Wolfson Research Professorships Awards 2022

Funded by

Professor Michael Braddick

England’s Freedom: The English Revolution in History and Historiography

University of Sheffield

I propose to write a monograph about the English experiment with kingless government between 1649 and 1660. Remarkably, there is no full length study of this, the only period of kingless government in post-Roman Britain, although it was also a period of considerable intellectual creativity and of institutional change critical for the development both of the United Kingdom and the British empire. The monograph will be the final component of a broader reinterpretation of the place of the English revolution in English, British and imperial political development. Tenure of a Wolfson professorship will allow me to bring to fruition my work on these decades in relation to themes in the history of state formation, the growth of empire and domestic popular politics. Associated work on the historiography of the English revolution will place my findings in the context of the comparative history of revolution.

Professor Maria Economou

Emotional Engagement with Museum Collections Through Digital Storytelling and Participatory Approaches

University of Glasgow

Cultural sites and museums can be highly emotional places and, regardless of age, location, or state of preservation, are seedbeds not just of knowledge, but of emotional resonance and human connection. This project examines how digital storytelling and participatory approaches can be used to encourage in-depth engagement with cultural heritage collections. It explores how co-designing and evaluating collections interpretation with diverse users and stakeholders can support emotional connection and critical reflection. It argues that these approaches can transform museum visitor experiences, facilitate interactions with other visitors, non-visitors, and staff, and widen the typical visitor profile. The research investigates both onsite and online engagement, which has been pushed to the fore during the pandemic while physical access to collections and sites has been curtailed, forcing us to re-define traditional museum visiting models. The study will draw a set of recommendations for effective digital interpretation for both researchers and cultural heritage practitioners.

Professor Robert Gleave

The Foundations of Modern Shi’ism: The End of Akhbārism and the Beginnings of Uṣūlism

University of Exeter

This project provides the first comprehensive account of modern Shiʿism’s foundational intellectual moment: Uṣūlism’s victory over Akhbārism. Through a detailed analysis of Arabic and Persian sources (many still in manuscript), I describe how, in the late 18th and early 19th century, a doctrinal revolution occurred amongst Twelver Shiʿite Muslim scholars. The “Akhbārī” scholars – for whom the scholar’s task was simply to transmit revelation’s religio-legal content – lost their position of dominance to “Uṣūlī” scholars. The Uṣūlīs argued that qualified jurists (mujtahids) had an interpretative prerogative – the mujtahid’s opinion of the laws revealed by God (Sharīʿa) was, for Uṣūlīs, authoritative, requiring unquestioning obedience from the ordinary believers. The Uṣūlī victory meant that religious-legal authority now lay firmly in the juristic/scholarly elite (fuqahāʾ), and this has been maintained until today – the opinions of the “Grand Ayatallahs” (the so-called “Sources of Emulation”) are generally considered binding for Shiʿite believers.

Professor Julian Johnson

The Persistence of the Aesthetic: The Value of Musical Listening in the 21st Century

Royal Holloway, University of London

Music makes sense in ways other than language: its logic of sensation challenges that of discursive argument. In this difference lies both the source of musical pleasure and its capacity for a critical social function. This has long been understood and nurtured in different cultures around the world. But dominant discussions around music today, by reducing music to a function of political meaning, neutralise the specificity of its sense-making and silence the ways in which music is most powerfully social. This project considers a different view. Drawing on a wide range of disciplinary approaches (from philosophy to neuroscience) it explores music as a mode of embodied cognition and sensory intelligence, based on the ecological attentiveness of musical listening. This research offers a timely challenge to the new orthodoxies of politicised discourse and investigates the public benefits (from education to wellbeing) of revaluing aesthetic experience.

Professor Brycchan Carey

The Parish Revolution: Parochial Origins of Global Conservationism

Northumbria University

This project will show how what the eighteenth-century naturalist and clergyman Gilbert White called ‘parochial history’ played a central role in the development of the science of natural history, the genre of nature writing, and the origins of modern conservationism. It will examine the rhetorical structures and cultural history of clerical naturalism as it was practiced, written, and published in Anglican parishes between 1660 and 1859, both in the British Isles and British Empire, and by lay people, women, and colonised peoples as well as clergymen. Disseminating its findings through an interlinked scholarly monograph, trade book, and database, it will demonstrate that clerical naturalists contributed substantially to the scientific knowledge that enabled nineteenth- and twentieth-century theories of ecology and evolution, popularised natural history as an activity and as a literary genre, and, by putting the local at the centre of a global movement, profoundly influenced the character of later conservationism.

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