Personal Information

Name: Oliver Dunn

DOB: 03/05/1982

Current employment:

Position: Post-Doctoral Research Associate, Cambridge Group for the History of Population and Social Structure, Univ. of Cambridge.

Start date: 15 August 2016.


  • 15 August 2016 to present, Post-Doctoral Research Associate (PDRA), Cambridge:

PDRA with the Cambridge Group for the History of Population and Social Structure. I process historical sources of data (16th – 19th century) for use in numerous research projects in British early modern and modern economic and social history. I contribute to analysis and the writing of research papers and funding applications. I lecture in history and run advanced historical research methods workshops in the digital humanities with Cambridge Digital Humanities Network (CRASSH).

  • 2 May 2015 to 15 August 2016. Research Associate with the Cambridge Group. (part-time till 15th August 2016)
  • 1 November 2014 to 14 August 2016. Consultant at Track Record Global (Brighton, UK), a digital start-up company that manages online the compliance records for suppliers of major British retailers, including John Lewis and Argos.
  • 1 February 2009 to 1 April 2009. Research Assistant for the London School for Advanced Study, ‘Life in the Suburbs’ project under Mrs. Gill Newton.
  • 1 February 2007 – 1 September 2010. Research Assistant with the Cambridge Group. I filmed records and collected data from archives across England and Wales.


Ph.D History and Civilisation: European University Institute, Italy (EUI), Granted 15 January 2015. Thesis title: ‘A State of Corruption. Fraud and the Birth of British Trade Taxation, c. 1550-90’.

My doctoral dissertation revealed in a new light the new system of customs taxation in sixteenth-century England. An ‘eruption of corruption’ based on reports of fraud and evasion provides important detail about customs collections and the relationship between officials and the state. This activity contradicts a characterisation of the early English customs as exceptionally centralised from a European comparative perspective. Customs officers were autonomous private actors. Oversight of their practices and accounting was problematic. Accusations of corruption – a word increasingly used at the time – featured debate about how the new customs should be governed. This was a discourse that I argue influenced how British customs developed from medieval foundations.  Laws and the accounting systems behind new customs were designed to protect against misdemeanours. These structures lay behind a new national customs system that lasted from 1558 till 1800. Corruption was embedded in this area of early state formation.

Master of Research: European University Institute, 2010-11. Taught units in social sciences and history and global and cultural history. Preliminary research allowing for continuation of doctoral research. Ungraded.

Master of Philosophy in Early Modern Studies: University of Cambridge, 2009-10. Courses on early modern themes, including ‘Visual and Material Culture’, ‘Research Skills’ and ‘Thesis Writing’. 70%

Bachelor of Arts in Historical Studies: University of Bristol, 2003-6. Courses in medieval and early modern European history, including ‘Introduction to Medieval History’, ‘History of the Book’, and, ‘The Smugglers’ City’.  68% (88% for Undergraduate Dissertation).

Research projects

  • Transport, policy, and the British industrial revolution, 1680-1911. Funding from Keynes Fund Cambridge (£90,000).
  • New digitisation methods using high-definition photography of sources for use with a hand-written text recognition or machine reading software (Transkribus). This promises rapid and cost-effective transcription of historical documents for use in large scale data collection.
  • Consultancy for Aviva plc working on the digitisation of their insurance archive.
  • Early population estimates for England (c. 1650). Digitisation of hearth tax and religious censuses using OCR to estimate town-level population size in Leicestershire and Hampshire. This was a pilot funded by a Cambridge Humanities Research Grant (£50,000). This pilot has now become the basis for an ESRC application.
  • Fuel prices in Cambridgeshire 1560-1800. (£4000 from Isaac Newton trust.)
  • British industrial production and energy consumption by industry in 1954 and 1963. Funded by the grant ‘Who did the dirty work? Energy embodied in European and global trade, 1800-1970’, from the Swedish Research Council.
  • Transport, Urbanization and Economic Development in England’, funded by a Leverhulme grant and the US National Science Foundation. I led research into British coasting trades and transport. I was a beneficiary of an Isaac Newton Trust grant (£50,000).
  • Statistical analysis for The History of Energy and the Environment. Joint Center for History and Economics.


  • Methods Fellow with the Cambridge Digital Humanities Program. I teach graduate workshops in the digital humanities, including two entitled: ‘Introduction to Archival Photography’ and ‘Sources to Data’
  • Outline lectures on British Economic and Social History and special series of four lectures, Agricultural and Agrarian change.


  • Alvarez-Palau, Eduard J., O. Dunn, Historical landing locations and sailing coastal routes in England and Wales, 2019 (forthcoming: Data in Brief).
  • Dunn, O., ‘Coastal shipping speed and frequency before the Transport Revolution. England and Wales, 1649-1689’, (revise and resubmit: Journal of Transport History) .
  • Bogart, D., O. Dunn, E. Alvarez and L.M.S. Shaw-Taylor‘Speedier delivery: coastal shipping times and speeds during the age of sail’, 2019 (revise and resubmit: Economic History Review).
  • Dunn, O., ‘Corrupting Practices and the New Customs of England (c.1558-70)’, online working papers Datini-Ester advanced seminar, 1/2015.

Published data-sets

  • Alvarez-Palau, Eduard J and Dunn, Oliver and Bogart, Dan and Satchell, Max and Shaw-Taylor, Leigh (2019). Historical ports and sailing shipping routes in England and Wales 1540-1914. [Data Collection]. Colchester, Essex: UK Data Service. 10.5255/UKDA-SN-853711

Unpublished data-sets

  • Newcastle Host Accounts, full years 1590-1600. 20,000 obs. Variable given are ship names, destination ports, cargo, tolls paid, hosts and merchant names. Handwritten text recognition software was used to collect this data.
  • Coastal shipping using port books, years cover span the period 1649-1689. 4500 obs. Variables given are ship names, ports, and voyage dates.
  • UK export data 1860-1914.  Approx. 10,000+ observations. Destination country. Product type. Quantity.
  • UK census of production 1954/1964. Total UK manufactures production with energy input and value of goods.
  • Hearth tax data set for Hampshire and Leicestershire. Complete population counts based on parochial Hearth Tax Assessments circa 1670.

Working papers

  • Romola Davenport , Max Satchell, Oliver Dunn, Gill Newton and Leigh Shaw-Taylor, ‘New methodologies for the estimation of urbanisation for England c.1670 and c.1761’.
  • Alvarez, E., Bogart, D., Shaw-Taylor, L., Dunn, O., and Satchell, A.E.M., ‘Growth before steam: A GIS approach to estimating multi-modal transport costs and productivity growth in England, 1680-1830.’
  • Dunn, O., ‘The speed of coastal shipping services in England, 1650-1680.’
  • Bogart, D., Dunn, O., Alvarez, E., and Shaw-Taylor, L., ‘Speedier delivery: coastal shipping times and speeds during the age of sail.’
  • Bogart, D., Alvarez, E., Dunn, O., Satchell, A.E.M., Shaw Taylor, L. ‘Market access and urban growth in England and Wales during the pre-steam era.’

Funding awards

  • Keynes Fund research grant (£90,000) PI Leigh Shaw-Taylor
  • Isaac Newton Trust grant (£50,000) PI Leigh Shaw-Taylor
  • Paderewski grant (£1,500) for the study of Polish-European history at the European Centre Natolin, Warsaw, Poland. Summer, 2013.
  • Fees and living costs for four years of doctoral studies at the European University Institute from UK government Dept. for Business, Innovation and Skills. (£80,000 plus fees)
  • Ellen McArthur Studentship in Economic History. University of Cambridge (£1500)


  • April 2019, Economic History Conference. paper given: ‘Transport, policy, and the British industrial revolution, 1680-1911: The case of lighthouses’.
  • May 2018 (session co-organiser) From Sources to Data workshop at Cambridge with the National Archives, CamPop, and Aviva plc.
  • April 2018 (session organiser) European Social Science History Conference, ‘Comparing Transport Networks, Geographies of Political and Economic Organisation in England/Wales and in the Ottoman Empire 1600-1900’. University of Belfast.
  • November 2017, Dockland’s History Group Seminar, ‘London’s Coastal Shipping Networks during the age of Sail: 1650-1830’. London.
  • November 2017, Local Population Studies Society conference’ ‘Coastal shipping and ports in England and Wales, 1650-1911’. Univ. of Leicester.
  • September 2017, European Network for the Comparative History of Population Geography and Occupational Structure conference. Presentation on transport networks and population history. Univ. of Cambridge
  • April 2017, Agricliometrics III conference, ‘Empirical estimations of shipping costs based on commodity prices in England and Wales during the nineteenth century’. Univ. of Cambridge.
  • April 2017, Economic History conference, ‘Coastal shipping and transport change in England and Wales, 1680-1830’. London.
  • October 2014, co-convenor of interdisciplinary conference: ‘Materiality and practice of the border, past and present’, EUI Florence
  • September 2014, Shady Business, White Collar Crime in History Conference at the German Historical Institute, Washington DC. Co-sponsored by the Said Business School. (funding won)
  • May 2014, Social History Association Conference, Northumbria University, Newcastle, UK
  • April 2014, Participant in the Datini Prato Advanced Seminar: ‘The market and its agents’, Prato, Italy (funding won)
  • November 2013, Social Science History Association Annual Conference, Chicago: ‘The first “modern” customs and subsidies, the secretive economy, and the taint of “corrupcion” in England, 1552-91’
  • August 2011, Accounting History Review conference in Cardiff, Wales: ‘Malfeasance in the Elizabethan customs administration and the reaction of monarchical power’.
  • September 2011, Forms of corruption in history conference, Sorbonne University, Paris, France: ‘Malfeasance in the Elizabethan English customs administration and the concept of “corruption” in history’.