British academy

Results of the 2003 Academy Research Projects Competition

The British Academy issued a Call for Proposals for new Academy Research Projects in 2003. As a result of the competition, four new Academy Research Projects have been formally adopted. Details of these projects are given below.

Conflict and Priority in Early-Modern Astronomy

The late sixteenth-century controversy over priority in the formulation of a geoheliocentric world system is of outstanding interest for the freedom with which the disputants — including Tycho Brahe and Johannes Kepler — aired their conflicting views on the nature of astronomical hypotheses, the goals and duties of astronomy, and its authority in relation to physics, theology, and other disciplines. This project, based at the Department of History and Philosophy of Science, Cambridge and L’Observatoire de Paris, is producing a historical analysis of the controversy together with critical editions and translations of all the major works associated with it.

Project Director: Professor Nicholas Jardine
Co-Project Director: Dr Alain Segonds

The Correspondence of Bernardin de Saint-Pierre (1737–1814)

Bernardin de Saint-Pierre (1737–1814) was a major figure of the late Enlightenment in France, author of the best-selling novel Paul et Virginie (1788) which was first published as part of a much longer philosophical text, the Études de la Nature (1784). The aim of the project is to publish a complete critical edition of the entire correspondence of the author, beginning in the 1760s when the author was working in Russia at the court of Catherine the Great, and tracing his life as he returned to France via Poland, eventually to work as a military engineer on the Île de France (Mauritius), the setting for his major novel. He returned to Paris in the early 1770s and started to work on his major texts, living on the breadline before his literary success and eventually becoming an important cultural figure of the 1790s. The correspondence offers a rich insight into the life and activity of a significant figure, showing the letters he received from his readers and his own relations with personal friends, politicians and fellow writers and artists. Over 2500 letters have survived and the edition will be a full critical edition published online by the Voltaire Foundation.

General Editor: Professor Malcolm Cook
Websites: ETAee/EE_Corr_BSP/default.htm

The Hearth Tax of England and Wales Project

National taxation records are of particular value to historians, providing rare snapshots of both the extent and distribution of wealth and population across an entire country. The Hearth Tax of the 1660s and 1670s provides one such detailed picture of the socio-economic and demographic structure of England and Wales. The Hearth Tax team, based at the University of Surrey Roehampton, aims to publish the fullest surviving return for each county (where one has not already been published), together with exemption certificates and other documents. The information in each return is tabulated and mapped, so that this spatial data can be visualised within the context of a scholarly introduction to the county history and buildings after the Restoration. When the project is complete, scholars will have a bird’s-eye view of the economic structure, social profile and population density of each settlement for every county of England and Wales. This will enable them, for the first time, to build up a picture of relative wealth both within and between regions across the whole country. In the meanwhile local historians can set the characteristics of individual communities within their immediate geographical contexts and thereby assess ‘typicality’. The typologies evolved by historians of agriculture and proto-industry can be mapped into the Hearth Tax evidence in order to shed light on the relationship with the kinds of society to which they gave rise. The information on hearths provides invaluable data for the study of vernacular architecture and the significant developments in building during the later seventeenth century. These volumes are already becoming useful to those involved in teaching undergraduate and masters degree courses in this field, providing the kind of primary data upon which to base dissertations which is often so inaccessible to students.

Chairman: Professor Trevor Dean
Project Director: Professor Margaret Spufford, FBA
Contact: (British Academy Hearth Tax Project, Humanities and Cultural Studies, University of Roehampton, Roehampton Lane, London SW15 5PH)

Location Register/WATCH Project

The Location Register project was born at a conference held at the British Academy in March 1979. In response to Philip Larkin’s famous paper, ‘A neglected responsibility: contemporary literary manuscripts’ representatives of the Strachey Trust proposed a project to locate and list all manuscripts of all literary authors held in all repositories in the UK and Ireland. The University of Reading offered to host the project, and it has been housed there ever since. The research has been published in four substantial volumes by the British Library and is now becoming available online. From 1994, a sister-project has been created (in partnership with the University of Texas) known as WATCH (Writers, Artists and Their Copyright Holders), to list the copyright holders of literary and other authors, artists and public figures.

Chairman: Julia H Munro, (University Librarian, University of Reading)
Project Director: Dr David Sutton
Websites: and