School of History, Classics and Archaeology

Staff Profile

Professor Helen Berry

Professor of British History



I specialise in British history circa 1660 to 1830, and have a particular interest in social, cultural and economic history.  My research and teaching are closely linked, and cover a wide range of themes, from the history of how a new kind of consumer society emerged in Britain during the eighteenth century, to how global trade and economics shaped personal experiences, families and communities.  The following areas are my specialist subjects: the history of the mass media - the rise of newspapers and periodicals that reflected and informed public debates from the late-seventeenth century onwards; coffee house sociability and politeness; the history of gender and sexuality, particularly in the shifting definitions of marriage over time.  I have benefitted intellectually from collaborating over many years with historians, archaeologists, classicists and ancient historians at Newcastle University who have wide-ranging expertise across deep time and diverse cultures. I am also keen to foster intellectual links with researchers across the arts, humanities, social sciences and applied sciences, and with communities outside of academia.  I'm especially passionate about encouraging people to think more broadly about British history in a global and comparative context.  My book, The Castrato and His Wife (Oxford: OUP, 2011) is a microhistory that - among other things - explores the impact of Italian culture in the British Isles.  My new book, Orphans of Empire: the Fate of London's Foundlings (Oxford: OUP, 2019) considers the connection between philanthropy, child welfare and the socio-economic development of Britain in an era of colonial expansion.  In addition to my books and articles which explore various national and international perspectives on British history, I have also published widely on the history of North-East England, on subjects ranging from high-design glassware and regional identity, to architectural style and taste in Newcastle.  An ongoing interest in transdisciplinary research, climate change and the Tyne river system has led to my participation in the major interdisciplinary 'Living Deltas' GCRF research hub, building upon collaboration with a wide range of colleagues via 'Rivers of the Anthropocene' (see 'Projects').  For more information about my recent projects, including media engagement and impact, see my personal website .

I welcome inquiries from prospective PhD applicants whose interests fall within my areas of research expertise. 

PhD students I am currently supervising and their research projects:

David Johnson, 'The Feel of Home: Emotions and the British Middle-Class Household in the Nineteenth Century'

Meg Kobza, 'The Social History of the Eighteenth-Century Masquerade'

Johanna Latchem (interdisciplinary PhD, Fine Art/History), 'The Art of Justice: Reinventing the Courtroom Object'

Ellie Schlappa (AHRC funded), 'Representations of Female Onanism in the Eighteenth Century'

Examples of previous PhD projects I have supervised to completion:

Richard Pears, 'WIlliam Newton and the Development of the Architectural Profession in Georgian Newcastle'

Amy Shields (AHRC funded), 'Republicanism in a European Context: the Influence of the Dutch and Venetian Republics on Seventeenth-Century English Thought'.

Ria Snowdon (AHRC funded), 'Georgian Women and the Business of Print: Family, Gender and the Provincial Press of Northern England'.

Peter Wright, 'Tyne River Trades in the Seventeenth Century'.

Current Postdoctoral Supervision and Mentoring:

Dr David Hope (Economic History Society Anniversary Fellow), 'The British Atlantic Fur Trade in the Late-Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Centuries'.


BA (Hons) History - University of Durham

PhD History - University of Cambridge 

Memberships and Honorary Appointments

FRHistS - Fellow of the Royal Historical Society

FRSA - Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts

International Scholar,  School of Liberal Arts, Indiana University, IUPUI

Roles and Responsibilities

Currently Head of School, School of History, Classics and Archaeology (from February 2019)

Former Dean of Postgraduate Studies (2015-2018) and Acting Pro-Vice Chancellor (2018), Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences (HaSS) 

ORCID ID click here


For previous research, see Publications.

Current Research 

My new book, Orphans of Empire: the Fate of London's Foundlings (OUP, 2019) explores the history of welfare in Britain in the first era of global British imperialism.   Little was previously known about the fate of the children of London's Foundling Hospital, from its foundation in 1739, through to the Poor Law Act of 1834.  The book traces what happened to thousands of children who survived the experience of being raised in Europe's first secular institution designed to 'save' children for the nation, funded at first by private philanthropy, then state aid, and finally the profits of investment and venture capitalism.  The book explores the broader issue of whether the vision of the Hospital's founder, Thomas Coram, was eventually realised, and the historical parallels between this early experiment in charitable welfare provision and current debates in our own time about the role of the state versus private philanthropy in caring for the most vulnerable members of society.  Click here for further details.






Undergraduate Teaching 

HIS1044 Aspects of British History

HIS2031 Between Revolutions: Britain 1688-1789 (Stage 2, module leader)

HIS2123 Family, Sex and Society in Early Modern England (Stage 2, module leader)

HIS3278 The Birth of a Consumer Society: England 1714-1820 (Stage 3, module leader)

HIS3010 Writing History (Stage 3)

Postgraduate Teaching 

HIS8026 Pathways in British History

HIS8104 Ideas and Influences in British History 




Please note: I am currently Head of School and do not have office hours.  Please email me if you would like to make an inquiry, including about postgraduate study: