Book historian receives British Academy Fellowship

  • Date

    Fri 19 Jul 19

Professor James Raven

Professor James Raven, from our Department of History, who was the first in his family to go to university, has received one of the highest accolades in the field of humanities and social science research, a Fellowship of the British Academy.

Professor Raven, who has dedicated his academic career to studying the social and cultural history of books, is one of 76 new Fellows announced by the British Academy today. 

He said: “This is the highlight of my career, an extraordinary privilege which means a very great deal, having been recognised by my peers.

“My achievements have been made possible because of the global reach of our Department of History, and its very vibrant research community where colleagues discuss and share their ideas.”

Professor Raven is one of the most productive historians of the 18th-century British book trade. His recent publications include Bookscape, which uses digital mapping to plot the geographies of printing and publishing in London before 1800, and What is the history of the book? the first global history of the book. 

Funded by a Leverhulme Research Fellowship, he is currently completing a ground-breaking comparative study of the development of state lotteries in Britain and Europe between 1600 and 1850.

Locally, he was instrumental in ensuring further study of the unique book collection of leading 17th-century churchman, Colchester-born Samuel Harsnett, which is held in our Albert Sloman Library and in leading a successful collaborative project on the ‘lost’ mansion of Marks Hall.

Professor Raven, whose family have lived and worked in Colchester for generations, was the first in his family to go to university, after studying at The Gilberd School. Speaking about his background, he said: “Looking back to when I was an A Level student, I’m not sure I knew what a career was and so I have always been committed to access and outreach, encouraging applications from all, irrespective of background.

“Since returning to Essex after my time at the University of Oxford, the Department of History has been hugely supportive. I continue to admire its extraordinary industry and global reach which helped me develop vital research links with the Marks Hall Estate and ensure the superb Library of the Bibliographical Society was moved from Senate House in London to our own Albert Sloman Library.”

Professor Alison Rowlands, Director of Research in the Department of History, said: “Professor Raven is a world-leading expert on the history of the book, a subject which covers everything from the history of communications, to media and literary history, the spatial organisation of knowledge, historical bibliography, and historical mapping. We are immensely proud of his many achievements.”

Professor Raven joins a community of over 1,400 of the leading minds that make up the UK’s national academy for the humanities and social sciences. Current Fellows include the classicist Dame Mary Beard, the historian Sir Simon Schama and philosopher Baroness Onora O’Neill. Historic Fellows include Dame Frances Yates, Sir Winston Churchill, Baroness Mary Warnock, CS Lewis, Seamus Heaney and Beatrice Webb.