School of History, Classics and Archaeology

Staff Profile

Professor Helen Berry

Professor of British History



I specialise in British history circa 1660 to 1800, 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 pet 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.  Having benefitted from working for several years with fellow historians and archaeologists at Newcastle University who have particular expertise in World History, I am passionate about encouraging people to think more broadly about British history in a global context.  My most recent 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 next 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, landscape history and the Tyne river system has led to my participation in the 'Rivers of the Anthropocene' project (see 'Projects').

I have supervised and continue to supervise PhD students on a range of topics, from the history of women and the newspaper press in Georgian England, to the development of the architectural profession in eighteenth-century Newcastle.  I welcome inquiries from prospective PhD applicants with interests that fall within my areas of research expertise. 


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

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 next book, Orphans of Empire: the Fate of London's Foundlings (OUP, April 2019) will explore the history of welfare in Britain in the first era of global British imperialism.   Little is currently 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.  This book will trace what happened to those who survived the experience of being raised in Europe's first secular corporation 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 will explore 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. 







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: