Dr Nicola Thomas
Associate Professor in Cultural Historical Geography


Dr Nicola Thomas is Associate Professor in Cultural and Historical Geography at the University of Exeter. She has developed a body of work around craft geographies, situating contemporary and 20th century craft practice within the broader creative economy. Her approach addresses the intersection of material, historical, cultural, social, political and economic contexts through an exploration of craft makers livelihoods and the spatial dimension of their labour. Her research always attends to the historicity of cultural production and consumption, bringing a historical sensitivity to critical understandings of the cultural and creative economy.

Nicola has worked on a number of research projects funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council that have interrogated the form and practice of the craft sector. She has recently completed a study of UK regional craft guilds and their role in supporting the livelihoods of designer makers and rural craft ecologies. As part of her research practice Nicola supports the professional development of craft practitioners through collaborative practice interventions and by sitting on the UK Crafts Council’s Talent and Development Advisory Board. Nicola co-curated a professional development collaborative craft project  with Miranda Leonard and the Gloucestershire Guild of Craftsmen. The associated exhibition 'Two Make' toured in 2016-2017. 

Nicola sits as a Trustee and Director of two arts organisations, Kaleider and Double Elephant, enabling her to take her research back into the sector. Her own passion for engaged research has led her to develop a strong co-design methodology within her research practice, working in partnership with organisations like the Devon Guild of Craftsmen, Gloucestershire Guild of Craftsmen and the UK Crafts Council.

Nicola has authored many book chapters, peer-reviewed journal articles and reports on regional creative economies and the craft sector. She is co-editor of Craft Economies (Bloomsbury 2018), Craft Communities (Bloomsbury 2018).

Nicola is interested in digital humanities, exploring digital storytelling and ways to connect to audiences through digital marketing in the craft sector. Recent work includes the design of a digital biography app using the research around the life of Mary Curzon, working with Software developers at Bow Software under and AHRC REACT and HEIF Open Innovation Platform grant. This work has developed into a new app, Craft Shelf, developed for the Devon Guild of Craftsmen. 

Films about Nicola's research by R&A Collaborations

A short introduction to craft geographies: https://vimeo.com/200385456

A film about my craft geographies research process:  https://vimeo.com/204397645

A film about my research on craft guilds: https://vimeo.com/200847646

Film about the collaborative project 'Two Make' in partnership with the Gloucestershire Guild of Craftsmen

Introduction Film to Two Make

Film about Craft Shelf,  an online marketing tool with the Devon Guild of Craftsmen:

Nicola has two further areas of research which she has pursued throughout her career.  This includes:

  • postcolonial geographies of gender, race and empire; gender, race and class in Colonial India; exploring relational colonial encounters through biographical methodologies; travel writing and empire embodied and material colonial histories; histories of geography and science; historical geographical methodologies and archival approaches 
  • gendered labour practices and career progression in higher education; equality in the workplace.

Broad research specialisms:

  • Cultural Historical Geography
  • Historical Cultural Georgaphies of the Creative Economy
  • Craft 
  • Colonial and Postcolonial Geographies
  • Biography and life writing
  • Histories of Geographical Knowledge


MA (Oxford)
MA (Royal Holloway, University of London)
DPhil (Oxford) 


Nicola Thomas developed her interest in historical and cultural geography during her undergraduate degree at the University of Oxford. She pursued this through an MA in Cultural Geography (Research) at Royal Holloway, University of London before returning to the University of Oxford to develop her doctoral research. Nicola was appointed as Research Associate on the ESRC funded project ‘South Asian Transnationality and Commodity Culture’ in 2001, based at Royal Holloway, University of London working with Prof Peter Jackson, Prof Phil Crang and Dr Claire Dwyer. She joined Exeter University as a Lecturer in Human Geography in September 2002. During her time at Exeter Nicola has gained research council funding from the British Academy and the AHRC. She is was co- investigator  (2007-2010) on a large AHRC-funded research project entitled Negotiating the Cultural Politics and Poetics of Identity within the Creative Industries of South West Britain. Her recent funding includes an AHRC Connected Communities projects, AHRC Early Career Grant titled 'Situating Craft Guilds in the Creative Economy: Histories, Politics and Practices'.

Nicola has served for many years on the RGS-IBG research groups and has represented the RGS-IBG research groups on the RGS-IBG Research Committee. She is Honorary Secretary of the Reearch adn Higher Education Division of the Royal Goegrpahical Society, and sits as a Trustee and Member of Council on the RGS-IBG. 


Contact details

Internal tel4449
Tel+44 (0) 1392 724449
AddressAmory Building
University of Exeter
Rennes Drive
Office hours

Amory 406

Week 1  Monday 24th September 9.30 – 10.30 and Tuesday 25th September 12.00 – 1.00

Week 2  Tuesday 2nd October 10.45 – 11.45 & Tuesday 2nd October 1.30 – 2.30

Week 3  Tuesday 9th October 2.00 – 3.00 & Friday 12th October 2.00 – 3.00

Week 4, 5, 6  Office hours will be covered by Dr Karen Bickerstaff(Amory 411). You can email Nicola for help in these weeks. 

Week 7  Friday 9th November 10.45 – 11.45 & Friday 9th November 3.15 – 4.15

Week 8  Tuesday 13th November 11.30 - 12.30 & Tuesday 13th November 1.30 – 2.30

Week 9  Monday 19th November 9.30 - 10.30 & Tuesday 20th November 1.30 – 2.30

Week 10  Tuesday 27th November 11.30 – 12.30 & Tuesday 27th November 1.30 – 2.30

Week 11  Wednesday 5th December 9.15 - 10.15 & Wednesday 5th December 11.30 – 12.30

Week 12  Tuesday 11th December 11.30 – 12.30 & Tuesday 11th December 1.30 – 2.30

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