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Books for Everyone? National Trust Libraries and their Reading Communities in the Long Eighteenth Century

  • Funded PhD Programme (Students Worldwide)
    Funded PhD Programme (Students Worldwide)

Profile Description

The University of Liverpool and the National Trust (NT) invite applications from suitably qualified candidates for a fully-funded AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award PhD Studentship starting in October 2019. The studentship seeks to shed new light on one of the country's great – yet under-researched – book collections. The National Trust owns over 140 historic libraries, which together contain around 400,000 books. Many of these remain in situ in the house where they were originally brought together and read. An ongoing cataloguing project has led to the integration of c.180,000 catalogue records into Copac, thereby opening them up to systematic scholarly scrutiny for the first time.

Focusing primarily on five NT libraries in the North West of England and North Wales (Dunham Massey, Erddig, Lyme Park, Tatton Park and Townend), the successful candidate will investigate important issues relating to the social, cultural and political history of books in the long eighteenth century. These may include, but are not necessarily limited to:

Material evidence of book use in surviving NT books, such as marginalia, inscriptions, condition and staining;
The social life of books in the eighteenth-century home;
Patterns of shared reading, especially amongst marginal reading groups such as women, children, servants and estate workers;
The movement of books between country house libraries and town libraries, and between different generations of the same family;
The extent to which private books circulated beyond the family who owned them, including formal lending registers and anecdotal traces of book borrowing;
The role of book collectors in sustaining the provincial book trade;
The contribution of landed families to wider cultural and intellectual renewal, whether through support for local writers and publishing projects, or patronage of urban subscription libraries and other voluntary improving endeavours;
The light that private libraries can shed on families' engagement with political and social issues (e.g. the Grand Tour, the abolition of slavery or parliamentary reform).

The project will be supervised by Professor Mark Towsey (History) and Professor Elaine Chalus (History) at the University of Liverpool, and by Tim Pye and Nicola Thwaite at the National Trust.

The successful candidate will be homed in the Department of History, part of the School of Histories, Languages and Cultures, and will benefit from membership of the University of Liverpool's flourishing interdisciplinary Eighteenth-Century Worlds Research Centre. The successful candidate will also benefit from enhanced access to NT properties, collections, resources and expertise required for the successful completion of the project. S/he will work within the NT's Libraries Team, receiving training to develop their professional experience and heritage-related skills, including book and collections handling training, visitor experience training, and training on the communication of research to the public. It is expected that research produced as part of this project will be instrumental in bringing the NT's book collections to life, raising their profile within the individual properties and the Trust as a whole through e.g. catalogue enhancement, exhibitions and contributions to the NT Collections website.

The successful candidate will have either a first class or a 2:1 undergraduate degree in a relevant subject, and will either have completed or be close to completing a Masters degree by September 2019. For this studentship, a wide range of fields may be appropriate, including history, modern languages, literature, book history, information and library science, and the history of printing/publishing.

There is criteria for residential eligibility, please check this first before applying, by visiting:

For further details, interested parties are strongly encouraged to contact Professor Mark Towsey () before application.

Applications should be emailed directly to and should consist of a CV (including degree transcripts) and a personal statement outlining how you would intend to shape the project to your specific interests and how your experiences/qualifications to date make you suitable for this project.

Funding Notes

Stipend: Tuition fees + £14,777 (RCUK rate for 2018-19) + access to additional funds from the NWCDTP relating to research expenses and training costs including the Research Training Support Grant, the Student Development Fund and the Cohort Development Fund.

AHRC-funded NWCDTP Collaborative Doctoral Award Studentship 2019

Related Subjects

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