Professor Roey Sweet

Professor of Urban History

Roey SweetContact details

  • Tel: +44 (0)116 252 2837
  • Email:
  • Office: Attenborough Tower 805


Personal details

D.Phil, FHEA

For most of my career I have been a historian of eighteenth-century British urban and cultural history but recently I have begun to move into the nineteenth century. I was brought up in Cambridge but moved to Oxford to study history as an undergraduate.  After studying History at Oxford where I was awarded my D Phil and held a junior research fellowship, I joined the Department of Economic and Social History at Leicester in 1998 and I have been here ever since, based in the Centre for Urban History. I’m particularly interested in how eighteenth-century society understood, interpreted and made use of the past – a question that I’ve explored in the context of urban culture and identity, the culture of antiquarianism, and in my most recent book in the context of the Grand Tour and travel in Italy. I am now extending this interest in two directions: first to think about the ‘invention’ of the historic town in Britain and the development of domestic tourism in the nineteenth century. Second in a new project investigating British travellers in Spain before 1830 funded by the Leverhulme Trust.


My teaching covers eighteenth-century social, cultural and political history and also urban history more widely defined and I teach at all levels of the undergraduate and postgraduate degree programme.   I have taught modules on gender history, eighteenth-century urban history, politics and society under Robert Walpole  and on ‘polite society’ in the eighteenth century. At MA level I contribute to the core module the City in History and have taught options on representation and reality in eighteenth-century towns and on the Grand Tour.

Examples of modules I teach:

  • From Gin Lane to Westminster: politics, culture and society in the age of Walpole


  • Sweet RH (2019) ‘Antiquarian transformations in historical scholarship: the history of domesticity from Joseph Strutt to Thomas Wright’, in Perry Gauci and Elaine Chalus (eds.), Revisiting the Polite and Commercial People: Essays in Georgian Politics, Society and Culture in Honour of Professor Paul Langford, 153-170.
  • Sweet RH (2017) ‘The preservation of Crosby Hall, 1830-50’, Historical Journal, 60:3, 687-719.
  • Sweet, RH (2018) ‘Rituals, pageants and the use of the past in British cities, c. 1790-1900’, in Christian Kiening and Martina Stercken (eds.), Kommunale Selbstinzenierung Städtische Konstellationen zwischen Mittelater und Neuzeit, 207-22.
  • Sweet RH (2017) ‘Antiquarianism and ruins’ and ‘Croyland Abbey’, in Dale Townshend, Michael Carter and Peter Lindfield (eds.), Writing Britain’s Ruins 1700-1850, 43-75.
  • Sweet RH (2017) with Sarah Goldsmith and Gerrit Verhoeven (eds.), Beyond the Grand Tour: Metropolises of the North and Early Modern Travel Behaviour, ix + 228 pp.
  • Sweet RH (2016) (ed.), Urban History: Critical Concepts in Historical Studies, 4 vols ,xxi + 1600 pp.
  • Sweet RJ (2015)‘William Gell and Pompeiana (1817-19 and 1832)’, Papers of the British School at Rome, 83, 245-282.
  • Sweet RH (2015) ‘”Beauty and convenience”: British perceptions of Bologna and its portici in the age of the Grand Tour’, in R. Smurra and F. Bocchi (eds.), Bologna's Porticoes in the European Context, 37-44.
  • Sweet RH (2015) Urban History. In: Wright JD (Eds.) International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences 24, pp. 811-817
  • Sweet RH (2014) The historic built environment and the conceptualization of urban space in Britain and Italy, c. 1700-1830. In: Pauly M, Scheutz M (Eds.) Cities and their spaces. Concepts and their use in Europe pp. 183-193 (0).
  • Sweet RH (2013) Gothic Antiquarianism. In: Byron G, Townshend D (Eds.) The Gothic World pp. 15-26 ISBN10: 1135053065 ISBN13: 9781135053062
  • Sweet R (2012) Women and everyday life in Britain during the ancien regime. Revista de Historiografia, 16 (1), pp. 61-70
  • Sweet RH (2012) Cities and the Grand Tour. The British in Italy, c. 1690-1820. ISBN13: 9781107020504
  • Sweet RH (2011) Borough archives and the preservation of the past in eighteenth-century towns. In: Genet J-P, Ruggiu F-J (Eds.) Du papier à l'archive, du privé au public pp. 129-148 ISBN10: 2859446508 ISBN13: 9782859446505
  • Sweet RH (2010) 'A neat structure with pillars': changing perceptions of the Temple Church in the Long Eighteenth Century. In: Park D, Jones RG (Eds.) The Temple Church in London. History, Architecture, Art pp. 175-194 ISBN13: 9781843834984
  • Sweet RH (2010) The Changing View of Rome in the Long Eighteenth Century. Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies, 33 (2)
  • Sweet RH (2010) 'The private and uninteresting history of a single town?': Les histoire des villes provinciales dans l'Angleterre du xviiie siecle. Histoire Urbaine, 28 (August), pp. 85-103
  • Sweet RH (2009) Richard Gough: The Man and the Antiquary. Bodleian Library Record, pp. 120-141
  • Sweet RH (2007) Truly historical ground: antiquarianism in the north. In: Colls RM (Eds.) The History of Northumbria pp. 104-125 ISBN13: 9781860774713
  • Sweet RH (2007) The incorporated Society and its public role. In: Pearce S (Eds.) Visions of Antiquity pp. 75-98 ISBN10: 0754637050 ISBN13: 9780754637059
  • Sweet RH (2007) Corrupt and corporate bodies: attitudes to corruption in urban government in eighteenth-century towns. In: Moore J, Smith JB (Eds.) Corruption in Urban Politics and Society pp. 41-56 ISBN10: 0754637050 ISBN13: 9780754637059
  • Sweet RH (2007) 'British perceptions of Florence in the Long Eighteenth Century'. Historical Journal, 50:04:00, pp. 837-859
  • Sweet R (2006) 'Ordering of family and gender in the age of the enlightenment'. In: Donald D, O’Gorman F (Eds.) Ordering the World in the Eighteenth Century pp. 112-140 ISBN13: 9781403938206
  • Sweet R (2006) ‘Civic and political ritual in eighteenth-century towns’. In: Neuheiser J, Schaich M (Eds.) Political Rituals in Great Britain, 1700-2000 ISBN13: 9783896394880
  • Sweet RH (2005) The Ordering of Family and Gender in the Age of Enlightenment. In: O’Gorman F, Donald D (Eds.) Ordering the World in the Eighteenth Century pp. 112-140 ISBN10: 1403938202
  • Sweet RH (2004) Antiquaries: The Discovery of the Past in Eighteenth Century Britain. ISBN10: 1852853093
  • Sweet (2003) On the Town: Women and Urban Life in Eighteenth-Century England.
  • Sweet RH (2003) Women and civic life in eighteenth century England. In: Sweet RH, Lane P (Eds.) Women and Urban Life in Eighteenth-century England: On the Town
  • Sweet RH (2003) Introduction. In: Sweet RH, Lane P (Eds.) Women and Urban Life in Eighteenth-century England: On the Town
  • Sweet RH (2003) Local identities and a national parliament c. 1688-1835. In: Hoppit J (Eds.) Parliaments, Nations and Identities in Britain, 1650-1850 pp. 48-64
  • Sweet RH (2003) History and Identity in Eighteenth-Century York. In: Rendall J, Hallet M (Eds.) Eighteenth-Century York: Culture, Space and Society ISBN10: 1904497055
  • Sweet RH (2002) Topographies of Politeness. Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 12, pp. 355-374
  • Sweet RH (2002) Provincial Culture and Urban Histories in England and Ireland during the Long Eighteenth Century. In: Borsay P, Proudfoot L (Eds.) Provincial Towns in Early Modern England and Ireland: Change, Convergence and Divergence (Proceedings of the British Academy) pp. 223-239
  • Sweet RH (2002) John Nichols and his Circle. Transactions of the Leicestershire Archaeological and Historical Society, 74
  • Sweet RH (2002) Oligarchy and urban government in eighteenth century England. In: Saupin G (Eds.) Le pouvoir urbain dans l'Europe Atlantique du xvie aud xviiie siecle
  • Sweet R (2001) Antiquaries and antiquities in eighteenth-century England (Understanding the development of a national identity and heritage and the emergence of the ethos of preservationism). EIGHTEENTH-CENTURY STUDIES, 34 (2), pp. 181-206
  • Sweet RH (2001) Antiquaries and Antiquities in Eighteenth-Century England. Eighteenth Century Studies, 34 (2), pp. 181-206
  • Sweet R (1998) Freemen and independence in English borough politics c. 1770-1830. PAST & PRESENT, (161), pp. 84-115
  • Sweet RH, Sweet RH, Prokopvych M (0) Literary and Artistic metropolises 1450-1920.



My research interests focus on two related areas. The first is the social, political and cultural life of towns during the eighteenth century, a subject which I initially explored in my doctoral thesis through a study of urban histories which were written at the time, which was published as The Writing of Urban Histories in Eighteenth Century England (Oxford, 1997).   I continue to be interested in urban politics and culture and the representation of towns in contemporary literature and in the traditions of antiquarianism which lay behind the production of many eighteenth-century urban histories. I explored this phenomenon more fully  in Antiquaries: the Discovery of the Past in Eighteenth-Century Britain (London, 2004).   In my last book, Cities and the Grand Tour I extended my interests in antiquarianism and topography to the continent and specifically, the urban experiences of British tourists in Italy over the long eighteenth century.   Through case studies of Florence, Rome, Naples and Venice I explored the different meanings and imaginative associations attached to these cities and how the contrasting descriptions reflected travellers’ own attitudes to urbanism. I was also interested in the potential of travel literature for investigating the construction of gender and national identities, with a particular emphasis upon the experience of female travellers.

I am on the organizing committee of the Pre Modern Towns Group, the Urban History Group and the European Association of Urban Historians and am a member of the International Commission for the History of Towns and the Historic Towns Committee.  I also edit the Urban History journal, published by Cambridge University Press.

Current projects

I am currently working on two projects: one is the ‘invention’ of the historic town in the nineteenth century. This builds on my interests in antiquarianism, early archaeology, and the uses of the past to explore how certain towns such as Chester,  York or Coventry  came to be branded  ‘historic’ and an attractive destination for visitors and what the implications were for the preservation of the historic urban environment.

The other project is ‘War, travel and cultural exchange: William Gell and the British in Iberia, 1750-1830’ funded by the Leverhulme Trust in collaboration with the British School at Rome and grows out of the unique manuscript account of Sir William Gell’s travels in Spain in their archives.In addition to creating an online, searchable version of the Spanish notebook, hosted by the BSR, Our project has three aims: first, it explores Britain’s relationship with Spain and Portugal in the eighteenth century and its aftermath, through records of travellers, writers and readers. By focusing on Iberia and its Muslim past, we ask how the British built understandings of ‘Europe’ and its evolution. Second, with an influx of travellers to Spain and Portugal during the Peninsular Campaign, we challenge the belief that war militated against travel and cultural exchange. Third, we address a neglected aspect of Sir William Gell’s travelling career, which exercised an enduring influence over his conception of the development of Mediterranean civilisation.


I am happy to supervise topics in any aspect of urban social and cultural history from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries.  I am currently supervising students the following students:

  • Richard Bates, ‘British politics, diplomacy and espionage at Spa during the American War of Independence’.
  • Annie Drynan, ‘Associational culture in a developing residential and leisure town: Brighton and Hove in the nineteenth century’.
  • Paige Emerick, ‘Royal visits within Britain and the formation of national identity, 1760-1849’.
  • Liz Jones, ‘The growth and development of Usk in the nineteenth century’.
  • Tracey Logan, ‘Out West: Brentford, Chiswick and the Growth of Greater London, 1895-1927’.
  • Raku Ngamine, ‘Urban governance and elite networks in Chester c. 1750-1840’.
  • Kimberley Pullen, ‘The old poor law, enclosure and social change in Leicestershire and Rutland, 1700-1834’.
  • Robert Frost (Nottingham), ‘Sir John Gardner Wilkinson: cultures of antiquarianism in Egypt, Europe and England’ (second supervisor).
  • Daniel Rignall, ‘Popular engagement with biblical texts in eighteenth-century Britain’ (second supervisor).
  • Liam Sims, ‘Antiquarianism, science and networks of knowledge: the archives of the Spalding Gentlemen's Society, 1710-1760’ (second supervisor).


In this film Professor Sweet talks about her research into the 'Grand Tour' and how people understood their own relationship to classical antiquity.

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