Joshua Hillman


My doctoral research focuses on the tacit knowledges and embodied practices of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century coal miners and mining engineers across the British Isles. I am particularly interested in the different coal classificatory schemes employed by miners in different regions, as well as in examining how the coal taxonomies of the miners differed from those of the natural philosophers. This research will cast a new perspective on the historiographical debate over the extent to which ‘science,’ broadly construed, contributed to the so-called industrial revolution, and it will also provide a comparative lens through which to gauge a growing scholarship on mining in France and the German cameralist states in the early modern period. 

I began my academic career at the University of Warwick, where I completed my undergraduate in History. After being awarded a full scholarship by Emmanuel College and the Cambridge Trust, I moved to the University of Cambridge to study my MPhil in the History and Philosophy of Science. I joined the School of Philosophy, Religion and History of Science at the University of Leeds in 2020, on a WRoCAH scholarship to complete my PhD under the supervision of Professor Graeme Gooday and Dr Jonathan Topham. 

Research interests

History of mining practices and technologies, as well as the social history of coal miners.

Artisanal epistemologies and their relationship and/ or contribution to more explicitly ‘scientific’ worldviews, i.e. evaluating the Zilsel thesis. 

Working-class agency and participation in intellectual life, political as well as scientific.

History of natural history, broadly construed. 

Environmental history, early modern and modern.





  • BA (Hons) History, University of Warwick
  • MPhil., History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge