Office: Currently working remotely due to Covid-19

Tawny Paul, Ph.D.

Director, Public History Initiative, Department of History; British Historian

Tawny Paul is a social and economic historian of Britain and the Atlantic World, as well as a public historian. Her research concerns the history of capitalism, poverty and debt, labor, and incarceration.

Paul’s most recent book, The Poverty of Disaster: Debt and Insecurity in Eighteenth-Century Britain (Cambridge University Press, 2019) is a study of the tens of thousands of men and women who were incarcerated for failing to pay their debts. The book examines the role that debt insecurity played in society and how it shaped the identity of the middle class. Poverty of Disaster was awarded the Morris D. Forkosch Prize from the American Historical Association for best book in the field of British, British imperial, or British Commonwealth history since 1485, and the John Ben Snow Prize from North American Conference on British Studies for the best book in any field of British Studies dealing with the period from the Middle Ages through the eighteenth century. Paul is also the author of over ten peer-reviewed book chapters and articles, which have appeared in journals including the Economic History Review, History Workshop Journal and Early American Studies.

As a public historian, Paul’s work uses history to think critically about current social problems. Drawing on her expertise on the history of debt, she is interested in modern forms of debt incarceration and debates over bail reform. Her work exploring the long history of  precarity and the gig economy has been featured on BBC Radio, The Conversation, and Business Insider, amongst others. Paul has worked as a consultant interpretive planner, designing the content of museum exhibitions. She has an interest in the intersections between art and public history, a topic pursued in her book Art and Public History: Opportunities and Challenges, co-edited with Rebecca Bush.

As PHI Director, Paul manages the activities and functions of the History Department’s Public and Applied History Initiative, which promotes public history and outreach to the wider community.  She manages the National Center for History in Schools, and HistoryCorps, which places undergraduate students in internships at schools, museums and archives.

Ph.D., Social and Economic History, University of Edinburgh, 2011

M.Sc., History, University of Edinburgh, 2006

B.A., History, Vassar College, 2004


Tawny Paul, The Poverty of Disaster: Debt, Insecurity, and Downward Mobility in Eighteenth Century Britain (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019). Winner of the Morris D. Forkosch Prize (American Historical Association).

Tawny Paul and Rebecca Bush (eds.), Art and Public History: Interdisciplinary Approaches, Opportunities and Challenges (Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield, 2017).


Articles and Book Chapters

Tawny Paul, “Middle Class Poverty: Downward Mobility in Eighteenth Century England,” in The Routledge History of Poverty, c. 1450-1800, eds. David Hitchcock and Julia McClure (Forthcoming, Routledge, 2021).

Tawny Paul, “Reputation, Trust and Credit,” in The Cultural History of Shopping, 1650-1830, eds. Jon Stobart and Ilja Van Damme (Forthcoming, Bloomsbury, 2021).

Geoffrey L. Buckley, Tawny Paul, Hamish Kallin and Harriet Cornell, “Teaching Urban Sustainability: A Study Abroad Perspective,” Social Sciences, 8:9 (2019).

Tawny Paul, “Accounting for Men’s Work: Multiple Employments and Occupational Identities in Early Modern England,” History Workshop Journal 85:1 (2018), 26-46.

Tawny Paul, “A Polite and Commercial People? Masculinity and Economic Violence in Early Modern Scotland,” in Lynn Abrams and Elizabeth Ewan (eds.), Nine Centuries of Man: Manhood and Masculinity in Scottish History (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2017).

Tawny Paul, “Engaging the Diaspora: migration heritage and national identity in Scotland,” in Glenn Hooper (ed.), Heritage and Tourism in Britain and Ireland (London: Palgrave MacMillan, 2017).

Tawny Paul, “Coming Face-to-Face with the Past: Interpreting National History through Portraiture,” in Tawny Paul and Rebecca Bush (eds.), Art and Public History: Interdisciplinary Approaches, Opportunities and Challenges (Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield, 2017).

Tawny Paul, “Heritage, Place and Belonging: Young People and Homeland Tourism in Scotland,” in John MacKenzie and Angela McCarthy (eds.), Scotland’s Global Migrations (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, April 2016).

Tawny Paul, “Credit and Ethnicity in the Urban Atlantic World: Scottish Associational

Culture in Colonial Philadelphia,” Early American Studies 13:3 (2015), 661-691.

Tawny Paul, “Credit, Reputation and Masculinity in British Urban Commerce: Edinburgh c. 1710-1770,” The Economic History Review 66:1 (2013), 226-248.

History 191 Capstone Seminar. Poverty in Europe.

History 148. Introduction to Public and Applied History.

History 195CE. History Internship with a Commnity Partner (HistoryCorps)

History 195. History Internship with an Internal Project (HistoryCorps)