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Negative Sociability in Early Modern Britain and the Atlantic

24th September 2018

Lightfoot Room

Old Divinity School

St John’s College

University of Cambridge


This workshop aims to extend the scholarship on communities, group identities and individual social relationship through exploring the muddier ground that lies between sociable and anti-social behaviour, with a particular focus on Britain and its North American colonies. Taking the concept of ‘negative sociability’ as its starting point, we hope to explore how ostensibly positive or inclusive social behaviour could be manipulated to facilitate exclusion or social ostracism. Through fostering conversation between scholars working on diverse aspects of early modern British culture, politics and society, the workshop seeks to uncover the many different contexts and registers in which sociability was theorised, understood and practised.

Those interested in attending this free event are welcome to e-mail the organisers Naomi Pullin ( and Carys Brown (




9.30-9.45 Introductory Remarks


9.45-11.00 Session I Chair: Patrick McGhee

Dr Sarah Pearsall (University of Cambridge): Blockheads and Barbarians: Early American Insults

Dr Soile Ylivuori (Queen Mary, University of London): Not Quite/Not White: Polite Sociability and Exclusion in Georgian West Indies


11.00-11.30 COFFEE BREAK (Arthur Quillan Room)


11.30-13.15 Session II (Chair: TBC)

Dr Teresa Bejan (University of Oxford): Hobbes and Hats

Professor Markku Peltonen (University of Helsinki): The Place of Negative Sociability in Early Modern British Intellectual Culture

Professor Mark Knights (University of Warwick): Corruption and Negative Sociability


13.15-14.15 LUNCH (Arthur Quillan Room)



14.15-15.30 Session III Chair: Professor Alexandra Walsham University of Cambridge

Patrick McGhee (University of Cambridge): Encountering Unbelief in Early Modern England

Dr Naomi Pullin (University of Warwick): Enmity, Peacemaking and Coexistence in Early Modern Britain


15.30-16.00 COFFEE BREAK (Arthur Quillan Room)

16.00-17.15 Session IV (Chair TBC)

Professor Helen Berry (University of Newcastle): Italian Opera and Masquerades as Exclusionary Forms of Sociability

Dr Mark Hailwood (University of Bristol): Overcome with Drink: Intoxication and the Character of Alehouse Sociability


17.15-18.00 Roundtable and Closing Remarks (Chaired by Carys Brown and Naomi Pullin)


19.00 Dinner for Speakers at La Margherita (15 Magdalene Street, CB3 0AF)


Notes on workshop organisers

Naomi Pullin is Assistant Professor in Early Modern British History at the University of Warwick. Her monograph Female Friends and the Making of Transatlantic Quakerism, 1650–1750 was published with Cambridge University Press in 2018. Before joining Warwick, she held a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship at the University of Cambridge. Her project, entitled: ‘Female Foes: Conflict, Dispute and Identity in the Early Modern British Atlantic', provides the first study of female enmities in Britain and North America in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. She has published articles and chapters in Journal of Early Modern History, The Seventeenth Century and various edited collections, including New Critical Studies on Quaker Women: 1650–1750 (OUP, 2018).

Carys Brown is a PhD candidate at the University of Cambridge. Her thesis, ‘Religious Coexistence and Sociability in England after the Toleration Act, c. 1689-1750’, explores tensions between the social, cultural, and religious identities of Protestant Dissenters in England in the wake of legal toleration. In doing so it promotes a religious and cultural history of the eighteenth century that is attuned to how religious difference continued to shape cultural discourses in this period. She has articles published in The Historical Journal, British Catholic History, and Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies.


This workshop is generously funded by the Leverhulme Trust and supported by St John’s College.