Professor James Raven FBA

British, western European and colonial literary, bibliographical and cultural studies; reading, library, and book trade history, the history of the novel, comparative global bibliography, Scandinavian studies.

Elected 2019

James Raven’s research interests range across British, European, and colonial cultural, material and literary history c. 1500-1950; particularly the history of publishing, reading, and material objects as ‘texts’, museums, collections, libraries, and the business and geographies of trade in knowledge, memory, books, and cultural commodities.

James Raven is a Fellow of Magdalene College and University Affiliated Lecturer in History at the University of Cambridge. He is also Professor Emeritus of Modern History at the University of Essex and was formerly Reader in Social and Cultural History at the University of Oxford. He has also held visiting appointments in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, France, Scandinavia, and several countries of mainland Europe.

His research and publications examine aspects of the social, cultural and communications history of Britain and Western Europe and their colonies between the 15th and the early 20th centuries. For the past 30 years, he has extended in various ways what has become known as ‘the history of the book,’ developing bibliographical studies of the history of the novel, the history of museums, libraries and galleries, approaches to the history of reading and textual reception, historical mapping, the relationship between media and literary history, the spatial organisation of knowledge, and colonial cultural history. He has also published on specific aspects of urban, business and popular and intellectual history. Most recently he has considered the global history of books, asking what a ‘book’ really is – in a short monograph What is the History of the Book? (Polity Press, Cambridge 2018), and in an edited volume examining the global history of objects as texts ranging from ancient times to the present, The Oxford Illustrated History of the Book (OUP, Oxford 2020).

For many years, he has also worked at senior level for several international and national educational charities, with particular interest in educational access and widening participation. He currently serves as Chair of the English-Speaking Union of the Commonwealth, as President of the Bibliographical Society, and as Chair of the Lindemann Trust for UK postdoctoral awards for scientific study in the US.

Current post

University of Essex Professor Emeritus of Modern History

University of Cambridge Affiliated Lecturer in History

Magdalene College, Cambridge Life Fellow

Past appointments

University of Oxford Reader in Social and Cultural History

2000 - 2004

Magdalene College, Cambridge Senior Research Fellow

1996 - 2020

University of Oxford CUF Lecturer in Modern History

1996 - 2000

Mansfield College, Oxford Fellow

1996 - 2000

Magdalene College, Cambridge Fellow and Director of Studies

1990 - 1996

Pembroke College, Cambridge Fellow

1985 - 1990

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