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Election of 76 new Fellows to the British Academy celebrates interdisciplinary research

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Seventy-six academics have been elected as Fellows of the British Academy today, in recognition of their achievements in the humanities and social sciences.

This year’s Fellows are notable for their academic versatility, with many having made significant contributions to a range of disciplines. Among the new Fellows, individual expertise ranges from the philosophy of religion (Professor Sarah Coakley, University of Cambridge), business history (Professor Leslie Hannah, London School of Economics), and forensic architecture (Professor Eyal Weizman, Goldsmiths, University of London).

Fifty-two Fellows were elected from UK universities, with a further 20 – Corresponding Fellows – elected from universities in the US, Canada, Australia, South Africa, Finland, Germany, Italy and France.

Four Honorary Fellows have also been elected:

  • Sir John Chilcot GCB, PC – Former Permanent Secretary, Chair of Inquiry into Iraq War
  • Michael Frayn FRSL – Playwright
  • Professor Margaret MacMillan CC, CH – Historian, public intellectual
  • Eleanor Sharpston QC – Advocate General at the Court of Justice of the European Union.

These new Fellows of the British Academy join a community of over 1400 of the leading minds that make up the UK’s national academy for the humanities and social sciences. Current Fellows include the classicist Professor Dame Mary Beard, the historian Professor Sir Simon Schama and philosopher Professor Baroness Onora O’Neill, while previous Fellows include Dame Frances Yates, Sir Winston Churchill, Baroness Mary Warnock, C.S Lewis, Seamus Heaney and Beatrice Webb.

As well as a fellowship, the British Academy is a funding body for research, nationally and internationally, and a forum for debate and engagement.

Professor Sir David Cannadine, President of the British Academy, said:

“The British Academy has always recognised pioneering research in the humanities and social sciences, and 2019 is no exception. This year we have elected a particularly multi-skilled and versatile cohort of Fellows whose research crosses conventional academic boundaries.

“Whether it is climate conservation or the ageing society, the rise of artificial intelligence or social cohesion, our new Fellows’ wealth of expertise means the Academy is exceptionally well-placed to provide new knowledge and insights on the challenges of today. Their work has opened rich new seams of understanding and discovery, offering new perspectives on long-standing and emerging challenges alike.

“I extend my warmest welcome and heartiest congratulations to all our new Fellows, Corresponding Fellows and Honorary Fellows. I look forward to working with these outstanding scholars to build on the Academy’s excellent and ever-expanding record of achievement.”

On being elected to the Fellowship, Professor Sarah Coakley (University of Cambridge) said:

“The great honour of being elected a Fellow of the British Academy takes me very much by surprise. As a theologian and philosopher of religion, I have always worked on the boundaries of several disciplines –  history, ancient languages, textual work, philosophical and sociological analysis – but in more recent years I have ventured into engagement also with medicine and natural science, especially evolutionary biology and its contested cultural 'meanings'. More than 50 years after Lord Snow's announcement of the problem of the 'two cultures', it is a delight to have my small attempts to respond to that challenge recognized by the British Academy.”

Of his election to the Fellowship, Professor Eyal Weizman (Goldsmiths, University of London), said:

“I’m extremely honoured to be elected to the British Academy Fellowship. A fellowship would lend fundamental support to the work that forensic architecture does in the fields of human rights, journalism and the arts. I’m particularly delighted that with this the humanities and social sciences seem to recognise work which is still experimental and multidisciplinary.”

Professor Leslie Hannah (London School of Economics) added:

“Interdisciplinary work is more often advocated than practiced or celebrated. As the Nobel-prizewinning economist Herbert Simon – who worked on the boundaries of psychology – pointed out, it’s much harder in our age of specialism to win respect as a Renaissance man. So, it has been good recently to see the Academy supporting initiatives like Professor Colin Mayer’s thought-provoking work on the future of the corporation, using insights from management, economics, sociology and history. The new crop of Fellows also shows a reassuring leavening of scholars from business schools and of interdisciplinary inclination as well as the Academy’s more traditional subjects. I'm honoured to be among them.”