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Past Research Activities



'Corruption in Britain and its Empire, 1600-1850'

In 2014-16, Mark Knights held an AHRC Leadership Fellowship to research 'Corruption in Britain and its Empire, 1600-1850'. This will lead to a book to be published by Oxford University Press. As part of his fellowship, Mark produced a freely downloadable report for the anti-corruption agency Transparency International and collaborated with the Council of Europe (which cites his work at length in a report of 2017) as well as the Italian anti-corruption agency Autorità Nazionale Anti-corruzione. He also published an article for History Today and a blog for BBC History online -

'Europe's Asian Centuries, Trading Eurasia 1600-1830'

Maxine Berg of the University of Warwick was awarded £1.4 million to explore the impact of the first great global trade shift of luxury goods from Asia to Europe. The prestigious award from the European Research Council (ERC) funded a group of researchers to use industrial archives, private collections and major museum collections from across the world to investigate trade in the period 1600-1830, a time which stimulated the European Industrial Revolution. The four-year project, entitled "Europe's Asian Centuries, Trading Eurasia 1600-1830", commenced on 1st September 2010 and came to a successful conclusion in June 2014.

Early Modern Forum

The Early Modern Forum was a major, AHRC-funded project which aimed to encourage academic staff and postgraduate students who rarely had the opportunity to meet in person, to collaborate easily and effectively, particularly through the partner institutions: Warwick, Boston, Yale, the Huntington/USC, Vanderbilt, and the Sorbonne. By implementing existing web technologies, the forum helped scholars to annotate and comment on primary sources or work-in-progress, attend seminars via video-conference, and above all communicate with people with similar research interests.

In addition, the forum was also (and remains) a shared information store. We edited and collated podcasts and videos of research seminars and interviews with academics, maintained an index of useful web links for early modernists, offered a primary source sharing platform, and hosted research (especially postgraduate) in a variety of forms. Its projects and events can be found at the Early Modern Forum pages (part of this site).

The Warwick-Waddesdon Programme

The Warwick-Waddesdon programme promotes the study of the archives and collections at Waddesdon Manor and seeks to develop connections between the historians at Warwick and elsewhere, and museum curators. Working with the Waddesdon collections, it will seek to develop projects on nineteenth century attitudes to the collection of eighteenth century objects, on the Waddesdon archives about the eighteenth century interior, and on Waddesdon's special collections. Waddesdon Manor is an historic house open to the public, belonging to the National Trust, jointly administered by a Rothschild charitable trust. Its collection has unique strengths in the arts of eighteenth-century France. The first initiative jointly developed by the Eighteenth Century Centre and Waddesdon Manor is a Leverhulme-funded project, ‘Selling Consumption in the Eighteenth Century: Advertising and the Trade Card,’ directed by Professor Maxine Berg (History) and Helen Clifford (Honorary Fellow). The team has also been successful in applying for a British Academy grant for the project ‘Marvels in the Marketplace: Germanic trade cards at Waddesdon Manor’. An exhibition based on the trade card catalogue and co-curated by Research Fellow, Dr Phillippa Plock, runs at Waddesdon Manor from March to October 2008, entitled ‘All that glitters: shopping and advertising in eighteenth-century Paris. The exhibition introduces visitors to Waddesdon Manor’s unique collection of French trade cards. It explores the production of advertising, the imagery of consumption, the types of products on sale, the locations of trades, as well as what it was like to go shopping in Paris in the long eighteenth century.

As part of the programme, Professor Ann Smart Martin from the University of Wisconsin held a ceramics seminar at Waddesdon in June 2007, and is continuing to work with staff on the development of new projects.
In 2009, Waddeson: The Rothschild Collection, went live. This is an online database of the Waddeson Manor trade card collection. The database has been designed to allow scholars to search by trade or product as well as by decorative motif or iconographic subject.

In October 2008 a new Warwick-Waddesdon initiative will begin when an AHRC-funded Collaborative Doctoral student starts a PhD with Dr Katherine Astbury (French Studies), on French Revolutionary Prints as Spectacle. The project aims to enhance our knowledge and understanding of the notion of spectacle in French Revolutionary prints and their role in the cultural production of the 1790s. In particular it will examine the interrelationship of theatre, politics and visual images during the Revolution. It will also lead to a catalogue of prints held at Waddesdon, thus enabling further research by other scholars.

AHRC Research Network: ‘Global Arts: East Meets West. Creativity and Cultural Interchange in the Early Modern World’

Academics from the centre are involved in a new partnership with the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford and the Victoria and Albert Museum, part of the AHRC Research Networks and Workshops (Creativity) Scheme, entitled ‘Global Arts: East Meets West. Creativity and Cultural Interchange in the Early Modern World’. This project explores the impact of east-west cultural interchange on creativity and innovation between the 15th and 19th centuries.

The network organises regular meetings, joining academics and curators from different disciplines together to exchange knowledge, sources and information. The introductory meeting was held at Warwick in January 2007; the second at the Ashmolean Museum in May 2007 focused on how ideas and technologies were invented and travelled along trade routes. Contributors included Craig Clunas, who gave a provocative overview of the theoretical approaches to the material culture of East-West transfer; Shelagh Vainker and Oliver Watson from the Ashmolean, who presented work on Chinese ceramics and cross cultural transfer in Islamic pottery; Ian Glover, who introduced his work on the spread of glass production from the Near East, via South Asia, and from China into northern Vietnam; and Jan Christie, who commented on her work on Javanese temple tax records. There was lively debate and discussion of ways forward. These will be explored at the third meeting in November 2007 at the Victoria and Albert Museum, where contributors will consider the impact of court cultures on East-West exchange. If you would like to know more about the Network please contact Helen Clifford at museum at swaledale dot org

Cities of Enlightenment in Global Context: Clerical Sociability and Civil Conversations

This collaborative project explores the relationships between Enlightenment and metropolitan culture in a global context through the analysis of sociability. It will examine how capital cites attained a degree of cultural and intellectual centrality during the period 1660-1800, and the role played by knowledge in the shaping of the institutional, scientific and cultural infrastructure of the modern metropolis. Through a series of case studies (starting next year with London, Rome, Paris and Mexico City), it will examine the connection between the world of learning and scholars and the emergence of urban identities in this period. It will pay particular attention to the dialogues between clerical and non-clerical groups, and also to the role of international exchange in the changing intellectual function of the metropolis.

Recent scholarship has emphasised the need to reshape the comparative research agenda, and to move away from traditional 'Franco-centric’ histories or from those that concentrate on national contexts. In addition, new cultural histories of eighteenth-century capital cities and urban histories of science have paid attention to the spaces of Enlightenment and to different cultures of mobility, opening up perspectives beyond the study of individual travelling scholars.

This project combines and takes forward these new perspectives in two ways: to broaden and test the European comparative framework to its colonial locations; and to challenge, through a consideration of urban sociability, the notion of the Enlightenment as mainly a process of intellectual secularisation.

The project is concerned with the social production of knowledge, and of the transmission of knowledge as ideas, within and across particular urban settings. It combines the methodologies of cultural history (in its concern identify formations, metropolitan culture, practices of mobility and travelling culture, practices of sociability, publishing history, history of readings) and of intellectual history (in its concern with the textual articulation and transmission of ideas that embody claims of validity beyond their local or national settings.

The Warwick-Maison Francaise Programme: Science and European Capitals

Since the early modern period, the metropolises have become the centre of a new conception of urban identity: the world-city. Focusing on a long period from the Renaissance to Enlightenment, this collaborative project examines a theme that has emerged as central in recent studies of modern urban history and the urban history of science: metropolitan scientific culture. From the history of cultural capital in Europe to the analysis of the global-city, this project encourages scholars to think beyond national boundaries and to question the cultural centrality of the metropolis.

By studying the circulation of knowledge in specific urban sites, it is possible to develop a differential, cultural cartography and to measure the unequal distribution of knowledge and of sites of knowledge in the construction of urban Europe in the eighteenth century. By working not merely on one capital city but on the dynamic between metropolises, it is possible to emphasize the role played by knowledge and intellectual networks in the production of metropolitan identity through these local differences, and to reshape the traditional problem of centre and periphery.

An earlier stage of the project explored the interpretation of European capital cities as centres of knowledge from the Scientific Revolution to the Enlightenment, in order to investigate connections between the world of learning and the emergence of urban identities in Europe. This contributed to a wider reflection on cultural history of capital cities and intellectual milieus.

This part of the project considers the European capital city as characterized by a new idea of the urban territory; the shaping of a metropolitan society; the centralization of intellectual activity and cultural facilities (theatres, museums, libraries, university, etc). The inventory of equipments (libraries, laboratories, etc.); of intellectual and educational institutions; and other forms of sociability which served as structures to welcome foreigners; also provides a prosopography of scholars by signalling clearly the new distribution of knowledge and of scientists that emerged during the Enlightenment. But this study alone cannot suffice, because it supposes that the criteria of a ‘capital’ were stable between the seventeenth and the eighteenth centuries. To break with this teleological approach which encloses the construction of European capitals in a frozen and finalist perspective, it is useful to extend the methodology with a study of the invention of an intellectual functionality of the modern city. The conversion of knowledge into ‘symbolic capital’, does not result in a simple accumulation of data and of facilities. This project therefore reinterprets the notion of ‘cultural capital’ by giving it a dynamic, conflictual dimension.

The Leverhulme Warwick-CNAM Research Interchange on Cultures of Commerce and Invention

The Research Interchange, directed by Professor Maxine Berg (History, University of Warwick) and Liliane Hilaire-Pérez (CNAM), developed the comparative and interdisciplinary study of cultures of commerce and invention in Europe 1550-1850. It brought together researchers from the Warwick Eighteenth Century Centre and the Centre d’Histoire des Techniques, a collaboration between the Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers (CNAM), Paris and the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) at the Universités de Paris IV and VIII. Scholars studying in conventionally distinct disciplines of economic history, cultural history, history of science and technology, art history, museum studies and material culture have contributed to an ongoing series of joint workshops and seminars exploring the histories of inventive cultures and consumer society. The topics investigated by the Research Interchange ranged from the role of product innovation and the commercial arts in culture to the promotion and advertising of new techniques and products and its connections with the transmission of knowledge.

Between 1998 and 2001 the Centre ran a major Research Project, the Luxury Project, directed by Maxine Berg. Major international conferences and workshops were held over this period, and resulted in an edited volume published by Palgrave Press. Maxine Berg and Elizabeth Eger, eds., Luxury in the Eighteenth Century: Debates, Desires and Delectable Goods. Research Fellows of the project were Dr Elizabeth Eger and Dr Morag Martin. Research students and assistants on the project were Dr Jonathan White and Ms Caroline Fontaine.

The Centre also ran the Leverhulme Art and Industry Project, directed by Maxine Berg between 2000 and 2003. Research Fellows were Dr Sue Gordon and Dr Claire Walsh.

Past bibliographies are available on taste and luxury.