Professor Keith Snell

Professor of Rural and Cultural History

Keith Snell

Personal details

Cambridge Historical Tripos, Trinity Hall Cambridge.
Ph.D. (SSRC studentship) at Trinity Hall, Cambridge. 
Research Fellow in the Humanities, King's College, Cambridge.
Lectureship in the Department of Economics and Related Studies, University of York.
`New Blood' Lectureship in Regional Popular Cultures in the Department of English Local History, University of Leicester.
Promoted to a Readership, and then to a Personal Chair at the University of Leicester, as Professor of Rural and Cultural History.

Elected Fellow of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland (1991).


My teaching covers many subjects in English and Welsh local, regional and rural history, 1650-2015. These include (1) themes in community and socio-economic history, such as the history of ‘community’, social and economic change in the countryside, the history of welfare and the poor laws, historical demography and the history of the family; and (2) themes in cultural history, including English and Welsh regional cultures, belonging and identity, the history of religion, occupational cultures, gender and work, regional novels, landscape art, churchyard interpretation, photographic representations, oral history, anthropological approaches, and the gypsies.  I also teach Midland field courses, on estate villages, midlands industrialisation and the Gothic Revival.


Most recent

  1. The rise of living alone and loneliness in history', Social History, 42:1 (2017), pp. 2-28
  2. 'Modern loneliness in historical perspective', in Ami Rokach (ed.), The Correlates of Loneliness (Bentham Science, 2016), pp. 3-33
  3. Spirits of CommunityEnglish Senses of Belonging and Loss, 1750-2000 (Bloomsbury, 2016)
  4. 'Agendas for the historical study of loneliness and lone living', The Open Psychology Journal, 2015, 8 (Suppl. 2-M2).
  5. 'In or out of their place: the migrant poor in English art, 1740-1900', Rural History, 24:1 (2013).
  6. 'Re-politicising local history', International Journal of Regional and Local Studies, 9 (2013), (with R. Jones).

View a full list of publications.



  • The poor law and the history of welfare, 1600-1948
  • Churchyards and Cemeteries
  • The oral history of 'Belonging in Modern Britain'
  • English and Welsh rural history, 1600-1945
  • The history of 'Community'
  • Victorian religion
  • The history of the family and historical demography
  • The regional novel in the British Isles
  • Thomas Hardy
  • Loneliness in history

Current projects

Books on:

  • Ideas of the past community decline
  • Churchyards and Cemeteries
  • Belonging in Modern Britain: An Oral History


The poor law and the history of welfare, 1600-1948; the oral history of 'Belonging in Modern Britain'; English and Welsh rural history, 1600-1945; the history of 'Community'; Victorian religion; Churchyards and cemeteries; the history of the family and historical demography; the regional novel in the British Isles; Thomas Hardy.

Past and present PhD students' research topics

1. Processes of Parliamentary enclosure in Nottinghamshire.

2. Peasants and stockingers: agrarian change and politics in the Guthlaxton Hundred, Leicestershire, 1700 1900.

3. The marriage bar and the employment of middle class women in inter war Britain.

4. Popular culture in a provincial town: Ilkeston, 1700-1900.

5. An analysis of the 1851 Religious Census for England and Wales.

6. The economy of the Somerset mining villages, 1600 1938.

7. Rural services and networks in south Worcestershire, 1700 1860.

8. Women's health, domestic science, and midwifery in the inter war period.

9. Women's roles in industrialisation: the Leicestershire hosiery industry, 1700 1900.

10. Economic, trading and genealogical networks in Shropshire, 1660-1860.

11. The folklore of women: a comparative study of Leicestershire, Somerset and Derbyshire, 1500-1900.

12. Estate villages, paternalism and social structures in Rutland, 1600-1900.

13. A profile of Rugby working women, 1850-1950.

14. Post-war immigration and settlement of West Indians in Nottingham: an oral history study.

15. Economics, exploitation and environment: north-west Leicestershire, 1850-1914.

16. The social geography of `secularisation' in England and Wales, 1676-1851.

17. Poor law and settlement in Northamptonshire, 1662-1834.

18. Religion and economy in the Black Country, 1750-1900.

19. The growth of rural industries in parishes of north-west Leicestershire, 1700-1900.

20. Women's work in Leicestershire, 1600-1850.

21. A history of the Sikh community in Leicestershire.

22. Women and evangelical religion in the early nineteenth century.

23. The culture of the hop in Kent, c. 1700-1945 (Winner of the Kent Archaeological Society’s Hasted Prize).

24. Politics, property and paternalism: the Russell estates in Bedfordshire.

25. Law, structure and purpose in Warwickshire charities, 1600-1945.

26. Midland rural communities and their churches, 1660-1830.

27. Church monuments as reflections of society and economy in early modern Warwickshire.

28. Aspects of agricultural change in the Wreake valley in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

29. The socio-economic and religious history of the Whitby area, North Yorkshire.

30. Education, literacy and society: Leicester, 1800-1870.

31. A history of the Nottingham Diocese, 1850-1990.

32. The folklore of the Isle of Man.

33. A hosiery town: Hinckley, 1750-1950.

34. The settlement and cultures of white immigrants in Leicester, Nottingham and Derby, 1939-1990.

35. Land, farming and structural change in east Devon, 1840-1945.

36. The early Quakers in Staffordshire.

37. The Anglican Church and socio-economic change in Norfolk, 1800-1914.

38. Vestry politics and the poor law in Cambridgeshire, 1795-1894.

39. Occupational and regional working-class costume in the nineteenth century.

40. Immigration to Guernsey, 1700-1914.

41. Rural housing in Dorset and Leicestershire in the nineteenth century.

42. The English boot and shoe industry, 1850-1950.

43. Nineteenth-century rural housing on the Duke of Bedford's estates.

44. The development of poor-law administration within the Blaby Union of Leicestershire.

45. The history of washing clothes.

46. Holland Fen: social and topographical changes in a Fenland environment.

47. The office and role of the coroner, 1700-1926.

48. Poor relief and welfare: a comparative study of Cheltenham and Belper, 1750-1900.

49. Economy and society in Ashbourne and Wirksworth, Derbyshire, 1700-1900.

50. Estate villages in Nottinghamshire, 1700-1900.

51. Church graveyard memorials and society in Bolton, Lancashire.

52. The Medical Officers under the New Poor Law: Leicester, 1834-1914.

53. Women's organisations in Leicestershire and Rutland, 1800-1950.

54. A neglected electoral system? Alternative electoral geographies of nineteenth-century Britain.

55. Punishment and the New Poor Law: a study of Kent.

56. The Welsh New Poor Law: a study of Llandilo-Fawr in Carmarthenshire.

57. Anglo-Welsh border welfare: Atcham Union and Forden Incorporation, 1790-1930.

58. Local Government Reform and its effects on local identity, 1945-1974: the Nottingham and Erewash valley area.

59. Illegitimacy in south-west Wales in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

60. Eden Phillpotts and rural society, 1862-1960.

61. Exodus from Cardiganshire: rural-urban migration in Victorian Britain.

62. Railways in Derbyshire: leisure and changing ways of life, 1831-1900.

63. Communities, real and imagined: a study of Audley (Staffordshire), 1840-1939.

64. The social history of the funeral.

65. The influence of religion and belief systems on the vernacular building tradition in East Anglia, 1500-1900.

66. Urban migration and the parish of Fletton, Peterborough, 1841-1891.

67. Why do farmers farm? An oral history of farming loyalty and motivation since 1945.

68. Forces of change and resistance: the Lincolnshire parishes of Bradley, Scartho and Humberston, 1520-1920.

69. The rise and fall of a Leicestershire boot and shoe occupational community: Anstey 1860-1980.

70. A twentieth-century oral history study of farmers on the North Yorkshire – West Yorkshire border.

71. Hathersage: a proto-industrial community and its history.

72. The care and education of pauper children in ‘cottage homes’, 1870-1950.

73. The development of Rutland as a ‘county community’ in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

74. The Home Front during the First World War in rural Warwickshire.

75. The social and ecclesiastical significance of church seating plans, 1700-1900.

76. Farming in the inter-war period: Northamptonshire, Leicestershire, Buckinghamshire, Huntingdonshire, Oxfordshire, Derbyshire, Gloucestershire, and Warwickshire. A study of the financial outcomes of individual farms.

77. Quainton, 1790-1835: a micro-history of poverty and welfare in a rural parish.

78. The home front in World War I: the economic and social effects of the Great War on rural life in Warwickshire.

79. Modern church and chapel closures: Leicestershire and Oxfordshire.

80. Romany families in eastern England: social geography, genetics and lineage, 1750-1970.

81. Estate management and land agents in Dorset and Somerset, c. 1750-1850.

82. Local government, local legislation: municipal initiative in Parliament from 1858 to 1872.

83. Welfare outside the workhouse: the twentieth-century poor law in the Midlands and Wales, 1900-1930.

84. Dealing with insane children: a comparative study of child insanity in England, 1845-1907.

85. The old poor law in Leicestershire and Rutland: agrarian change and poor law consequences.

86. De-industrialization and the mining communities of Nottinghamshire, 1945-2016.

87. ‘Core families’: Swaledale and York in the nineteenth century.

88. Arthur Machen, the Gothic and London-Welsh literature.

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