My Research

Leona is an environmental historian whose PhD, at Durham University, focused on early modern Britain, analysing attitudes towards cleanliness and dirt, public hygiene facilities and processes and the regulation of insanitary nuisances in Edinburgh and York between 1560 and 1700. The thesis compared attitudes towards environmental regulation in Edinburgh and York, among urban inhabitants and both national and local governors. It shed light on the complex relationship between how governors organised street-cleaning, managed waste-disposal and regulated the cleanliness of the outdoor environment, top-down, and how typical urban inhabitants self-regulated their neighbourhoods, bottom-up. The ways in which the respective cities’ waste-disposal and sanitation systems and processes were undermined, adapted and improved over time, as inner Edinburgh’s population swelled while York’s remained relatively stagnant, were also analysed. While focusing on Edinburgh and York, the thesis discussed the challenge of pre-modern urban waste-disposal, in the context of both necessary urban agriculture and rudimentary technology, in a much broader context and with reference to several smaller towns in lowland Scotland and northern England.

This doctoral thesis built on her interdisciplinary MA, also at Durham University, which researched public hygiene and environmental regulation in seventeenth-century Carlisle. Previously, she has participated in the project, Local Places, Global Processes: Histories of Environmental Change, which involved conducting an oral history project at Kielder, Northumberland, and writing a report summarising its results.

As a postdoctoral researcher on the current project, The Power and the Water, based at the University of Bristol, Leona is working on degeneration and regeneration on the River Tyne, past, present and future. She is working towards contextualising the River Tyne’s fluvial transformations politically, culturally, socially, intellectually and economically. By reintegrating the various separate aspects of the river – the unimproved river; the navigable river; the polluted river; the industrial river; the post-industrial river; the salmon river; the mercantile river; the recreational river; and the literary and artistic river – her aim is to create the first total river history.

Leona grew up in Gateshead, close to the River Tyne, and although she currently lives in Wakefield, she still has enormous affection for her native north east. In her spare time, Leona can be found enjoying her passion for hill-walking, mountain-climbing and long-distance walking, which enables her to enjoy and appreciate northern England’s varied and beautiful scenery. In September 2013, she completed Wainwright’s 192-mile Coast to Coast walk on her own in thirteen days; she plans to walk the Pennine Way in 2014. 

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