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Dr Carry Van Lieshout

Profile summary

Professional biography

I joined the OU as a Lecturer in Geography in March 2020. Prior to this I held two post-doctoral research appointments, the first one at the University of Nottingham (2013-2015) on the AHRC-funded project The Power and the Water, and the second at the University of Cambridge (2016-2020) on the ESRC-funded project Drivers of Entrepreneurship. In 2015-2016 I worked as a Lecturer in Landscape, Water and GIS at the University of Groningen, The Netherlands. I completed my PhD in Geography at King's College London in 2013. 





Research interests

I am an historical geographer interested in questions of power, access and agency, which I have studied in the context of natural resources and ownership over water and land, as well as through the lens of women's agency in economic behaviour. Infrastructures, practices and institutions can take a long time to change, and what was created in the past often influences our behaviour and attitudes today. Through the study of historical interactions between people and their environments I aim to develop a better understanding of current institutions and practices. My work integrates qualitative and quantitative research methods, and I am particularly interested in Historical GIS. My research to date has been mainly focused on eighteenth and nineteenth-century Britain within its wider global context and can be organised in two broad themes.


Political Ecology and Environmental History of water and subterranean resources

My doctoral research (King's College London, 2013) on the management of water in eighteenth-century London combined a spatial analysis of surface water with archival research. My thesis argued that access to water was increasingly mediated by private water companies as a result of the increasing distance between water and households. This research has been published in Technology & Culture, focusing on the importance of climate and topography in the development of London's water market, and in The London Journal, on the interaction between a commercial water supply and fire fighting.  

My first postdoctoral project at the University of Nottingham (2013-2015) investigated the Derbyshire ‘soughs’ – underground channels driven to drain lead mines. Soughs were significant early-industrial features that had a profound effect on the hydrological landscape and as such were implicated in conflicts, including one involving Richard Arkwright’s water supply to power his first cotton mill. My research has used a close reading of several water-related conflicts to analyse the creation of vertical territory in eighteenth and nineteenth-century Britain, which has been published in a jointly-authored article in Geopolitics.

While this work was rooted in an historical context, the concepts are also relevant to present-day disputes surrounding fracking and the extractive industry. My future research builds on this understanding by critically examining the underlying political and cultural processes relating to historical notions of subterranean property ownership in an international comparative perspective. I will examine first, how subterranean vertical territories were created and later contested and, second, the role a fluid resource such as water played within ownership regimes based on a static territory.


Women in finance and business at the turn of the twentieth century

My second research theme addresses women’s agency in finance and business in nineteenth and early twentieth-century Britain. My postdoctoral work at the University of Cambridge (2016-2020) investigated female entrepreneurship using quantitative methods on a newly created database of 9 million business owners identified through the 1851-1911 censuses (BBCE). This research brings out the contribution made by women in industrializing Britain: 30 per cent of business proprietors in Victorian Britain were women, as opposed to previous estimates of 3 to 12 per cent. A recent article in Social History reveals the much wider variety of entrepreneurial choices open to women of every age and marital status than previous studies have assumed, as well as the influence of marriage and motherhood on women's involvement in business. 

My current research on this theme focuses on female company directors and the spaces they inhabited. A small group of women who have thus far gone unrecognised were active in corporate management before the First World War and therefore represent early diversification in the boardroom. In addition, I am working with colleagues in the OU Business School to study female investment behaviour through shareholding archives, with a particular focus on geographical aspects of risk and trust. Previous research emerging from this collaboration has been published in the Economic History Review.    


Teaching interests

I am module team chair of DD319: Environmental Policy in an International Context. I am also on the DD213 (Environment and Society) module team. 

Over the past few years I have been involved in the production of three new Geography modules: D225, D325, and DD113. I currently work on the production of DST216, where I lead on skills and accessibility, as well as on the Water block.

I am the Postgraduate Convenor for Geography & Environmental Studies, as well as the Grand Union DTP Pathway lead for OU Geography.

Research supervision:

- Steph Gillett: Decision-making Processes in English Railway Development circa 1850-75

- Fiona Brehony: Reimagining Place: A Creative and Critical Intervention Exploring the Past, Present and Future of Rivers


I welcome postgraduate research proposals on historical geographies of nature and business, including (but not limited to) matters of infrastructure, rivers, mining, and female entrepreneurship.




Impact and engagement

Strategic Objective 10C in the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site Research Framework

Published in Knight, D. (ed.), The Derwent Valley – The Valley that changed the World (2016), p. 84.

Underground4Value Cost Action 18110


Individual investors and social ownership structures in the UK before the 1930s: Joint holdings and trustee investment (2023-05)
Rutterford, Janette; Sotiropoulos, Dimitris and Van Lieshout, Carry
The Economic History Review, 76(2) (pp. 661-692)

Changes in Victorian entrepreneurship in England and Wales 1851-1911: Methodology and business population estimates (2022)
Bennett, Robert J.; Smith, Harry; Montebruno, Piero and Van Lieshout, Carry
Business History, 64(7) (pp. 1211-1243)

Business Entry and Exit: Career Changes of Proprietors in England and Wales (1851–81) Using Record-Linkage (2022)
Bennett, Robert J.; Montebruno, Piero; Van Lieshout, Carry and Smith, Harry
Social Science History, 46(2) (pp. 255-289)

Bringing Businesswomen to a Count: A Transnational Methodological Experiment Researching Nineteenth-Century Businesswomen (2021-05-10)
Bishop, Catherine; Aston, Jennifer and Van Lieshout, Carry
Australian Historical Studies, 52(2) (pp. 227-246)

Entrepreneurship in Scotland, 1851–1911 (2021-05)
Smith, Harry; Bennett, Robert J.; Van Lieshout, Carry and Montebruno, Piero
Journal of Scottish Historical Studies, 41(1) (pp. 38-64)

The rise of professional asset management: The UK investment trust network before World War I (2021)
Sotiropoulos, Dimitris P.; Rutterford, Janette and Van Lieshout, Carry
Business History, 63(5) (pp. 826-849)

The British Business Census of Entrepreneurs and firm-size, 1851-1881: new data for economic and business historians (2021)
Van Lieshout, Carry; Bennett, Robert J. and Smith, Harry
Historical Methods: A Journal of Quantitative and Interdisciplinary History, 54(3) (pp. 129-150)

Households and entrepreneurship in England and Wales, 1851–1911 (2021)
Smith, Harry; Bennett, Robert J.; van Lieshout, Carry and Montebruno, Piero
The History of the Family, 26(1) (pp. 100-122)

Machine learning classification of entrepreneurs in British historical census data (2020-05)
Montebruno, Piero; Bennett, Robert J.; Smith, Harrry and Van Lieshout, Carry
Information Processing & Management, 57, Article 102210(3)

Water and vertical territory: the volatile and hidden historical geographies of Derbyshire’s lead mining soughs, 1650s–1830s (2020)
Endfield, Georgina H. and Van Lieshout, Carry
Geopolitics, 25(1) (pp. 65-87)

Entrepreneurship in Birmingham and Manchester, 1851-1911: A Tale of Two Cities? (2020)
Smith, Harry; Bennett, Robert J. and Van Lieshout, Carry
Midland History, 45(3) (pp. 357-380)

Female entrepreneurship: business, marriage and motherhood in England and Wales, 1851–1911 (2019-10-17)
Van Lieshout, Carry; Smith, Harry; Montebruno, Piero and Bennett, Robert J.
Social History, 44(4) (pp. 440-468)

Immigrant business proprietors in England and Wales (1851–1911) (2019-08)
Smith, Harry; Bennett, Robert J. and Van Lieshout, Carry
Continuity and Change, 34(2) (pp. 253-276)

A tale of two tails: Do Power Law and Lognormal models fit firm-size distributions in the mid-Victorian era? (2019-06-01)
Montebruno, Piero; Bennett, Robert J.; Van Lieshout, Carry and Smith, Harry
Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications, 523 (pp. 858-875)

Shifts in agrarian entrepreneurship in mid-Victorian England and Wales (2019-06-01)
Montebruno, Piero; Bennett, Robert J.; Van Lieshout, Carry; Smith, Harry and Satchell, Max
Agricultural History Review, 67(1) (pp. 71-108)

[Book Review] The Draining of the Fens: Projectors, Popular Politics, and State Building in Early Modern England. By Eric H. Ash (2019-01-01)
Van Lieshout, Carry
Environmental History, 24(1) (pp. 173-175)

The History of the London Water Industry, 1580-1820 [book review] (2018-10-08)
Van Lieshout, Carry
The London Journal, 43(3) (pp. 317-318)

Individual investors and local bias in the UK: 1870-1935 (2017-10-10)
Rutterford, Janette; Sotiropoulos, Dimitris P. and Van Lieshout, Carry
The Economic History Review, 70(4) (pp. 1291-1320)

“The Most Valuable Means of Extinguishing the Destroying Fires”: Fire-fighting and the London Water Companies in the Long Eighteenth Century (2017-03)
Van Lieshout, Carry
The London Journal, 42(1) (pp. 53-69)

British Environmental History (2016-12-31)
Van Lieshout, Carry
Areas: revista internacional de ciencias sociales, 35 (pp. 27-35)

Droughts and Dragons: Geography, Rainfall, and Eighteenth-Century London’s Water Systems (2016-10)
Van Lieshout, Carry
Technology and Culture, 57(4) (pp. 780-805)

The Age of Entrepreneurship: Business proprietors, self-employment and corporations since 1851 (2019-06-27)
Bennett, Robert J.; Smith, Harry; Van Lieshout, Carry; Montebruno, Piero and Newton, Gill
ISBN : 9781315160375 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : Abingdon

Historical geographies (2023-02-23)
Van Lieshout, Carry and Newman, Benjamin
In: Lees, Loretta and Demeritt, David eds. Concise Encyclopedia of Human Geography. Elgar Encyclopedias in the Social Sciences (pp. 185-189)
ISBN : 9781800883482 | Publisher : Edward Elgar Publishing | Published : Cheltenham

Female entrepreneurship in England and Wales, 1851-1911 (2020)
Van Lieshout, Carry; Smith, Harry and Bennett, Robert J.
In: Aston, Jennifer and Bishop, Catherine eds. Female Entrepreneurs in the Long Nineteenth Century: Towards a Global Perspective. Palgrave Studies in Economic History
ISBN : 978-3-030-33411-6 | Publisher : Palgrave Macmillan

Contested subterranean waterscapes: lead mining sough disputes in Derbyshire’s Derwent Valley (2017-09-11)
Endfield, Georgina and Van Lieshout, Carry
In: Vallerani, Francesco and Visentin, Francesco eds. Waterways and the cultural landscape
ISBN : 9781315398464 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : London

Assets of the dead: wealth, investment, and modernity in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century England and Wales (2011)
Green, David R.; Owens, Alastair; Swan, Claire and van Lieshout, Carry
In: Green, David R.; Owens, Alistair; Maltby, Josephine and Rutterford, Janette eds. Men, women, and money: perspectives on gender, wealth, and investment 1850-1930
ISBN : 9780199593767 | Publisher : Oxford University Press