at Monash University in Melbourne under the supervision of professors Peter Howard and associate-supervisor Carolyn James. My focus was on the cultural significance of the silk industry to Renaissance Florentines. 

Alongside my research, I have a strong interest in outreach and community engagement in history and the humanities more generally. In 2017-18 I have facilitated several workshops on bystander intervention in academic settings and the community more broadly, including the workshop 'Speaking Truth to Power' together with Amy Erickson as part of the Cambridge Festival of Ideas. In 2015-16 I was postgraduate outreach officer responsible for Cambridge History for Schools, a program which runs free, hands-on history workshops for kids (, and in 2014 I was delighted to co-direct the inaugural Australian Youth Humanities Forum ( I continue to be involved with organising activities for young people and teachers through Cambridge History for Schools and am always keen to hear about and be involved in initiatives to share the excitement and potential of humanities research.  

In 2017-18, I am co-convening the Historians' Workshop series which provides skills training for undergraduate and postgraduate students in History at Cambridge. The Lent and Easter term program can be accessed here: 


Research Interests

Late medieval and early modern Tuscany; silk in 15th century Florence; material culture, writing and self-formation. I am especially interested in how different material and conceptual tools shape the ways we are able to make sense of ourselves and our world, and how this in turn interplays with economic and political structures of power.

Research Supervision

Dr Mary Laven.


  • Early Modern History