Dr Edward Gillin

Dr Edward Gillin


A cultural historian specialising in British science, technology, architecture, and politics in the nineteenth century, I completed a DPhil at the University of Oxford in 2015. My thesis examined the use of scientific knowledge in the building of Charles Barry’s new Houses of Parliament at Westminster between 1834 and 1860.

In 2017, I published my first monograph, The Victorian Palace of Science: scientific knowledge and the building of the Houses of Parliament, which developed the research of my doctrate and was named proxime accessit for the Royal Historical Society’s 2018 Whitfield Prize.

Since then I have worked as a research assistant to the ESRC funded “The Professions in Nineteenth-Century Britain” project, based in Oxford, before appointment as a research fellow on David Trippett’s ERC-funded project “Sound and Materialism in the Nineteenth Century” at Cambridge. In this role between 2016 and 2019, I examined the intersections between music and science with particular emphasis on how materialistic conceptions of sound shaped new approaches to music. It was a central part of this research to examine not only the ways in which science influenced music, but to analyse how music was itself at the very centre of scientific culture during the nineteenth century. The results of this project will be published as a monograph, Sound Authorities: scientific and musical knowledge in nineteenth-century Britain, contracted with Chicago University Press for 2021.

For my earlier work on architecture and geology in the mid-nineteenth century I received the Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain’s (SAHGB) Hawksmoor Medal and for my article on sermons and the Great Eastern Steamship I was awarded the 2016 Usher Prize from the Society for the History of Technology (SHOT). I also received the 2013 Jane Willis Kirkaldy Senior Prize for the History of Science, Medicine, and Technology from the University of Oxford.

Joining the University of Leeds in May 2021, my current project, “The State of Science: governing knowledge of nature in Victorian Britain”, investigates the scientific culture of the Victorian Houses of Parliament, including both the Commons and Lords. The ways and extent that politicians use specialist knowledge, often claimed to be ‘scientific’, in the business of governance is a very relevant question in the twenty-first century, but this relationship was first addressed in nineteenth-century Britain. Specifically, it is this project’s premise that the period in which Parliament’s relationship with the natural sciences underwent its most profound change was between 1850 and 1900. Before beginning this work, I was fortunate enough to take a magnetic dipping needle, built in the 1840s and owned by the Royal Cornwall Polytechnic Society, along part of the route of James Clark Ross’s Antarctic Expedition of 1839, replicating his measurements of the earth’s magnetic field.


My forthcoming book, Entente Imperial: British and French Power in the Age of Empire, challenges traditional accounts of nineteenth-century British imperialism.  Instead of a period of unrivalled industry and expansive colonialism, in which Britain alone exerted global dominance without the need for European collaboration, I demonstrate the importance of cooperation with France between 1848 and 1914.  During the 1850s, the very moment at which British power climaxed, Britain worked alongside its only European rival, France, to exert unprecedented influence throughout the world. Despite its world-leading industry and a colossal empire, British influence was contingent on its ability to cooperate with its great rival. This book radically revises Britain and France’s imperial history at a moment when their place in the modern world has never been more uncertain.


  • Leverhulme Early Career Fellow

Research interests



Sound Authorities: scientific and musical knowledge in nineteenth-century Britain, (Chicago University Press: Chicago, 2021).

Entente Imperial: British and French Power in the Age of Empire, (Amberley Publishing: Stroud, 2021).

(Co-edited with Horatio Joyce), Experiencing Architecture: society and the built environment in the nineteenth century, (Bloomsbury Publishing: London, 2019).

The Palace of Science: Scientific knowledge and the building the Victorian Houses of Parliament, 1834-60, (Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 2017).

(Co-authored with Peter Callaghan), Protest, agitation and parliamentary reform in Britain, c.1780-1928, (Pearson: London, 2016).

Peer Reviewed Articles

‘Cornish Science, Mine Experiments, and Robert Were Fox’s Penjerrick Letters’, Notes and Records of the Royal Society, (2021).

(Co-authored with Fanny Gribenski), ‘The politics of musical standardization in nineteenth-century France and Britain’, Past and Present, (Feb., 2021).

‘Tremoring Transits: railways, the Royal Observatory, and the capitalist challenge to Victorian astronomical science’, British Journal for the History of Science, Vol. 53, No. 1, (March, 2020), pp. 1-24.

‘Seismology’s acoustic debt: Robert Mallet, Chladni’s figures, and the Victorian science of earthquakes’, Sound Studies, Vol. 6, Issue 1, (Spring, 2020), pp. 65-82.

‘Mechanics and Mathematicians: George Biddell Airy and the social tensions in constructing time at Parliament, 1845-1855’, History of Science, (Nov., 2019).

‘Experiencing “the fullest fountain of advancing civilization”: Anthony Trollope’s House of Commons’, in Edward Gillin and Horatio Joyce (eds.), Experiencing Architecture: society and the built environment in the nineteenth century, (Bloomsbury Publishing: London, 2019).

‘The Palace that Science Built: credibility, architecture, and Britain’s Palace of Westminster’, Endeavour, 48 (2018), pp. 189-95.

‘Science on the Niger: ventilation and tropical disease during the 1841 Niger Expedition’, Social History of Medicine, Vol. 31, Issue 3 (Aug., 2018), pp. 627-47.

‘Stones of Science: Charles Harriot Smith and the importance of geology in architecture, 1834-1864’, Architectural History, Vol. 59 (Jan., 2016), pp. 281-310.

‘Prophets of Progress: authority in the scientific projections and religious realizations of the “Great Eastern” steamship’, Technology and Culture, Vol. 56, No. 4, (October, 2015), pp. 928-956.

‘Gothic Fantastic: Parliament, Pugin, and the architecture of science’, True Principles, Vol. 4, No. 5, (Winter, 2015), pp. 382-389.

‘“Diligent in business, serving the Lord”: John Burns, Evangelicalism, and Cunard’s Culture of Speed, 1878-1901’, Journal for Maritime Research, 14:1 (May, 2012), pp. 15-30.

<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>


  • DPhil
  • MPhil
  • BA (Hons)

Professional memberships

  • Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy
  • Fellow of the Royal Historical Society

Research groups and institutes

  • Centre for History and Philosophy of Science
  • History and Philosophy of Science