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British Academy Research Readerships, British Academy/Leverhulme Trust Senior Research Fellowships and Thank-Offering to Britain Fellowship Full List of Successful Candidates (2005 Competition)

The British Academy is pleased to announce the result of the 2005 competition for Research Readerships, Senior Research Fellowships and the Thank-Offering to Britain Fellowship. These awards were recently decided by the Academy in January 2005, and will be taken up by the award-holders from this autumn. 125 applicants submitted a total of 149 applications in the two competitions: 99 for Research Readerships and 50 for the Senior Research Fellowships and Thank-Offering to Britain Fellowship. The Academy was able to fund 14 Readerships (including one privately-funded Marc Fitch Research Readership), 7 Senior Research Fellowships (for which financial backing is generously provided by the Leverhulme Trust), and 1 Thank-Offering to Britain Fellowship (supported by the TOB Fund).

Research Readerships

99 applications, 14 awards

Dowding, Professor Keith
Professor of Political Science, London School of Economics (S5)

Amartya Sen and Modern Political Theory

The project reconsiders the anti-utilitarian agenda of modern political philosophy concentrating upon the arguments of Amartya Sen. I argue that 'choice-based accounts of utility' avoid many of the standard criticisms of utilitarianism.  I show that standard axioms of rational choice are required for the interpretation of actions developing an externalist critique of 'experiential utility'.  I defend the game-form approach to rights using Hohfeld to criticise social-choice accounts.  I defend a cardinality approach to freedom (of choice) though choosing is costly hence the largest opportunity set is not maximal.  Maximal opportunity sets will be defined by indirect utility.  A naturalistic account of utility-generation allows us to accept individual utility as revealed, whilst allowing a critique of the culture under which such choice is made. The approach suggests that some debates in modern political philosophy are otiose.  I replace the luck-effort distinction with a luck-power distinction that better captures moral intuitions over equality.

Web link:

Graham, Dr Elizabeth
Senior Lecturer in the Archaeology of Latin America, University College London (H7; H9)

The Maya Towns of Tipu and Lamanai - Conquest, Conversion and Resistance on the Spanish Colonial Frontier

The research proposed will integrate and synthesise historical information derived from colonial documents with late prehistoric and colonial period archaeological data, both Spanish and British, from two Maya sites in Belize, Central America, where I have directed excavations.  During the Spanish encounter with the Maya living in Belize, Guatemala, and the Yucatan Peninsula in the 16th century, Tipu and Lamanai served as both springboards for a campaign of conversion and as centres for the concentration or 'reduction' of Christian converts from surrounding villages and towns.  Integration and synthesis of the information from Belize will entail comparisons with better known Contact-period encounters in Mexico, Florida, and the Caribbean.  The resulting publication will contribute to literature on the colonisation process by filling a gap in our knowledge of Maya-Spanish interaction, and will serve to contextualise the changes that led ultimately to British contact and colonisation.

Web link:

Greene, Dr Kevin 
Senior Lecturer in Archaeology, Newcastle (H7; H1)

The Economy of the Roman Empire: Material Perspectives

The nature of the Roman economy defies simple explanation because neither the documentary evidence analysed by historians nor the material evidence investigated by archaeologists survives in sufficient quantities to resolve fundamental questions.  Thus, historical explanations are filtered through a variety of theoretical preconceptions about the nature of ancient economies while archaeological evidence is frequently made to play a supporting role to texts.  My book The Archaeology of the Roman Economy integrated a number of sources of evidence and emphasised the significant role of material evidence, but economic history and archaeology have both moved on since its publication in 1986.  I believe that more information can be extracted by taking a broader approach to the complexity of material culture.  It has long been assumed that artefacts and other physical evidence passively reflect economic history, and provide proxy evidence for its undocumented aspects. However, approaches to material culture employed by prehistorians, anthropologists and modern-world cultural historians emphasise its active role in everyday life.  The incorporation of such approaches will provide new understanding of the consumption of artefacts in the Roman world.  My research will also consider the comparative importance of technology in the Roman economy. The outcome of the Research Readership will be a broad study of the Roman economy that exploits recent developments in theory and methodology in order to integrate archaeological and historical approaches to this hotly debated period of economic history. 

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Hills, Dr Helen
Senior Lecturer in Art History, Manchester (H11)

Spiritual Difference: Architecture, Soul and Body in Early Modern Southern Italy

Helen Hills aims to write a book about the gendered 'spiritual topography' of Naples, focused on the exuberantly decorated Cappella del Tesoro in the cathedral, thinking about it as an encounter between competing gendered socio-political, spiritual and artistic currents in baroque Naples. Thus I try to decipher the traces left by the dynamics which produced the chapel both backwards and forwards in time and space across the city.

My concern is to investigate the gendering of devotion and its impact on urbanism and architecture in post-Tridentine southern Italy, and vice versa. This means drawing together three areas of vigorous scholarly interest and interrogating them in relation to each other: (i) gender and spatiality; (ii) gender and devotional practices; (iii) holiness and the urban in the post-Tridentine city.

My work is deliberately focused on Naples as a neglected city in terms of baroque studies. So in part, I'm seeking to address the continued dominance in Seicento studies of Rome  (anomalous as seat of the Church and male-dominated) and of northern Italy, which distorts our understanding of devotional material culture in Italy. In short, my project investigates the aristocratization-feminization of spirituality and its impact on urbanism after Trent in southern Italy.

Hooker, Professor Brad
Professor of Moral Philosophy, Reading (H12)


Professor Hooker's project is to write a book on fairness. During the 1960s and '70s, many philosophers held that fairness regularly conflicts with the goal of maximizing aggregate welfare. But the theories of fairness put forward during those decades were discovered in the 1980s and '90s to have fatal flaws. The theories put forward more recently have not met with consensus approval. I aim to expound a theory of fairness that synthesizes the best elements of previous theories and establishes a new framework for discussion in this area.


Johansen, Dr Thomas
Reader in Philosophy Edinburgh (H12; H1)

Aristotle's Faculty Psychology

Faculty psychology seeks to explain the multitude of psychological phenomena by reference to a limited and permanent set of capacities. First developed by ancient philosophers - Aristotle in particular - the approach was influential in the 18th and 19th centuries. In recent years, faculty psychology has resurfaced: understood as mental 'modules', faculties are widely thought to play a fundamental role in cognitive and evolutionary psychology. This study provides a re-examination of Aristotle's faculty psychology. The project has three aims:

  • To explain what a psychological faculty is according to Aristotle and what roles the faculties play within his account of the soul.
  • To enhance our understanding of Aristotle's psychological naturalism by placing the faculties of the soul within their biological context.
  • To assess the relevance of Aristotle's faculty psychology today in the light of recent theorizing about faculties in cognitive and evolutionary psychology.

The study falls into three parts: Part I considers Aristotle's definition and uses of the faculties of the soul in the De Anima. Part II considers the application of the faculties in the biological works to account for the composition and activities of living beings. Finally, Part III explores the relevance of Aristotle's psychology today through comparisons with cognitive and evolutionary psychology.

The study is to be published as a monograph.


Khan, FBA, Professor Geoffrey (Marc Fitch Research Readership) 
Professor of Semitic Philology, Cambridge (H3; H4)

The Christian Neo-Aramaic Dialect of the Barwar Region

The aim of the project of my Research Readership is to make a detailed grammatical description of an Aramaic dialect that until the 1970s was spoken in Christian villages in the Barwar region of Northern Iraq. This belongs to a dialect group known as North Eastern Neo-Aramaic, which includes the last surviving remnants of vernacular Aramaic in Iraq. All of the dialects of this group are now endangered. For more details of this group, see the website

In the 1970s the villages in the Barwar region were destroyed during political disturbances and the inhabitants were forced to flee their homes. Many settled outside Iraq in Europe and North America. On account of this population displacement, the dialect is now on the verge of extinction. The dialect together with a rich tradition of dialectal literature that was orally transmitted in the region will be lost to knowledge completely if descriptive work is not made in the next few years. The product of my research will be a volume containing a descriptive grammar consisting of sections on phonology, morphology, syntax and the lexicon. It will also contain an extensive corpus of transcribed oral texts and a glossary.

Murphy, Dr Andrew
Reader in English,  St Andrews (H6)

The People's Bard: Shakespeare's Working Class Readers, 1800-1900

This project will map the rise and fall of a working-class audience for Shakespeare during the course of the nineteenth century. It will tie the emergence of this audience to two factors: (i) the broadening of access to education afforded to working-class children from the end of the eighteenth century, and (ii) the increasing availability of cheap books as the nineteenth century progressed. The project will track working-class readers' responses to Shakespeare by drawing on a large pool of autobiographies published during the course of the century. It engages particularly with a subset of these readers for whom Shakespeare's works had real political purchase. The project will conclude by attempting to explain why Shakespeare's popularity among a working-class readership declined in the closing years of the century. This decline will be linked to changes in educational provision, to a shift in readers' focus to other forms of publishing (specifically the newspaper and cheap fiction) and to the development of a split between popular and elite forms of culture.

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Newman, Professor Simon P. 
Sir Denis Brogan Professor of American Studies Glasgow (H9)

The Transformation of Working Life and Culture in the British Atlantic World, 1600-1800

An Atlantic World paradigm has informed a great deal of recent work on the history of early modern Europe, West Africa and the Americas, but the vast diversity of people and places within this world has made integrated and comprehensive analysis difficult. This project will employ a series of case studies of the changes in working life and culture in selected cities and regions around the British Atlantic World (Glasgow, London, Jamaica, Philadelphia and Nova Scotia). Transcending the local and the particular, the resulting monograph will use work as the prism through which to illuminate how the advent of the Atlantic World affected daily life, exploring how people's work - the kinds of work they did, their conditions of work, the goods and products they processed, produced and consumed, and the consequent changes in their daily lives - was transformed by the movement of people and goods occasioned by the Atlantic World. This project will be organised into three sections: the first will explore life around the Atlantic World in the seventeenth century, as people from the British Isles began to become actively involved with West African, Caribbean and mainland North American societies; the second will deal with the dramatic changes in these societies and in English and Scottish society as colonies were founded and people and goods began flowing across and around the Atlantic; while the final section will chronicle development over the later seventeenth and the eighteenth centuries as West African and indigenous American societies were overwhelmed, British society transformed, and European settlements in the Americas matured. In each of these sections, the analysis of a rich historiography will be fleshed out by case studies illustrating the changes in daily life, work and culture experienced by people living in Britain (especially London and Glasgow); in West Africa; on plantations in Jamaica; and in Philadelphia and its hinterland, and in Nova Scotia. The Transformation of Working Life and Culture in the British Atlantic World, 1600-1800 will illuminate the history of the British Atlantic World by telling the stories of its workers.

Pickering, Professor Martin  
Professor of the Psychology of Language and Communication Edinburgh (S6; H4)

The Mechanisms of Dialogue

Dialogue is the most natural and basic form of language use, but little is known of the mechanisms that underlie it, because psycholinguists have focused almost entirely on the study of monologue. I shall conduct a programme of experimental and theoretical research into dialogue that has the goal of developing a new framework for psycholinguistics. I would develop my /interactive-alignment account/ (Pickering & Garrod, 2004, /Behavioral and Brain Sciences/1) into a book and a series of theoretical papers. Additionally, I shall conduct experimental studies concerned with determining the way in which interlocutors align their linguistic and conceptual representations during successful dialogue. In many cases, I shall monitor interlocutors' eye movements during interactive tasks, to determine the extent to which their eye movements are yoked to each other. The research would inform cognitive and social psychology, as well as other disciplines concerned with the study of dialogue.

1Pickering, M.J., & Garrod, S. (2004). Toward a mechanistic psychology of dialogue. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 27, 169-225.

Raven, Professor James  
Professor of Modern British History Essex (H10; H6)

The Making of the English Novel

James Raven is writing a social and commercial history of the novel in England from the early eighteenth century to the early twentieth century. In particular he will examine the promotion of popular novels as commodities and investigate the business and reception of changing modes of publication. By using new approaches to the history of popular literature, the mass reading public and the tensions between book production and literary devaluation, he will be completing a history of the manufacture, marketing and reception of the novel from its commercial beginnings to its confrontation with new business interests in popular culture two hundred years later.

Robinson, Dr Chase  
University Lecturer in Islamic History Oxford (H8; H3)

Traditionism, Politics and Society in 9th Century Iraq

Many normative forms of Islamic belief and practice date not from the earliest period of Islam, but from the late 8th and 9th centuries. This period witnessed the rise of Islamic traditionism, which lodged religious authority in reports of the Prophet's words and deeds as they were recorded, selected, invented and compiled in definitive collections, and then transmitted and interpreted by traditionist lawyers and jurists. Notions of authority and techniques of power accordingly changed in essential ways, and the result was a far-reaching re-ordering of Muslim society in the Fertile Crescent—one that can be discerned not merely in historiography, law and politics, but elsewhere too, such as in urban topography. While scholarship has made great progress towards understanding how traditionism emerged, we know little about why it came about or why it came about when it did. My provisional argument is that traditionism expressed a catholic authoritarianism that suited diverse social elites, and it worked not by coercing (as earlier caliphs had tried), but by exemplifying and modeling.

Snowling, Professor Margaret J. 
Professor of Psychology, York (S6)

Language Skills and Learning to Read

It is well established that learning to read depends critically upon one particular aspect of language, namely phonological skills. Thus, children with poor phonology go on to have reading problems (dyslexia).  However, poor reading is the common endpoint of a number of different developmental trajectories; although phonological skills are important in the early stages of learning to read, wider language skills are important for the development of reading comprehension. It follows that, rather than classifying reading disorders into categories, there is merit in a dimensional view that considers how phonological deficits act as risk factors for poor word-level decoding skills, whereas semantic, grammatical and pragmatic deficits mediate the risk of poor reading comprehension.  In this view, a child's reading ability will depend upon the interaction of risk factors (of varying severity) with other language skills that may operate as 'protective' factors, and environmental factors, such as the teaching that is received.  This proposal is to develop a comprehensive theory of reading development and disorder.  The initial studies will analyse and model the relationships between oral and written language skills using three longitudinal data sets from research following the progress of children at high-risk of reading difficulties through the school years.  This work will be complemented by a series of case studies of children who have failed to respond to conventional reading intervention programmes. Findings will be integrated with current knowledge in a monograph on language skills and learning to read.

Sorace, Professor Antonella 
Professor of Developmental Linguistics, Edinburgh (H4)

Gradience in Split Intransitivity: Theoretical and Experimental Explorations of the Lexicon-Syntax Interface

The aim of this project is to write a monograph on gradience in split intransitivity. Starting with my 1992 dissertation, my research has shown that there is systematic and gradient variation in the syntax of intransitive verbs. I have proposed a 'Split Intransitivity Hierarchy' to capture the differential susceptibility of intransitive verbs to variable syntax in terms of their different combinations of aspectual and semantic features. This work has had a substantial impact in several distinct areas. My goal is to bring together typological, theoretical, developmental, and psycholinguistic evidence bearing on the Hierarchy in a coherent interpretative framework, analysing the different strands of research generated by my hypothesis within the single unifying focus of 'interface' between syntax and other cognitive domains.

Web link:

Senior Research Fellowships

50 applications, 7 awards:

Bertram, Christopher 
Reader in Social and Political Philosophy Bristol (H12; S5)

Global Justice, Sufficiency and Democratic Citizenship

Recent discussion of global distributive justice has often centred around debates between 'cosmopolitans' and 'nationalists' on the feasibility of desirability of extending principles such as John Rawls's well-known difference principle beyond the boundaries of the nation state. Christopher Bertram's proposed research aims to change the terms of this argument by exploring and clarifying a 'sufficiency' approach to the problem of global justice, drawing on approaches such as Amartya Sen's focus on 'capability'. He anticipates that the capability to function as a citizen of a democratic polity will play the crucial role in defining a sufficiency threshold.

Web Link:

Blakemore, Professor Diane 
Professor of Linguistics, Salford (H4)

Parentheticals: Form and Interpretation

This project explores the relation between syntactic form and pragmatic interpretation through the analysis of parentheticals. It aims to establish whether there is a theoretically and empirically justified distinction between 'grammatical' parenthetical phenomena (e.g. appositive relative clauses, nominal appositions, peripheral adverbial clauses) and discourse parenthesis, and in particular whether Haegeman's Radical Orphanage analysis can be maintained for all parenthetical phenomena. It also aims to identify the ways in which parentheticals contribute to interpretation by modifying their hosts, and asks whether this contribution should be articulated within the grammar in all cases, and how the stylistic effects achieved through the disruption of syntactic structure are achieved. This project focuses on parentheticals in English, although data from other languages will be used where appropriate. Arguments will be based on the analysis of actual examples (e.g. from the International Corpus of (British) Spoken English) together with the analysis of constructed examples. This research provides the basis for a further project on the relationship between the interpretation of parentheticals and their prosodic properties.

Cowan, Professor Jane K.
Professor of Social Anthropology Sussex (S3)

Making Minorities as International Process: Claims and Petitions for Macedonia

The project addresses a critical moment in the history of rights and of the organisation of difference within states, when the 'international' as a sphere was expanding, becoming institutionalised and displacing states and empires as a new locus for regulatory and socially transformative projects. It traces the gradual and contentious realisation/'making real' of certain concepts - race, kin, nationality, majority, minority - treating them (following Brubaker) as 'categories of practice', within the post-WWI world order, in the region of the Southern Balkans.  Whereas such processes have been analysed primarily in the context of nation-building within individual nation-states, Professor Cowan examines them from the vantage point of the new international organisation, the League of Nations, in the 1920's, at a moment when new relations between states, state subjects and 'the international' were being forged.

Her case study is the work of, and activities based in, the Minorities Section of the League Secretariat. It focuses on the 'supervision' of treaties of minority protection with respect to Macedonia, territorially divided between three states and the site of unresolved political and national claims, continued violence, population movement and refugee displacement. The project conceives Minorities Section activities, and particularly the innovative minority petition procedure, as involving an unprecedented global encounter between four categories of actors: international bureaucrats, state diplomats, minorities or those speaking on their behalf and an array of concerned world citizens. Examining that encounter will contribute to: a)  a richer understanding of the historical emergence of the 'international' as a new form of governmentality; b) a revised history of international claims-making around rights and recognition and its imbrication with issues and discourses of state sovereignty and international responsibility; c) insights on the consolidation of race, nation, majority and minority as categories of international practice; and d) debates on anthropology and history. The project also explores continuities and disjunctures with international intervention and supervision related to minorities and human rights, as well as issues of sovereignty, in the post-1989 Balkans.

Dawson, Professor Norma
Professor of Law Queen's Belfast (S1)

Heirlooms: Law, Dynasty and Personal Property

Heirlooms are legally privileged objects that defy fundamental principles of personal property law.  As a term of art in English law, 'heirloom' originally meant a landowner's best bed, table, and agricultural implement, which would automatically descend on death to his heir, while his other movable property would pass to his next of kin.  From the late seventeenth century onwards, however, the Court of Chancery responded to the forces of economic and social change - widespread dynastic settlement of land, the increasing number of valuable movables in circulation and the growing interest in collecting items of aesthetic interest - by nurturing the efforts of conveyancers to create an entirely new doctrine of heirlooms.  Valuable non-functional items of movable property, often of considerable cultural significance - paintings, jewellery, statuary, plate, books - could now be annexed to land and pass with it from one generation to the next, provided that a judicially approved formula was used in settlements and resettlements.  The transformation of the legal concept of 'heirlooms' from objects in daily domestic or agricultural use to aesthetic objects to be appreciated and preserved in a historic context, beyond the power of sale out of the family, was a revolutionary legal development and arguably one of the earliest stages in the evolution of what is now known as cultural property law.  By making movables behave like land in circumstances not dictated by basic economic need as in the early medieval period, the courts acknowledged the social and cultural significance of the objects in question, gave effect to one of the norms of modern cultural property law - the preservation of objects and contexts - and in the process became important actors in the development of cultural life.   A counter-revolution in the law of heirlooms was precipitated by the Settled Land Act 1882, section 37 of which permitted tenants for life of landed estates to apply to the court for an order authorising the sale of heirlooms out of the family, 'a new and startling idea' in the words of one judge.  Heirlooms sales could reduce the burden of debt on estates preventing the sale of the land itself, but the courts decided at an early stage that its power to approve a sale under section 37 was not a matter of form:  a case for sale had to be established with due regard to the wishes of other members of the family.  Once again, the court became an actor in the cultural life of society, now exerting a significant influence over the market for cultural goods. 

Thus, at two distinct stages in our legal history, the period of development of heirlooms clauses in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and the exercise of the statutory power of sale of heirlooms in the last two decades of the nineteenth century and the first few decades of the twentieth century, the law of heirlooms has played a vital but largely unexplored role in cultural life.  The purpose of this project is to undertake the first systematic study of the law of heirlooms from the seventeenth century to the present day, opening up a subject of relevance to a number of wider debates surrounding the strict settlement, family relationships, and the development of the art market.

Web Link:

Leman, Dr Patrick J. 
Lecturer in Psychology Royal Holloway (S6)

Gender, Learning and the Social Dynamics of Children's Conversations

Gender differences in children's conversational styles have been observed for some time. Even from preschool, boys tend to adopt more assertive styles of interaction whilst girls usually engage in more collaborative exchanges. Although gender has an influence on conversation from a young age, and its influence can be observed in behaviour and achievement throughout the lifespan, very little empirical work has sought to establish how gender impacts upon children's collaborative learning and decision-making. The significance and the contribution of this research is not only to explore how communication between children varies according to a child's gender and that of his or her conversation partner, but also to examine how this variation connects with the communication and construction of knowledge between children. The research involves two large experimental studies that will be complemented by the ongoing development of coding scheme for the analysis of children's conversations. A first experiment will examine the conversations of children at two different ages, 6-7 years and 10-11 years, to identify the effects of gender on the social dynamics of interaction. The first study will employ a task developed in previous research to assess children's appreciation of their own and others' perspectives. A second, large experiment will explore whether gender effects in conversations have an influence on longer-term developments in moral reasoning. The scheme for coding of children's conversations will focus on the ways in which children structure arguments, and how different structures can relate to processes of influence and cognitive change.

Rosenthal, Professor Michael 
Professor of the History of Art, Warwick (H11; H10)

The Art of Colonial Australia

The colonisation of Australia by the British was documented both in literary records, and in countless drawings and watercolours.  These were in the main produced by the colonisers, but, as early as early as 1793 the Spanish Government had sent out an expeditionary fleet under the command of Alejandro Malaspina, and his artists, Juan Ravanet and Fernando Brambila were the first of various other Europeans to contribute their own views of the colony.  This extensive picture-making has hardly been used as a source when it comes to writing the history of the early colony.  Yet, through the pictorial material we are able to witness in some detail what language can only imperfectly describe; from various stages of settlement, to repeated attempts to come to terms with Australian flora and fauna; from encounters with Aborigines to exploration.  For instance, it is possible to follow the gradual development and enlargement of Sydney in very great deal.  Moreover, because most of this work was not done with any aesthetic intention, when a watercolour or drawing does present itself as a work of art, this is of itself extremely revealing of contemporary attitudes towards the true nature of the colony.  There is a body of landscapes, from around 1805 onwards, which presents it in terms of a terrestrial paradise, and this, in turn, can be interestingly matched against the type of convict letter that denies that transportation to New South Wales is any form of punishment when compared with the actualities of life in Britain.  As the actual history of the development of the colony is exceedingly complex, so too are the glosses on it provided by the abundant picture-making.  And, by the second decade of the nineteenth century, the architecture that Governor Macquarie had the transported architect Francis Greenway design and build in Sydney was in itself one of the more contentious features of what some viewed as a generally contentious Governorship.  To investigate this building programme is to reveal a great deal about this issue.  I am alone in having worked extensively through the Australian material, and, because my expertise is in British cultural and art history of the period am able to analyse it in terms that allow it to throw, in its own turn, an extremely interesting light back on the mother country.  Because I am looking at a significant period - from Cook's landfall in 1770 through to 1840, and because there is so much to work on, I envisage writing two volumes, the first covering the period up to 1820, and the end of Macquarie's Governorship; the second the subsequent years, during which there was significant exploration and expansion within the colony, with the founding of Melbourne, Perth, and, eventually, Adelaide.

Swanson, Professor Robert  
Professor of Medieval Ecclesiastical History Birmingham (H8; H2)

Indulgences in Late Medieval England

This Research Fellowship will provide the time needed to complete a major monograph on indulgences and their integration in the socio-economic, religious and spiritual life of pre-Reformation England (c.1300-1540). Particular aspects investigated include

  • the place of indulgences in the charitable and spiritual structures of late medieval England, through their role in devotional practices, encouragement of pilgrimages, and stimulation of donations to individuals and institutions
  • the nature, scale, and rationale of the demand for indulgences and related spiritual privileges (including comparisons with other similar aspects of late medieval devotion, notably shrines and saints' cults)
  • the mechanisms and personnel of the distribution process
  • the debated status of indulgences in late medieval England (including the literary challenges on the activities of pardoners, and academic debates on the validity of indulgences in the penitential system in the fifteenth century)
  • the collapse of the indulgence business during the Henrician Reformation

In addition, the volume will assess the economic significance of indulgences, and illustrate their role in England's broader social, economic, and cultural history during the period, including their involvement in the emergence of a print culture after 1480. The book will radically challenge received opinion on late medieval indulgences, to argue that, despite the opportunities for fraud, their overall contribution was positive, and that they were widely appreciated. It will add to the recent flow of work demonstrating the vitality of pre-Reformation catholicism, and offer a further perspective on what John Bossy has identified as the 'social miracle' of late medieval religion.

Thank-Offering to Britain Fellowship

applications as SRF, 1 award:

Allen, FBA, Professor Robert C. 
Professor of Economic History Oxford (S2)

Invention and Technology in the British Industrial Revolution

The prosperity of the developed countries is based on high productivity technology.  The British industrial revolution marks a decisive step forward in inventing and applying such technology.  The reasons for that breakthrough remain elusive, however.  Was it due to liberal political institutions, the fruits of empire, the scientific revolution?   This project addresses that question and focusses on the role of economic incentives in inducing and sustaining invention.  Global comparisons show that British wages were remarkably high at the exchange rate and high relative to the prices of consumer goods, capital inputs, and energy.  These patterns were due to success in the global economy, which created tight labour markets and led to the exploitation of Britain's coal resources.  In turn, the wage and price patterns generated a demand for technology that substituted capital and energy for labour.  The high standard of living also made possible the skill acquisition and savings that responded to the challenge.  Finally, the wage and price structure led to an institutional innovation—R&D—that transformed invention and permanently raised the rate of economic growth.  The Scientific Revolution made only a limited contribution to the new technology, whose origins were primarily economic.  The aim of this project is to develop these ideas, so that we may understand the origins of mass prosperity.

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