Abigail Greenall


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Personal profile


I am a social and cultural historian of the early modern period, focusing on the experience of (embodied) emotions in everyday life. I use an intimate scale of analysis to rehabilitate the agency of historical people and uncover the ways that they have managed change and negotiated group cultures in different environments over time. 

I hold a PhD from the University of Manchester (2023). My doctoral thesis is the first work to uncover the significance of ‘happiness’ as a socio-cultural practice in England, c. 1550-1700. It explores the plurality, mutability, and significance of ‘happiness’ in everyday life through the documentary and material remains of seven aristocratic and gentry families in the North West. 

I currently split my time as a Visiting Early Career Research Fellow at the John Rylands Research Institute and Library, where I am surveying the University of Manchester’s manuscript holdings for a new post-doctoral research project, and interim Project Officer on the Wellcome Trust funded project Sleeping Well in the Early Modern World


I completed my undergraduate degree at the University of Manchester in 2017. My BA dissertation ‘Magical Materials and Emotion in the Early Modern East Anglian Household’ received the Undergraduate Dissertation Prize at the Longman–History Today awards in 2018.

After spending a year working for English Heritage, where I developed an interest in visitor experience and public engagement within the heritage sector, I was successful in gaining a 1+3 ESRC studentship in collaboration with the National Trust in 2018.

I returned to the University of Manchester to undertake my Master’s degree, graduating with distinction in 2019. I started work on my PhD in the same year under the supervision of Professor Sasha Handley and Dr Stefan Hanß

In September 2020, I began a twelve-month internship at Astley Hall, where I worked with the Arts and Heritage team in their redevelopment of the Hall’s historic interpretation package using Matterport technology. 

Research interests

My thesis contributes to current debates in the history of emotion and healthcare by rehabilitating a positive history of affective health and wellbeing in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. It challenges long-held assumptions about the period and establishes that people could and frequently did attain happiness in practice. The nine-volume archive of the Moretons of Little Moreton Hall—which contains 865 folios of letters and account books covering the years between 1621 and 1672—was an important source of evidence for how families found happiness in, and in spite of, suffering throughout the seventeenth century. I have unearthed a range of (time-keeping, home-making, gift-giving, and health-inducing) practices designed to stimulate happy feelings by examining such sources. 

I am interested in a broad array of historical subjects: sociability, festivities and recreation; medicine, exercise and sports; supernatural beliefs and ritual practices of protection; practical theology and devotion; hierarchy, patriarchy and gender; art and architecture; print, epistolary and material culture.  


University of Manchester – Doctor of Philosophy, History, 2023. 

University of Manchester – Master of Arts, History, Distinction, 2019. 

University of Manchester – Bachelor of Arts, History, First Class, 2017. 

Prizes and awards

  • ‘President’s Doctoral Scholar Award’, University of Manchester, 2019­–2021.  
  • ‘Hilda Lofthouse Prize for best overall performance in MA History’, University of Manchester, 2019.
  • ‘Undergraduate Dissertation Prize’, Longman–History Today, 2018. 
  • ‘Faculty of Humanity Dean's Award for Achievement’, University of Manchester, 2017.
  • ‘Roskell Book Prize for most satisfactory graduation with Honours’, University of Manchester, 2017. 

External positions

Internship, Chorley Borough Council


Researcher, The National Trust



  • Early Modern History
  • Emotion
  • Material Culture


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