Dr John Gallagher

Dr John Gallagher


I came to Leeds as Lecturer in Early Modern History in 2017, before which I held a Research Fellowship in History at Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge. I took my BA in History and French at Trinity College Dublin, where I was elected as a Scholar and received a Gold Medal and the Cluff Memorial Prize for History.  I studied for my MPhil and PhD at the University of Cambridge, where my work was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the Robert Gardiner Studentship, and Emmanuel College, Cambridge.

In 2013, I travelled to Italy as a Mellon Foundation-funded Fellow of the Academy for Advanced Studies in the Renaissance. In 2017–18, I held a British Academy Rising Star Engagement Award. In 2019, I was Visiting Professor at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Marseille. 

My first book, Learning Languages in Early Modern England, was published by Oxford University Press in 2019. My work has appeared in Renaissance Quarterly, Huntington Library QuarterlyRenaissance Studies, The Italianist, and elsewhere. With Dr Rachel Leow, I am Co-Editor of The Historical Journal, a major generalist history journal published by Cambridge University Press. I am a member of the editorial board of the ‘Polyglot Encounters’ book series published by Brepols. 

I am a BBC/AHRC New Generation Thinker and have made programmes for BBC 4 TV and BBC Radio 3, including Scuffles, Swagger and Shakespeare: The Hidden History of English on BBC 4, and my Radio 3 Sunday Feature, The History of the Tongue. I am a regular presenter on BBC Radio 3’s Free Thinking and on New Thinking podcasts for the BBC, funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council. I appear regularly on BBC radio and TV, and write for a variety of media outlets, including the Guardian, the Times Literary Supplement, the Irish Times, and the London Review of Books


  • Director of Admissions, School of History

Research interests

I am a cultural and social historian of early modern Britain and Europe, with a particular interest in language, migration, and education. My research crosses boundaries between British and European history and stretches from the sixteenth to the early eighteenth century. I have researched and written on topics from the history of Italian grammar to the Grand Tour, and from perfumed gloves to Mediterranean piracy.  

My first book, Learning Languages in Early Modern England (Oxford University Press, 2019), used sources ranging from early printed phrasebooks and newspaper advertisements to travellers’ letters and diaries, to ask how English-speakers made themselves understood at a time when English was practically unknown on the continent, and explores what it meant to be competent in another language in this period. It was reviewed by the Guardian.

I’m now at work on a project researching urban multilingualism in early modern England. Working with the rich and multilingual records of immigrant communities in sixteenth and early seventeenth-century England, this project uses sources predominantly in French, Dutch, Italian, and English to explore urban multilingualism and polyglot lives, offering new perspectives on identity, language, urban life, and migration in early modern England and Europe. In 2018, I organised the British Academy-funded conference ‘Migration and Language-Learning: Histories, Approaches, Policies’ at the University of Leeds, which brought together an interdisciplinary group of scholars, activists, teachers, and policy figures to consider questions of migration and multilingualism in historical perspective.

Another ongoing research interest is the history of education in early modern England, particularly in the ‘extracurricular economy’ outside of established schools and universities. In 2016, I co-organised (with Dr Jennifer Bishop) an international conference on ‘Teaching & Learning in Early Modern England: Skills & Knowledge in Practice’ at the University of Cambridge. I am currently researching educational advertising in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century England. 

With Dr Sara Barker, I co-convene the Interdisciplinary Renaissance & Early Modern Seminar at Leeds. 

<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="https://ahc.leeds.ac.uk/dir/research-projects">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>

Professional memberships

  • Fellow of the Royal Historical Society
  • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy
  • Member of Council, Society for Renaissance Studies
  • Renaissance Society of America

Student education

I teach and supervise at all levels in the School of History. Research-led teaching is central to what I do: I work with my students on early modern sources and enjoy leading trips to archives and libraries where they can work with early modern source materials, or to early modern sites where students can get a real feel for the period. My teaching covers many different aspects of early modern history, touching on anything from the history of insult and offence to migration, mobility, or material culture. I love supervising student research, and enjoy working with students as they craft their BA dissertations or embark on postgraduate research. 

As well as teaching on topics in early modern history, I enjoy engaging students in debates over historical approaches and methodologies, from microhistory to histories of concepts and keywords. I’m also passionate about language-learning, and am always keen to support students who want to approach historical sources or scholarship in another language. I run an extracurricular study group for second- and third-year undergraduate students called Languages for Historians, which aims to motivate and support students in their language-learning and in applying their knowledge of another language to their historical studies. 

Current postgraduate researchers

<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="https://phd.leeds.ac.uk">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>