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Department of History

Lauren Working

Savagery and the State: Incivility and America in Jacobean Political Discourse

PhD Research

My research investigates the implications of the English anxiety over incivility and intemperance, specifically in the context of the discovery of the Americas and its impact on developing definitions of rebellion and absolute authority during the reign of James I. Though assumptions about monsters and savages living on the world’s fringes dated to classical antiquity, the discovery of the New World influenced the way England wrote about and perceived ideas of savagery. I am especially interested in the intersection between the perceived savagery of the Americas – its supposed lawlessness and uninhibited indulgences – and the growing discourse of state authority in James I’s reign. Through sources such as ethnographic accounts, conduct manuals, state trials and speeches, plays, letters, and anti-tobacco polemics, my research examines the Stuart concern with willful corruption, the rhetorical space of the ‘savage’ in early modern England, the effects of the discoveries of the New World, and the patterns of behaviour within Stuart court culture that developed alongside absolute authority.

A map of 17th-century Virginia


John D. Rockefeller Jr Fellowship

Samuel Rutherford Prize in History

Durham Doctoral Scholarship

Edinburgh University History Essay Prize



2013-15: Colonial British America

2014: 'The Clash of Cultures in an Age of Expansion' (summer school programme)


Conference papers

'Reckless Behaviour: Tobacco and Dissent in London, 1580-1630' at the Institute of Historical Research

'"Bird Claws and Trifling Jewels": Material Resistance to English Civility in Ireland and America, 1560-1620' (Cambridge University, Built Ideas and Imagined Objects in the Early Modern World)

'Violating the Body and the Law: Cannibal Discourses in Jacobean England and America' (Paris, Societé d’Etudes Anglo-Americaines des 17e et 18e siècles)

'Unnatural Disobedience: Sedition and the Literature of Tobacco in Jacobean England' (Manchester University, Tobacco and the Early Modern Imagination conference)

The aftermath of the Gunpowder Plot in London


Other Projects

Early Modern Postgraduate Discussion Group convenor

Durham History Postgraduate Conference organiser