Research Professorships Awards 1999

In 1999 The British Academy added to its existing programmes of research appointments a new scheme for Research Professorships. The scheme is intended to help distinguished senior scholars to have time away from their teaching and administrative commitments, in order to carry out a major programme of research. Three awards, each tenable for three years, have now been made.

113 applications were received, and the selectors were predictably faced with a difficult task. The general standard of the competition, as confirmed both by internal assessment and by external evaluation of the best applications, was extremely high. The Academy is proud to be able to offer assistance, through this scheme, to the very best scholarship in the humanities and social sciences in the UK. The awards have been made to three scholars.

Please note that in 1999 the Research Professorships were awarded through public funds and not through contribution from the Wolfson Foundation.

Professor Andrew Barker
Professor of Classics, University of Birmingham
The History of Greek Harmonic Science

Professor Barker intends to work on 'The History of Greek Harmonic Science', a neglected subject, central to the understanding of ancient classical culture and of relevance far beyond classical studies. As one of the external evaluators commented: 'Professor Barker has, in effect, created a field of study, Greek music theory in its philosophical and scientific context, of major importance for the understanding of classical intellectual culture and its medieval and renaissance continuation'. The second evaluator described the work as 'a uniquely important project proposed by the sole person in the world competent to do it.'

Professor Barker himself writes of his proposed work: 'The Greek science of harmonics carried as much intellectual authority and exercised as powerful a cultural influence in antiquity as any other branch of scientific enquiry. Its principles underpinned investigations in astronomy, in certain domains of pure mathematics, even in medicine and architectural design. Its concepts and doctrines were widely drawn on by poets, philosophers, theologians, rhetoricians and essayists. It was a 'cultural determinant' whose wide-ranging significance continued to be felt in educated Europe as late as the seventeenth century. Yet a full-scale history of the subject has never been written. This is what I intend to attempt, in a study that will disentangle the prickly technicalities of the discipline, and make it accessible to scholars in other fields as a historically integrated whole.'

Professor Christopher Harris
Professor of Economics, University of Cambridge
Optimal Incentives for Securities Traders and Fund Managers

Professor Harris, described by the evaluators as 'one of the foremost mathematical economists worldwide', 'a theorist of the highest quality and at the very peak of his powers' whose 'technical mastery of his subject is put to good substantive use in studying applied problems', will be researching 'Optimal Incentives for Securities Traders and Fund Managers'. The subject is both topical and urgent, of major importance to financial institutions and to regulators/supervisors alike: 'this is one of the rare cases, where practical concerns plead for the highest priority to be given to a project involving "pure" fundamental research'.

Conventional market forces, the play of supply and demand, provide satisfactory solutions to questions of remuneration in most areas of employment; but designing incentives for individuals whose job is to make choices among risky investments is a different sort of problem which involves both theoretical and practical difficulties. Professor Harris explains that 'the first aim of the present project is to develop a theoretical framework with which to analyze problems of this type. The second aim of the project is to apply this framework to a range of concrete incentive issues, including the design of remuneration packages for securities traders and fund managers.

Professor Blair Worden FBA
Professor of Early Modern History, University of Sussex
Biography of Oliver Cromwell

Professor Worden intends to write a new scholarly biography of Oliver Cromwell, one of the central and most controversial figures in British history. The assessors drew attention to his 'intellectual and cultural range which few historians display in print, and a razor-sharp intelligence'. The pressing need for a new, satisfactory biography of Cromwell was stressed, in particular. 'Without either the narrative or the imaginative dimension of a full biography, research on the years from the Civil War to the Restoration, and especially on the Protectorate, is in danger of becoming Hamlet without the Prince'. 'Everyone writes Cromwell up from a more or less thorough reading of the accessible printed records, including the complete sets of his known speeches and letters. Worden's prodigious archival knowledge and grasp of the whole political, intellectual and spiritual cultures within which he moved is beyond that of any previous biographer.'

Professor Worden himself explains that 'Oliver Cromwell has been the most controversial figure in British history, and the revolutionary events through which he lived have been the most controversial episode of that history. Yet there has never been a satisfactory full-length biography of him - this will be the first to involve the substantial scholarship through which alone the interaction between Cromwell's character and his times can be recovered and brought to life.'

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