Skip to main content

Transatlantic Team Turns Renaissance to Ghosts, Inns and Castles

A transatlantic team of researchers has won $323,000 (£190,000) to fund an innovative study of the Renaissance in Europe and the Americas. Sponsored by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, they will challenge past thinking which has restricted the Renaissance to elite Europeans. The researchers will examine the lives and beliefs of ordinary people in the Renaissance and how Europe and the Americas shared Renaissance ideas. The team will focus on those peoples’ religious and spiritual beliefs, including notions of the afterlife, ghosts and witchcraft, and they will also examine how those people interacted with the buildings around them such as inns, schools, hospitals and castles.

The three-year collaborative programme brings together scholars in Britain’s University of Warwick and the Newberry Library in Chicago. The research programme, which will run from 2005 to 2008, will attract historians, literature experts, linguists and classicists from both sides of the Atlantic.

The UK partner in the programme is the University of Warwick’s Centre for the Study of the Renaissance under its Director, Professor Julian Gardner, and Professor Steve Hindle, who will lead the first year of the research. The Centre has 33 specialists in Renaissance or early modern studies in a centre with £1.3 million in funded research programmes.

The US partner is the Newberry Library’s Center for Renaissance Studies, directed by Dr Carla Zecher, which will co-ordinate the involvement of the Library and its international consortium of 37 universities, which includes some of the premier institutions in America’s Midwest.

The research programme, entitled ‘The Spaces of the Past: Renaissance and Early Modern Cultures in Transatlantic Contexts’, will study 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 will centre on an investigation of the way those ordinary people encountered the Renaissance in the buildings around them – the castles, inns and schools. The programme’s second year will be devoted to the exchanges of ideas between Renaissance Europe and the Americas, especially colonial Spanish America. The final year’s research will focus on the period’s religious and spiritual beliefs – including notions of the afterlife, ghosts and witchcraft.

Professor David VandeLinde, Vice Chancellor of the University of Warwick, said, “I am delighted that The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has agreed to fund this exciting research project. I believe that our work with the Newberry Library will strengthen international scholarly collaboration in the Humanities and will build on our ongoing commitment to academic excellence in this field.”

The University of Warwick’s Professor Steve Hindle said, “The Mellon Foundation’s decision to fund ‘The Spaces of the Past’ is very important for the future of Renaissance and Early Modern Studies. It will allow us to further enhance our expertise here at Warwick and to greatly increase our understanding of this crucial period in European and American history.”
Professor Julian Gardner added, “As well as supporting groundbreaking research, this collaboration will enable Warwick and its American partners to enrich substantially their graduate training programmes and to build new transatlantic alliances.”

From Charles Cullen, President of the Newberry Library: "This project will take full advantage of the strengths of both the Newberry Library and Warwick's well-known Centre for the Study of the Renaissance. The programme will draw the attention of British and European scholars and students to the Newberry's rich resources available for Renaissance and early modern studies."

From Carla Zecher, Director of the Newberry's Center for Renaissance Studies: "This collaboration offers an ideal combination of teaching students not only traditional research methods, but also the latest disciplinary developments. It will allow the University of Warwick and the Newberry Library to accomplish goals that neither institution can achieve alone."

For further information contact:

Professor Steve Hindle, Centre for the Study of the Renaissance
University of Warwick Tel: 024 76 5724914

Peter Dunn, Press and Media Relations Manager
University of Warwick Tel: 024 76 523708

Dr Carla Zecher
Director, Center for Renaissance Studies
The Newberry Library Tel: (312) 255-3565