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Natalie Cox

Email: N dot R dot Cox at warwick dot ac dot uk

I am a PhD student in the Department of History researching the history of geography and geographical practice in nineteenth-century Britain. Working to the title, ‘Armchair geography: Speculation, synthesis and the culture of British exploration, c.1830-c.1870’, my project is a collaboration between the Department of History, University of Warwick and the Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers). I am co-supervised by Professor David Lambert (Warwick) and Dr. Catherine South (RGS-IBG).

My Research

My PhD research is concerned with Victorian ‘armchair geographers’ - British and Irish authors and critics who spoke, wrote, theorised and produced maps about non-European parts of the world without actually going there. These theoretical explorers were active in geographical controversies centred on the Royal Geographical Society and provided prominent, critical voices - sometimes quite rightly - against the claims of famed explorers such as David Livingstone and John Hanning Speke.

Within this thesis, I aim to reconstruct an historical geography of nineteenth-century British geography and its cultures of practice. Working closely with the RGS-IBG, it seeks to enhance academic and public knowledge of the works and approaches of the ‘armchair geographers’ in order to re-shape understanding of Victorian geographical thought. It addresses how these controversial characters produced knowledge about physically unknown and distant places they had never explored and how they were able to challenge the knowledge claims of those who had. Particular attention is given to the heterogeneous practices and performances of the ‘geographer’ and the differing embodiments of this identity in and across different times and spaces. Of specific interest are individual explorers’ reading practices and their relationships with textual sources.

My research interests include:

  • Empire and cultures of exploration
  • Histories of geographical knowledge and knowledge formation
  • Travel writing
  • Histories of cartography
  • Spatialities of scientific culture
  • Imperial landscapes
  • Literary Cartographies and Histories of the Book

My academic training as a geographer has instilled in me wider interests in political and cultural economy approaches to the geographies of money and finance, especially trust and value cultures. It is an area of study which I am keen to continue working in after developing ideas through my MA thesis and its spatial focus on the Bank of England Museum.

Academic Profile

2012 - Present: PhD, University of Warwick
2011 - 2012: MA Landscape and Culture: Distinction, highest degree in cohort
University of Nottingham
Thesis: The Bank of England Museum: Raising public confidence rates since 1988
An investigation into how the value of money is communicated through the material and discursive landscape of the Bank of England Museum
2008 - 2011: BA (Hons) Geography: First Class with Distinction [Starred First]
St Catharine’s College, University of Cambridge
Thesis: Four Houses and an Empire: The architecture of diplomacy in Imperial London (1911-1933)
A study of the landscape of political change through the construction of the High Commission buildings of Australia, Canada, India and South Africa

Funding and Prizes

Historical Geography Research Group Postgraduate Bursary: awarded to attend and present at International Conference of Historical Geographers, July 2015

Princeton University Travel Scholarship: awarded to present invited research paper at Writing Fieldwork Symposium, Princeton University April 2015

HRC Doctoral Fellowship,Link opens in a new window for the Conference "Making and Mobilising Objects: People, Process and Place"Link opens in a new window, jointly held with Serena DyerLink opens in a new window, 2014-2015

Huntington Library Research Fellowship, San Marino, California, AHRC International Placement SchemeLink opens in a new window, Jan-April 2014

Project: Traveling through Text with Burton: A study in geographical practice from the works of the Hakluyt Society held in the Burton Library

Read about my research experiences here: textualtraveller.wordpress.comLink opens in a new window and on "Research Beyond Borders"Link opens in a new window 

AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award, 2012-2015. Partner institutions: University of Warwick and RGS-IBG

John Giggs Prize, for Outstanding Achievement, University of Nottingham: new award for 2012

William Balchin Prize, for outstanding achievement in Geography, St Catharine’s College, 2011

Department of Geography Commendation, for Undergraduate Dissertation, University of Cambridge, 2011

AAL Caesar Scholar, St Catharine’s College, 2011

Sir John Claypoole Scholar, St Catharine’s College, 2010

St Catharine’s College Book Prize, 2010 and 2011

Academic Activities

Conference Organisation

Making and Mobilising Objects: People, Process and Place, University of Warwick, 21st February 2015 (Co-Convenor)

HGRGLink opens in a new window Council Postgraduate Representative, 2013 - 2016
Co-organiser of the annual "Practising Historical Geography ConferenceLink opens in a new window" for Undergraduate and Postgraduate Students
Convenor of "HGRG New and Emerging Research in Historical Geography" Sessions 1Link opens in a new window, 2Link opens in a new window and 3Link opens in a new window, RGS-IBG International Annual International Conference, 2014Link opens in a new window

RetrospectivesLink opens in a new window, Promotions and Social Media Officer, Editorial Board Member and Peer Reviewer for Warwick's Postgraduate History Journal, 2012-2013
Project: Launch of the Summer 2013 Edition, May, 2013
Conference Presentations: 'Retrospectives', Publishing and Grants Workshop, Institute of Historical Research with History Lab PlusLink opens in a new window, University of Birmingham, 2 May 2013.

Postgraduate History Student-Staff Liaison Committee, PhD Representative, 2012 – 2013

Public Engagement

Public Lecture

'The curious case of the absent armchair: Tracking the nineteenth-century explorers who never went anywhere', Be Inspired Public Lecture Series, RGS-IBG, 30 March 2015


Curator: 'Armchair Geography: Speculation, Synthesis, and the Culture of British Exploration, c.1830-1880', The Ambulatory, RGS-IBG, August-October 2014

Collections Showcase Events

'Armchair geographies: Mapping Africa at a distance', International Conference of Historical Geographers, 7 July 2015

'The curious case of the absent armchair: Tracking the nineteenth-century explorers who never went anywhere', RGS-IBG, 30 March 2015

'Armchair Geography: Tales of making geography from the archive', Royal Holloway MA Cultural Geography Student Visit, RGS-IBG, 12 February 2015

'Adventuring across the page: James Rennell and his African Association maps, 1790-1802', Chartered Geographers Workshop, RGS-IBG, 24 November 2014

Conference Papers


''To form a perfect geographer': Major James Rennell and his 'Geographical Illustrations' of Africa, 1790-1802', in New and Emerging Research in Historical Geography Session, RGS-IBG International Conference, 1-4 September 2015

'Armchair geography: The fabrication of an immobile culture of nineteenth-century geographical exploration', in Mobility and Empire Session at the International Conference of Historical Geographers, 5-10 July 2015

Invited Speaker

'It is discovery not a survey': Text, travel, and truth in mapping the Great Lakes of Eastern and Central Africa, c.1830-1880', Writing Fieldwork Symposium, Princeton University, 24-25 April 2015

'The turbulent tale of Richard Burton, an armchair, and the Hakluyt Society: A story of ninteenth-century geography and the materialities of exploration', Cultural and Historical Geography Seminar Series, Department of Geography University of Cambridge, 6 November 2014


'Travelling through text with Burton: Retracing the cabinet journeys of Sir Richard Burton through his personal library', in Literary Cartographies Session at the RGS-IBG Annual International Conference, 26-29 August 2014

'Getting out of the armchair: Tales of mobilisation and co-production from a Research Fellow at the Huntington Library, California” in Co-Production and Postgraduate Research Session at the RGS-IBG Annual International Conference, 26-29 August 2014

''The mass of material which I am about to drag over the mountains': Sir Richard F Burton, his books and geographies of exploration’, Travel in the Marketplace Conference, Bangor University, September 2014

'Battling beyond the armchair through to the field: reconstructing the journeys that produced the 1864 maps of Lake Nyassa, South-Central Africa', RGS-IBG Annual International Conference, London, 27-30 August 2013.

'Cooley, Kirk and the 1864 Maps of Lake Nyassa: Reconstructing an Historical Geography of Nineteenth-Century British Geography', Warwick History Postgraduate Conference, University of Warwick, 30-31 May 2013.


Natalie Cox, 'Review: Martin Thomas (Ed), Expedition into Empire: Exploratory Journeys and the Making of the Modern World', Journal of Historical Geography, (in press, available online April 2015).

Teaching and Learning

Ambassador for Royal Geographical Society (with Institute of British Geographers),Link opens in a new window 2008 – Present
Promote Geography as a subject to students aged 14-18 through presentations, discussions and workshops

PhD Support Mentor, Peer-to-Peer Funding Mentorship SchemeLink opens in a new window, Graduate School, University of Warwick, 2012 – 2013
Support Postgraduate students through research funding applications and contributed to workshops on how to improve this pilot scheme

Production, Performance and Theatrical Interests

Martin Steele Award for Dramatic Arts, St. Catharine's College, 2011

I am passionate about the theatre and enjoy all aspects of theatre production, particularly collaborative and devised performances. Having run a theatre company at Cambridge University and working as a producer and performer at Nottingham University, I plan to engage with themes of my research through live performances telling the tales from the armchair.

I am currently a Production Assistant at the Priory Theatre, Kenilworth.

Please contact me if you would like further details.

Professional Affiliations

Postgraduate Fellow of Royal Geographical Society (with Institute of British Geographers)
Hakluyt SocietyLink opens in a new window
Historical Geography Research GroupLink opens in a new window
Travel and Mobility Studies Research NetworkLink opens in a new window
Victorian Culture Interdisciplinary Reading GroupLink opens in a new window

Natalie Cox

Natalie Cox

at The Getty Center, Los Angeles CA

Reading around the world: