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Christopher J. Ferguson

Christopher J. Ferguson

Associate Professor


Christopher J. Ferguson

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321 Thach Hall

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PhD, Indiana University

MA, Indiana University

BA, St. Olaf College

About Me

Christopher Ferguson is a historian of Modern Britain, with special interests in the period c. 1780-c. 1870, urban history, autobiography and other ego documents, and material culture. He joined the Auburn University faculty in 2008, after completing his PhD in British and cultural history at Indiana University, where he also received an interdisciplinary minor in Victorian studies. 

At Auburn, Ferguson teaches survey courses in modern British, European, and world history, as well as topics and graduate courses in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century British and European history, and the histories of gender and material culture. 

Ferguson’s first book, An Artisan Intellectual, examines the life and ideas of the English tailor and writer James Carter (1792-1853), one of the countless and largely anonymous individuals whose lives dramatically transformed during Britain’s long march to modernity. Born in Colchester, Carter began working as a tailor at age thirteen, and later migrated to London. As the Industrial Revolution brought innovations in every aspect of British life, Carter took advantage of opportunities to push against the boundaries of his working-class background, supplementing his income by writing, publishing books, articles, and poetry on subjects as diverse as religion, death, nature, aesthetics, and theories of civilization. The history of Carter’s life and writings, therefore, offers a particularly rich entry point for understanding the larger history of how ordinary Britons were swept up in - but also swam against - the waves of revolutionary change transforming their society during the first half of the nineteenth century. 

Ferguson’s current research project, Making Sense of the City, analyzes British responses to rapid urbanization during the first half of the “long” nineteenth century, arguing that for ordinary Britons the transition to a society of city-dwellers represented a transformation as revolutionary as the economic and political changes occurring during the same years. 

In addition to Ferguson’s urban history research, he is also engaged in a number of side projects addressing the history of the English Christmas, the secondhand trades, collecting and collectors, the “celebrity” beggar Billy Waters, and life after dark in the eighteenth- and nineteenth-centuries. 

Ferguson currently serves as the president of the Midwest Victorian Studies Association, and as the history representative to the advisory board of the North American Victorian Studies Association.

Research Interests

history of 18th, 19th, and 20th-century Britain, the British Empire, urban history



  • An Artisan Intellectual: James Carter and the Rise of Modern Britain, 1792-1853 (Louisiana State University Press, 2016)

Articles/Book Chapters

  • The Rise of Night Reading in Nineteenth-Century Britain,” in The Edinburgh History of Reading: Modern Readers, ed. Mary Hammond (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2020).  
  • “London and Early Environmentalism in Britain, c. 1780-c. 1870,” in A Mighty Capital Under Threat: The Environmental History of London, 1800-2000, eds. Peter Thorsheim and Bill Luckin (Pittsburgh University Press, 2020).
  • “The Urbanization of James Carter: Autobiography, Migration, and the Urban-Rural Divide in Nineteenth-Century Britain,” in Rural-Urban Relationships in the Nineteenth Century: Uneasy Neighbours?, eds. W. B. Sloan and Mary Hammond (Routledge, 2016).
  • “Why I Still Assign E. P. Thompson,” The History Teacher, vol. 48, no. 3 (May 2015): 574-580.
  • “The Political Economy of the Street and Its Discontents: Beggars and Pedestrians in Mid-Nineteenth-Century London,” Cultural and Social History, vol. 12, no. 1 (March 2015): 27-50.
  • “Autobiography as a Micrometer for Empire: How a Nineteenth-Century English Tailor was – and was not – an Absent-Minded Imperialist,” History, vol. 100, no. 339 (January 2015): 58-84.

Courses Taught


  • World History II
  • European History, 1789-Present
  • Private Lives, Public Places
  • Victorian Britain
  • European Material Culture
  • Britain, 1688-Present


  • The Rise of Modern Britain
  • Historiography and the Theory of History