Professor Adam Fox (MA, PhD, FRHistS)

Professor of Social History


I read History at Jesus College, Cambridge after which I spent a year at Harvard University as a Frank Knox Memorial Fellow. I returned to Jesus College to do my PhD before being elected to a Research Fellowship at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge. I was then appointed as a Lecturer in Economic and Social History at the University of Edinburgh; was subsequently promoted to Reader; and then to Professor of Social History.

Responsibilities & affiliations

Committee of the British Academy Records of Social and Economic History series published by Oxford University Press

Editorial Board of the monograph series Cultures of Early Modern Europe published by Bloomsbury

Undergraduate teaching

Year 1:

  • HIST08036: The History of Edinburgh: From Din Eidyn to Festival City
  • HIST08034: Early Modern History: A Connected World


Year 3 :

  • HIST10467: Pictures and Propaganda: The Printed Image in England, 1500–1700
  • HIST10466: Characters and Caricatures: The Printed Image in England, 1700–1820
  • HIST10425: Historical Skills and Methods II


Year 4:

  • ECSH10103: Cheap Print and Popular Culture in Britain, 1500–1800
  • HIST10309: History Dissertation

Postgraduate teaching

  • PGHC11041: Economic and Social Theory for Historical Analysis
  • PGHC11335: Historical Methodology
  • PGHC11313: History Dissertation (MScT)

Current PhD students supervised

Name - Degree - Thesis topic - Supervision type

Brautigam, Tom - PhD - Leveller Social Networks and their Sectarian Dynamic, 1646–1660 - Joint

Channing Eberhard, Carmen - PhD - English Explorations of Patagonia in the Early Modern Period - Secondary

Hall, Kevin - PhD - Vagrancy, Crime and Poverty in Canongate and Edinburgh, 1560–1640 - Joint

Reilly, Jim - PhD - Memory in Early Modern Scotland - Joint

Weaver, Hannah - PhD - Space, Place and Social Behaviour in Edinburgh, 1760–1830 - Joint

Past PhD students supervised

Name - Degree - Thesis topic - Supervision type - Completion year

Holmes, Charlotte - PhD - Domestic Medicine in Early Modern Scotland, c.1650–c.1750 - Secondary - 2022

Chen, Chien-Yuen - PhD - Daniel Defoe’s Moral and Political Thought in its Relgious Context - Joint - 2019

Rannard, Georgina - PhD - Empire and Useful Knowledge: Mapping and Charting the British American World, 1660–1720 - Secondary - 2017

McGuinness, Ryan - PhD - 'They Can Now Digest Strong Meat': Two Decades of Expansion, Adaptation, Innovation, and Maturation on Barbados, 1680–1700 - Secondary - 2016

Cornell, Harriet - PhD - Gender, Sex and Social Control: East Lothian, 1610–1640 - Joint - 2012

Ridder-Patrick, Jane - PhD - Astrology in Early Modern Scotland, ca. 1543–1726 - Joint - 2012

Paul, K. Tawny - PhD - Credit and Social Relations Amongst Artisans and Tradesmen in Edinburgh and Philadelphia, c. 1710–1770 - Joint - 2011

Nutting, Violet - PhD - Mapping Early Modern Knowledge: The Library of John Dee in a Comparative Perspective - Secondary - 2008

Lin, May-Shine - PhD - The Mirror-for-Princesses: The Fashioning of English Queenship, 1553–1603 - Secondary - 2000

Lee, Juo-Yung - PhD - Patronage of Livery Players and their Propagandist Function in Tudor England, 1530–80 - Primary - 2000


Research summary


  • Britain & Ireland
  • Europe
  • Scotland


  • Culture
  • Society


  • Early Modern
  • Eighteenth Century

Research interests

My research interests are in the field of British social and cultural history, c.1500–c.1800. 

I am particularly interested in popular culture and belief; in the relationship between oral and literate forms of communication; and in the development of cheap print in early modern Britain.

Current research interests

My recent book, The Press and the People: Cheap Print and Society in Scotland, 1500–1785 (Oxford University Press, 2020), examines the production of ephemeral literature and the creation of a mass reading public in lowland Scotland during the early modern period. It explores the developing market for popular print in Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Glasgow and eventually the smaller Scottish burghs. Particular chapters chart the emergence of broadside ballads, chapbooks, gallows speeches, almanacs and other single-sheet genres. This study demonstrates that these slight publications were produced in vast quantities and argues that their importance has been insufficiently appreciated. The cheapest forms of print were already circulating widely in sixteenth-century Scotland, and by the reign of George III they were an integral part of popular culture.

Books Authored       

The Press and the People: Cheap Print and Society in Scotland, 1500–1785 (Oxford University Press, 2020) [Shortlisted for the DeLong Book History Prize, 2020]

Oral and Literate Culture in England 1500–1700 (Clarendon Press, Oxford: Oxford Studies in Social History series, 2000; paperback edition, 2002)  [Winner of the Royal Historical Society’s Whitfield Prize, 2000; Winner of the Folklore Society’s Katharine Briggs Award, 2001; Shortlisted for the Longman / History Today Award, 2002]


Books Edited

(with Daniel Woolf), The Spoken Word: Oral Culture in Britain, 1500–1850 (Manchester University Press, 2002)

(with Paul Griffiths and Steve Hindle), The Experience of Authority in Early Modern England (Macmillan, 1996)


Articles in Journals

‘The First Edition of Allan Ramsay’s Elegy on Maggy Johnston’, Scottish Literary Review, 11/2 (2019), pp. 31–50

‘Jockey and Jenny: English Broadside Ballads and the Invention of Scottishness’, Huntington Library Quarterly, 79 (2016), pp. 201–20 

‘“Little Story Books” and “Small Pamphlets” in Edinburgh, 1680–1760: the Making of the Scottish Chapbook’, Scottish Historical Review, 92 (2013), pp. 207–30

‘Vernacular Culture and Popular Customs in Early Modern England: Evidence from Thomas Machell’s Westmorland’, Cultural and Social History, 9 (2012), pp. 329–47

‘The Emergence of the Scottish Broadside Ballad in the Late Seventeenth and Early Eighteenth Centuries’, Journal of Scottish Historical Studies, 31 (2011), pp. 169–194

‘Printed Questionnaires, Research Networks and the Discovery of the British Isles, 1650–1800’, Historical Journal, 53 (2010), pp. 593–621

‘Sir William Petty, Ireland, and The Making of a Political Economist, 1653–1687’, Economic History Review, 62 (2009), pp. 388–404

‘Religion and Popular Literate Culture in England’, Archive for Reformation History, 95 (2004), pp. 266–82

‘Remembering the Past in Early Modern England: Oral and Written Tradition’, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 6th ser., 9 (1999), pp. 233–56

‘Rumour, News and Popular Political Opinion in Elizabethan and Early Stuart England’, Historical Journal, 40 (1997), pp. 597–620

‘Ballads, Libels and Popular Ridicule in Jacobean England’, Past and Present, 145 (1994), pp. 47–83


Chapters in Books

'Booksellers'; 'Printed Ephemera'; and 'Vernacular Literature and Cheap Print', all in Daryl Green, Alastair Mann, Joseph Marshall and Emily Wingfield (eds.), The Edinburgh History of the Book in Scotland. Volume 1: Medieval to 1707 (Edinburgh University Press, forthcoming 2024)

‘Words, Words, Words: Education, Literacy and Print’, in Keith Wrightson (ed.), A Social History of England, 1500–1750 (Cambridge University Press, 2017), pp. 129–51 

‘Food, Drink and Social Distinction in Early Modern England’, in Steve Hindle, Alexandra Shepard and John Walter (eds.), Remaking English Society: Social Relations and Social Change in Early Modern England (Boydell, 2013), pp. 165–87

‘Approaches to Ephemera: Scottish Broadsides, 1679-1746’, in Kevin D. Murphy and Sally O’Driscoll (eds.), Studies in Ephemera: Text and Image in Eighteenth-Century Print (Bucknell University Press, 2013), pp. 117–41 

‘Cheap Print and its Audience in Late Seventeenth-Century London: the case of Narcissus Luttrell’s “Popish Plot” Collections’, in Alfred Messerli and Roger Chartier (eds.), Scripta Volant, Verba Manent: Schriftkulturen in Europa zwischen 1500 und 1900 (Schwabe, Basel, 2007), pp. 227–42

‘Popular Religion and Popular Print in Early Modern England’, in Heinz Schilling and Stefan Ehrenpreis (eds.), Zeitschrift für historische Forschung (Duncker and Humblot, Berlin, 2007), pp. 213–27

‘John Aubrey’, in The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 60 vols., 2004), ii. pp. 907–11

‘Introduction’ (with Daniel Woolf), in Fox and Woolf (eds.), The Spoken Word: Oral Culture in Britain, 1500-1850 (Manchester University Press, 2002), pp. 1–51

‘The Writing and Reading of Popular Rhymes in Early Modern England’, in Alfred Messerli and Roger Chartier (eds.), Lesen und Schreiben in Europa 1500-1900 (Schwabe, Basel, 2000), pp. 503–15

‘Religious Satire in English Towns, 1570-1640’, in Patrick Collinson and John Craig (eds.), The Reformation in the English Towns, 1500-1640 (Macmillan, 1998), pp. 221–40

‘Oral and Literate Culture in Early Modern England: Case Studies from Legal Records’, in Solvi Songer (ed.), Fact, Fiction and Forensic Evidence (University of Oslo Press, 1997), pp. 35–52

‘Custom, Memory and the Authority of Writing’, in Paul Griffiths, Adam Fox and Steve Hindle (eds.), The Experience of Authority in Early Modern England (Macmillan, 1996), pp. 89–116

‘Popular Verses and their Readership in the Early Seventeenth Century’, in James Raven, Helen Small and Naomi Tadmor (eds.), The Practice and Representation of Reading in England (Cambridge University Press, 1996), pp. 125–37