Skip to main content Skip to navigation

The Spaces of the Past in a Transatlantic Context


Funded by a grant of $323,000 (£190,000) from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the project 'The Spaces of the Past: Renaissance & Early Modern Cultures in Transatlantic Contexts' began in October 2005. This interdisciplinary collaboration between Warwick's Centre for the Study of the Renaissance and the Newberry's Center for Renaissance Studies, involved staff from the departments of History, English and Comparative Literary Studies, Classics and Ancient History, and French Studies.

The Newberry Library, whose collections number 1,500,000 printed titles, five million manuscript pages, and 300,000 historic maps, has particular strengths in the Renaissance, European discovery, exploration, and settlement of the Americas, and British literature and history. Its Center for Renaissance Studies organises a Consortium of 37 universities, which brings together Renaissance specialists from a wide range of North American universities, including some of the premier institutions in America's Midwest such as Northwestern University, the University of Chicago, the University of Michigan - Ann Arbor and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Spread over three years, the project studied the extent to which the Renaissance, normally seen as a phenomenon limited to the 'high elites' of Europe, was experienced by the wider populations of the two continents, such as women and the poor.

The first year of the project centred on an investigation of the way those ordinary people encountered the Renaissance in the buildings around them - castles, inns, manor houses, hospitals and schools.

In its second year, the programme examined the exchanges of ideas between Renaissance Europe and the Americas, especially colonial Spanish America.

The third year's research focussed on the period's religious and spiritual beliefs - including notions of the afterlife, ghosts and witchcraft.

In 2008-09, the Spaces of the Past Project benefited from a 16-month extension sanctioned by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, under the heading Spaces, Belief and Communities in the Early Modern Period. An event which benifited from the Mellon Foundatioin's generosity was the Warwick Symposium on Parish Research. This 2-day event, held in May 2009, was organised in association with the Mellon-Newberry-Project of the Centre for Renaissance Studies (Mellon Bursary holders: Graham Chernoff, Edinburgh, and Pavel Kůrka, Prague). More details, including the symposium report, can be found on the History Department's website at