School of History, Classics and Archaeology

Staff Profile

Dr Timothy Somers

Post-Doctoral Fellow


I am interested in print culture, book history, and collecting in the early modern period. My research focuses on collections of ‘cheap print’ containing ballads, advertisements, pamphlets and other genres that were part of everyday life. As print culture expanded in the seventeenth century, such ephemera was increasingly subject to collection and display. I analyse the social, political and intellectual motivations of cheap print collectors: from John Bagford (1650-1716) to Narcissus Luttrell (1657-1732). I argue that focusing on collecting practices and the material organisation of collections improves our understanding of the consumption and reception of early modern print.


I am preparing my doctoral research for a monograph: Preserving the Ephemeral: sociability, politics and collecting in early modern England (forthcoming, Boydell & Brewer 2020).


Before joining Newcastle, I held fellowships at Queen’s University Belfast and the Bodleian Library, University of Oxford. In October 2019, I started a British Academy post-doctoral fellowship here with a research project titled ‘Humour in Early Modern Print Culture’.


The history of humour reveals the unstated assumptions of past societies and improves our understanding of political and religious contestation. My project approaches the topic by combining analysis of macro-trends in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century print culture with case studies of readers and collectors. It will analyse the content of both jestbooks (compilations of jokes) and ballads. This will build up a picture of which themes, social groups and behaviours were popular enough with consumers to be commonly recycled, and which fell out of favour as cultural attitudes changed over time. These trends will be used to analyse the content of manuscript commonplace books and collections of print, exploring the way readers responded to and appropriated satire, stereotypes and humour for their own social and political ends.


At present, I am especially interested in the collections of the antiquarian and radical, Francis Douce (1757-1834).

I am also interested in making historical board games in order to create engaging teaching and public history activities. As part of a Creative Economy Engagement Fellowship I have gained experience developing and show-casing games based on my research: one on the Popish Plot, another on the Royal Society. I will apply this experience to the dissemination of my humour project in the near future.