Phillip Emanuel

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Barra Post-Doctoral Fellow

'Great weights hang by small wires': Households and the making of the British Empire, c.1650-1713

Phillip received a BA (Hons) in History and English from the University of Sydney before going on to the MPhil in Early Modern History at the University of Cambridge. Following this he had a six-year career as an art handler at international auction houses on both sides of the Atlantic, which allowed him to develop his interest in art and material culture.

He received an MA and PhD from William & Mary and his dissertation-to-book project focuses on how seventeenth-century imperial and trading company administrators in England, the American colonies, and on the African coast constructed their authority during a period of rapid imperial expansion. It argues that officials must be understood as heads of what he calls ‘administrative households’. In these organisations of power, one man held the position of secretary or its equivalent and was assisted by a cadre of others over whom he exercised authority modelled on the domestic household but rooted in the techniques of administration. Within these households, officials’ reliance on servants of lower social standing, clients, members of kinship networks, women with family ties to the administration, religiously heterodox or non-European men, and even enslaved children meant that administrative households were not homosocial spaces filled with a ‘professional class’ of modern civil servants. Instead, they had more in common with domestic households made up of a diverse group of people with differentiated social statuses. As a result, officials, their administrative households, and the imperial state itself depended upon ongoing performances of class, gender, race, and age as the basis of the hierarchical system they established to oversee the British Empire throughout the following centuries.