Eighteenth Century and Romantic Studies Research Group

The Eighteenth-Century and Romantic Studies Research Group is one of the largest and most distinguished groups of scholars in eighteenth-century studies in the UK and internationally. Members have published numerous monographs and scholarly editions with leading publishers including Cambridge UP, Oxford UP, Palgrave, Routledge and Yale UP. Our projects have been supported by well over a million pounds of external research grants from funders including the AHRC, British Academy, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and the Leverhulme Trust.

Our members are active in the international eighteenth-century and Romantic research communities. Northumbria is involved in editing three journals: Bunyan Studies (Walker), The Shandean (Williams), and the Charles Lamb Bulletin, for which Newbon is General Editor. Three colleagues have served recently on the executive of the British Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies (BSECS), with Carey the current President and UK executive member of the International Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies (ISECS). In 2019 Northumbria hosted the ISECS Early Career Seminar, an intensive workshop for a selected group of the most promising eighteenth-century scholars worldwide. We are also a lead institution for the C18th Literature & Visual Culture Research Network, co-founded by van Hensbergen, and for The International John Bunyan Society, with Walker the current President. The research group works with a network of collaborators at overseas universities, including at Manitoba, McGill, Georgia State, Brest, and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. The group undertakes much public-facing work, with Sumbwanyambe's ongoing projects with the BBC and National Theatre Scotland an excellent example of the topicality of eighteenth-century studies.

Our research is very diverse but can be grouped in the following ways:

Medical Humanities

Colleagues have won a succession of large grants from the Leverhulme Trust for projects concerned with the medical understanding and cultural representation of illness during the eighteenth century. These projects have tackled the way that 'depression' was understood before the term existed, the paradoxical phenomenon of Fashionable Diseases, and the rise of Writing Doctors in the eighteenth century. Publications include Ingram's study of the Cultural Constructions of Madness in C18 Writing (Palgrave), Lawlor's From Melancholia to Prozac: A History of Depression (Oxford), Blackwood's work on midwifery manuals, Wetherall-Dickson's longstanding interest in cultures of celebrity and suicide, and Newbon’s research on Romantic child psychology.

Print Culture and Scholarly Editing

Several members are interested in the generic and typographic properties of different literary forms. The AHRC-funded ‘Sterne Digital Library’ project is co-run between Cambridge University and Northumbria (Williams, PI). Work in this area includes Stewart's on Romantic periodicals, Williams' work on Sterne's Tristram Shandy, and Terry's work on eighteenth-century letters. Significant editorial projects include van Hensbergen's editing of the late plays of the dramatist Nicholas Rowe, and Wetherall-Dickson's edition of the works of Lady Caroline Lamb. Colleagues have also edited a number of canonical eighteenth-century novels: Swift's Gulliver's Travels (Ingram), Equiano's The Interesting Narrative (Carey), Sterne's A Sentimental Journey (Williams), and Cleland's Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure (Terry & Williams).

Literature and the Environment

Several members share an interest in environmental humanities. This covers Stewart's interest in the literature of the Border country, and Carey's work on various aspects of eighteenth-century natural history, including plantation management and birds in eighteenth-century literature. Northumbria will be hosting the biennial Association for the Study of Literature and Environment (UK & Ireland) conference in 2021. From 2021-2026 Northumbria will host an annual BSECS Fellowship for a visiting scholar working on any aspect of the history of the North East and Scottish Borders.

Heritage, Arts and Theatre 

Colleagues work on a number of outward-facing projects, with interests spanning topics from assembly rooms (Durkin) to cultural representations of slavery (Sumbwanyambe). We have established strong research-based collaborations with several heritage and theatre venues including the National Trust, Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums, the Laurence Sterne Trust at Shandy Hall, National Theatre Scotland and the Newcastle Lit & Phil. The AHRC-funded ‘Learning through the Art Gallery: Art, Literature & Disciplinarity’ (van Hensbergen, PI) is led by Northumbria in conjunction with the Laing and Shipley galleries. We currently supervise AHRC Northern Bridge CDA doctoral projects in partnership with the Laing Art Gallery and the National Trust at Seaton Delaval Hall.

Being Human: Festival of the Humanities

In 2015 our group was funded by the AHRC and Institute for Advanced Study (IAS) for a programme of ten events for the inaugural UK Being Human Festival. This success brought us 'hub' status in 2016. The video below shows how we used the 2015 festival to introduce the public to various facets of our research:


18th Century Legacies: The Past in our Present. from Northumbria University on Vimeo.

We welcome enquiries from potential collaborators or future PhD students wishing to study with us. In the first instance, please contact Dr Claudine van Hensbergen.

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