CeRch seminar, 13 March: Dissenting Academies Online. Digitization and Collaboration in the Study of Religious History: Rethinking the Dissenting Academies in Britain, 1660-1860

13/03/2012 18:15

Simon Dixon and Rosemary Dixon, Queen Mary, University of London

Tuesday 13 March, 6.15pm, Anatomy Museum. Followed by drinks.

Register to attend at: http://www.eventbrite.com/event/2658496635

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The writing of religious history has generally been the preserve of individual scholars, conducting their research alone in libraries and archives, using traditional research methods. Humanities computing, however, not only facilitates but also demands collaborative work. Bringing together humanists and scientists based at different institutions to work on collaborative research projects allows more ambitious schemes to be undertaken, new methodologies to be developed, and new histories to be written. The creation of online databases as a means of studying the history of religion aids collaboration not just on an individual project, but between discrete research projects addressing related subject matter. This chapter discusses the planning and implementation of two closely related projects, both of which are making significant advances in understanding the historical significance of religious dissent in the British Isles: A History of the Dissenting Academies in the British Isles, 1660-1860; and Dissenting Academy Libraries and their Readers, 1720-1860. At the heart of the projects is a pressing need to develop a greater understanding of the significance of dissenting academies in the history of British Protestant dissent. The academies, first established in the 1660s, were intended to provide Protestant students dissenting from the Church of England with a higher education similar to that available in the English universities (Oxford and Cambridge).

The first of the two projects, which ran from 2008-2011, involved the collection of reliable empirical evidence about the academies and the creation of an online relational database containing information about the institutions, their tutors and students, and surviving archival material. This work underpins the research for a new multi-authored study: A History of the Dissenting Academies in the British Isles, 1660-1860. The libraries of the academies were central to the teaching they offered, and the Dissenting Academies Libraries project (2009-2011) involved the digital reconstruction of their holdings and loans through the creation of a Virtual Library System. As well as providing valuable data for contributors to the Dissenting Academies project, the project will change our understanding of the role of books within dissenting culture and education. In describing their work on these two projects, Rosemary Dixon and Simon Dixon will reflect on the potential of digital humanities methodologies to fundamentally alter the way in which historians of religion approach their work.

About the Speakers

Rosemary Dixon is a lecturer in early modern English literature at King’s College London. Rose’s research is concerned with the literary and religious culture of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, with a particular focus on the history of the book. Her PhD thesis on John Tillotson (1630-94) concentrated on printed sermons, which were among the most successful and popular books published during this period. This research will form the basis of her first book: a study of the commercial, theological, and cultural life of the printed sermon in Restoration and eighteenth-century England. Rose is particularly interested in the histories of libraries, and what they can reveal about the ways that the readers of the past perceived, organised, and used their books. Before joining King’s, she was postdoctoral research fellow for the AHRC-funded ‘Dissenting Academy Libraries and their Readers’ project, a collaboration between Queen Mary, University of London and Dr Williams’s Library. A major outcome of the project is the Virtual Library System, an innovative online reconstruction of the holdings and loan records of dissenting academy libraries.

Simon Dixon is a research assistant in the Faculty of History at the University of Oxford, working on ‘The Professions in Nineteenth-Century Britain and Ireland’. He was a Postdoctoral Research Fellow on the Dissenting Academies Project from June 2008 until May 2011. With Inga Jones he created Dissenting Academies Online: Database and Encyclopedia and is a contributor to the multi-authored volume, A History of the Dissenting Academies in the British Isles, 1660-1860. His work at Oxford involves the construction of a prosopographical database of nineteenth-century professionals and will lead to a series of articles and the development of a major research project. His doctoral thesis on ‘Quaker Communities in London, 1667- c1714’ was completed at Royal Holloway in 2005 and is currently being revised for publication as The Quakers in London, 1667-1714. His research makes extensive use of digital technologies, in particular the construction of databases to manage and analyse large and complex sets of historical data and the creation of high impact research resources such as Dissenting Academies Online. and is a contributor to the multi-authored volume, . His work at Oxford involves the construction of a prosopographical database of nineteenth-century professionals and will lead to a series of articles and the development of a major research project. His doctoral thesis on ‘Quaker Communities in London, 1667- c1714’ was completed at Royal Holloway in 2005 and is currently being revised for publication as . His research makes extensive use of digital technologies, in particular the construction of databases to manage and analyse large and complex sets of historical data and the creation of high impact research resources such as .

Location

Anatomy Museum London WC2R 2LS
United Kingdom

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