skip to primary navigationskip to content

Professor James Raven LittD FBA

Professor James Raven, LittD FBA

James Raven is available for consultancy.

Magdalene College
Office Phone: 01223 746539


James Raven is an Affiliated Lecturer in the Faculty of History, a member of the Faculty of English, and Senior Research Fellow of Magdalene College. He was formerly Professor of Modern History at the University of Essex, a member of the Centre for Human Rights and Co-Director of the Centre for Bibliographical History; Reader in Social and Cultural History at the University of Oxford, and Professorial Fellow of Mansfield College, Oxford; Fellow and Director of Studies in History at Magdalene College, Cambridge, and Munby Fellow and Fellow of Pembroke College, Cambridge. A Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, Fellow of the Linnean Society, and a member of the American Antiquarian Society, he has also held various visiting appointments in the United States, France, Italy and Britain. His publications in social and cultural history and cultural studies were recognized with the award of LittD from Cambridge in 2012.

 For many years James Raven has worked at senior level for several international and national educational charities, with particular interest in educational access and widening participation, including the English-Speaking Union of the Commonwealth of which he is now Deputy Chairman (and Governor 2000-6 and 2011-). He is Chair of the Lindemann Trust for UK postdoctoral awards for scientific study in the US; and President of the Colchester and North-East Essex ESU branch since 1990). He is Trustee of the  Marks Hall Estate, Essex, Director of the Marks Hall Interpretation Centre and Museum, Director of the Cambridge Project for the Book Trust (research and publications on and Director of the Mapping the Print Culture of Eighteenth-Century London project. He is a regular reviewer for the Times Literary Supplement, and an occasional contributor to radio and television programmes.

James Raven gave the 2008 Karmiole Lecture in Los Angeles and in 2010 he gave the 25th annual Panizzi lectures at the British Library, London, (named in honour of the great nineteenth-century architect of the British Museum) on London Booksites: Places of Printing and Publication before 1800’ with lectures on ‘Antient Shops and Conversible Men’, ‘Versatility and the Gloomy Stores of Literature’, and ‘Industry, Fashion, and Pettifogging Drivellers’. View the slides and listen to the podcasts on the British Library website. His keynote address to launch the 'Electronic Enlightenment Project' at Oxford is available online.

His latest book, What is the History of the Book?, is currently being translated into several languages. A review in Library and Information History (34: 4 241, Nov 2018) concluded:

‘“Easy writing”, wrote the playwright Sheridan, “is damned hard writing.” For James Raven this must have been damned hard writing indeed, for the result is reading which lightly carries a lifetime of learning and will surely act as an inspiration to others, not least to young scholars who are coming new to the field.’


























Departments and Institutes

Magdalene College:

Research Interests

British, European and colonial social and cultural history since c. 1500

Research Supervision

Seventeenth-, eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century cultural history, with particular interests in:

  • Historical, Communications and Cultural Studies after 1500;
  • The history of representations, emotion, humour and cross-cultural relations;
  • Hospitality and immigrant and foreign language communities;
  • Translation and language learning;
  • The cultural history of loss and the relationship between any of the following: material culture, spatial aspects of memory, communications networks, the past in relation to social media and the language of space.   


British, European and colonial history c.1450-1800

Other Professional Activities

Deputy Chairman of the English-Speaking Union of the Commonwealth

Vice President, Bibliographical Society

Director, Cambridge Project for the Book Trust

Trustee, Marks Hall Estate


  • Economic, Social History
  • British social history c.1600-1850

Key Publications



  • What is the History of the Book? (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2018)
  • (ed.) Lost Mansions: Essays on the Destruction of the Country House (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015)  
  • Publishing Business in Eighteenth-Century England (Boydell, 2014) 
  • Bookscape: Geographies of Printing and Publishing in London before 1800  [the Panizzi Lectures 2010] (Chicago and The British Library, 2014)  
  •  (ed.), Books between Europe and the Americas: Transatlantic Literary Communities 1620-1860 [with Leslie Howsam] (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011)
  • The Business of Books: Booksellers and the English Book Trade 1450-1850 (London and New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007) – awarded the De Long prize for 2008(ed.) Lost Libraries: The Destruction of Book Collections since Antiquity (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004)
  • London Booksellers and American Customers: Transatlantic Literary Community and the Charleston Library Society, 1748-1811 (Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 2003)
  • The English Novel 1770-1829 2 vols.(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), with Peter Garside and Rainer Schöwerling
  •  (ed.) Free Print and Non-Commercial Publishing since 1700 (London and Vermont: Ashgate Press, 2000)
  • The Practice and Representation of Reading in England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), with Helen Small and Naomi Tadmor (eds.)
  • Judging New Wealth: Popular Publishing and Responses to Commerce in England, 1750-1800 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992)
  • British Fiction 1750-1770: A Chronological Checklist of Prose Fiction Printed in Britain and Ireland (London, New York and Toronto: Associated University Press, 1987). 

Books, completed, forthcoming and in progress

  • (ed.) The Oxford Illustrated History of the Book (Oxford University Press, under contract for 2020)
  • Lottery Lives: Gambling and the British State (Oxford University Press) 
  • John Nourse: Enlightenment Bookseller completion of book begun by the late Giles Barber (Librarian, Taylor Institution, Oxford).




    • ’When the walls come down: after the destruction of Marks Hall,’ in David Cannadine and David Musson (eds.), The British Country House: Past. Present Future (New York: Rizzoli International Publications, 2018): 349-53.
    • ‘London jobbing, the economy and a lost world of print’ in Robin Myers, Michael Harris and Giles Mandelbrote (eds.), Craft and Capital: Balancing the Books (Abingdon and New York: Routledge, 2018).
    • 'Debating the lottery in Britain c. 1750-1830’ in Manfred Zollinger (ed.), Random Riches: Gambling Past and Present (Routledge: Abingdon and New York, Ashgate, 2016): 87-104
    • ‘Distribution: The Transmission of Books in Europe and its Colonies: Contours, Cautions, and Global Comparisons’ in Joseph P. McDermott and Peter Burke (eds.), The Book Worlds of East Asia and Europe, 1450-1850: Connections and Comparisons (Hong Kong University Press, 2015): 147-80
    • ‘Why Ephemera Were Not Ephemeral: The Effectiveness of Innovative Print in the Eighteenth Century’, Modern Humanities Research Association Yearbook of English Studies, 45 (2015): 56-73. 
  • ‘”Print Culture” and the perils of practice’ in Jason McElligott and Eve Patten (eds.), The Perils of Print Culture: Book, Print and Publishing History in Theory and Practice (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015): 218-37
  • ‘Country houses and the beginnings of bibliomania’, in Matthew Dimmock, Andrew Hadfield and Margaret Healy (eds.), The Intellectual Culture of the English Country House 1500-1700 (Manchester University Press, 2015): 163-77
  • ‘Printing and Business between the Sixteenth and Eighteenth Centuries: Some Thoughts’ in James Connolly (ed.), Print Culture Histories Beyond the Metropolis (Toronto University Press, 2015)
  • ‘A Printed Culture?’ in Hamish Scott (ed.) The Oxford Handbook of Early Modern History (Oxford University Press, 2015): 214-43; also available in Oxford Handbooks Online 001.0001/oxfordhb-9780199597253-e-28   
  • ‘Production’ in Peter Garside and Karen O’Brien (eds.), The Oxford History of the Novel in English: Volume 2: English and British Fiction 1750-1820 (Oxford University Press, 2014): 3-28   
  • ‘The Industrial Age’ in Leslie Howsam (ed.) The Cambridge Companion to the History of the Book (Cambridge University Press, 2015)  
  • ‘From Worcester to Longmans: Devising the history of the book’ in Miles Taylor (ed.),  The Age of Asa: Lord Briggs, Public Life and History in Britain (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015): 267-87
  • ‘Choses banales, imprimés ordinaires: ‘travaux de ville’, l'économie et le monde de l'imprimerie que nous avons perdus’, Histoire et civilisation du livre: revue internationale 9 (2013 [2014]): 243-58
  • ‘Bibliomania and the private library’ in a special issue (ed. Rebecca Bowd) of Library and Information History 29: 3 (Aug. 2013)  
  • ‘Booksellers in court: Approaches to the legal history of copyright in England before 1842’, Law Library Journal 104: 1 (Winter 2012): 115-34  
  • §     ‘Liberality and librolarceny: Archbishops and their public libraries in the seventeenth century’, Lambeth Palace Library Annual Review 2010 (London, 2011): 58-76
  • ‘Letters, correspondents and correspondence’, Electronic Enlightenment on-line, Voltaire Foundation, 2011.
  • ‘London and the central sites of the English book trade’ in Michael F. Suarez and Michael L. Turner (eds.), The Cambridge History of the Book in Britain: Volume. V (Cambridge University Press, 2009): 293-308 
  • ‘The Book as a commodity’ in Michael F. Suarez and Michael L. Turner (eds.), The Cambridge History of the Book in Britain: Volume. V (Cambridge University Press, 2009): 85-117 
  • 'London and the development of the English book trade c. 1690-1820’, in Kazuhiko Kondo and Ito Takeshi (eds.), Bessatsu Toshishi Kenkyu (Tokyo, 2007): 204-23
  • The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography: dictionary or encyclopaedia?’, Historical Journal 50 (2007): 991-1006
  • ‘The material contours of the English novel, 1750-1830’, in Barry Ive and Jenny Mander (eds.), Remapping the Rise of the European Novel 1500-1850 (Oxford: Voltaire Foundation, 2007): 101-26
  • ‘Social libraries and library societies in eighteenth-century North America’, in Kenneth E. Carpenter and Thomas A. Augst (eds.), Institutions of Reading: The Social Life of Libraries in the United States (Boston: University of Massachusetts Press, 2007): 24-52.
  • 'Libraries for sociability: the advance of the subscription library, c. 1700-1850’, in Giles Mandelbrote and Keith Manley (eds.), The History of Libraries in Britain and Ireland vol. 2. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006): 241-63
  • ‘La circulation du livre et les classiques: l’antiquité et les bibliothèques américaines avant 1820’, in Catherine Volpilhac-Auger (ed.), D’une Antiquité l’autre: La littérature antique classique dans les bibliothèques du XVe au XIXe siècle (Paris: ENS Editions, 2006): 199-215
  • ‘Publishing the English novel in the age of Jane Austen’, Bulletin du Bibliophile (2005): 293-318
  • ‘Production and publishing’, in Janet Todd (ed.), Jane Austen in Context: The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Jane Austen (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005): 194-203
  • ‘Publishing and bookselling’, in Martin Daunton (ed.), The Organisation of Knowledge in Victorian Britain (London: British Academy, 2006): 263-86
  • ‘Londres’ in Jean-Dominique Mellot (ed.), Dictionnaire encyclopédique du livre: tome 2 (Paris: Editions du Cercle de la Librairie, 2005)
  • ‘Publishing and bookselling 1660-1780’, in John Richetti (ed.), The New Cambridge History of English Literature 1660-1780 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005): 11-36  
  • 'Cheap and cheerless: English novels in German translation and German novels in English translation 1770-1799', in W. Huber (ed.), The Corvey Library and Anglo-German Cultural Exchanges, 1770-1837 (Munich: Wilhelm Fink, 2004): 1-33
  • 'St Paul's Precinct and the book trade to c.1800', in D. Keene, A. Burns, and A. Saint (eds.), St Paul's: The Cathedral Church of London, 604-2004, (London and New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004): 430-8
  • 'Location, size and succession: the bookshops of Paternoster Row before 1800', in R. Myers, M. Harris, and G. Mandelbrote (eds.), The London Book Trade: Topographies of Print in the Metropolis from the Sixteenth Century, (Newcastle DE and London: Oak Knoll and British Library, 2003): 89-126
  • 'The anonymous novel in Britain and Ireland, 1750-1830', in R. J. Griffin (ed.), The Faces of Anonymity: Anonymous and Pseudonymous Publication from the Sixteenth to the Twentieth Century, (New York and Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003): 141-66
  • 'An antidote to the French? English novels in German translation and German novels in English translation', Eighteenth Century Fiction,14: 3-4 (2002): 715-34.
  • 'Gran Bretagna 1750-1830' [English version], in F. Moretti (ed.), Il romanzo III: Storia  geografia, (Turin and Princeton, NJ: Giulio Einaudi and Princeton University Press, 2002): 311-33; also issued in Italian and Korean; reprinted 2006, Princeton University Press and the British Library
  • 'The economic context', in J. Barnard and D. F. McKenzie (eds.), The Cambridge History of the Book in Britain: volume IV 1557-1695 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002): 568-82
  • 'British publishing and bookselling: constraints and developments', in J. Michon and J. Y. Mollier (eds.), Les mutations du livre et de l'édition dans le monde du XVIIIe siècle a l'an 2000 (Quebec and Paris: Presses de l'université Laval and l'Harmattan, 2001): 19-30
  • 'Constructing bookscapes: experiments in mapping the sites and activities of the London book trades of the eighteenth century', in J. Murray (ed.), Mappa Mundi: Mapping Culture/Mapping the World, (University of Windsor, Working Papers in the Humanities, 2001): 35-59
  • 'The book trades', in I. Rivers (ed.), Books and Their Readers in Eighteenth-Century England: New Essays (London and New York: Leicester University Press, 2001): 1-34
  • 'Commodification and value: interaction in book traffic to North America, c. 1750-1820', in B. Bell, P. Bennett, and J. Bevan (eds.), Across Boundaries: The Book in Culture and Commerce (Winchester and New Castle, DE: St Paul's Bibliographies and Oak Knoll Press, 2000): 73-90
  • 'The importation of books in the eighteenth century', in H. Amory and D .Hall (eds.), The Colonial Book in the Atlantic World: The History of the Book in North America (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1999): 183-98
  • 'New reading histories, print culture, and the identification of change: the case of eighteenth-century England', Social History, 23 (1998): 268-87
  • 'The export of books to colonial North America', Publishing History, 42 (1997): 21-49
  • 'Establishing and maintaining credit lines overseas: the case of the export book trade from London in the eighteenth century, mechanisms and personnel', in L. Fontaine and G. Postel-Vinay (eds.), Des personnes aux institutions: réseaux et culture du crédit du XVIe au XXe siècle en Europe (Louvain-la-Neuve: Bruylant-Academia, 1997): 144-62
  • 'Gentlemen, pirates and really respectable booksellers: some Charleston customers for Lackington, Allen & Co', in A. Hunt, G. Mandelbrote, and A. Shell (eds.), The Booktrade and its Customers 1450-1900: Historical Essays for Robin Myers (Winchester and Newcastle, DE: St Paul's Bibliographies, 1997): 247-64
  • 'Memorializing a London bookscape: the mapping and reading of Paternoster Row and St Paul's Churchyard, 1695-1814', in R. Alston (ed.), Order and Connexion: Studies in Bibliography and Book History (Woodbridge: Boydell and Brewer, 1997): 177-200
  • 'I viaggi dei lbri: realtà e raffigurazioni', in M. G. Tavoni and F. Waquet, (eds.), Gli spazi del libro nell'Europa del XVIII secolo (Bologna: Patron Editore, 1997): 47-86
  • 'Imprimé et transactions économiques: représentation et interaction en angleterre aux XVIIe et XVIII siècles', Revue d'histoire moderne et contemporaine, 43: 2 (1996): 234-65
  • 'The representation of philanthropy and reading in the eighteenth-century library', Libraries and Culture, 31: 2 (1996): 492-510
  • 'Le commerce de librairie "en gros" à Londres au XVIII siècle', in F. Barbier, S. Juratic, and D. Varry (eds.), L'Europe et le livre: Réseaux et pratiques du négoce de librairie XVIe-XIXe siècles (Paris: Klincksieck, 1996): 157-72
  • 'Defending conduct and property: the London press and the luxury debate', in J. Brewer and S. Staves (eds.), Early Modern Conceptions of Property (Los Angeles, 1995): 301-22
  • 'Du qui au comment: A la recherche d'une histoire de la lecture en Angleterre', in R. Chartier (eds.), Histoires de la lecture: Un Bilan des recherchess (Paris: IMEC, 1995): 141-63
  • 'The representation of the city in the age of Mozart', in M. Csàky and W. Pass (eds.), Europa im Zeitalter Mozarts (Vienna: Bohlau-Verlag, 1995): 72-6
  • 'Modes of reading and writing in the private library', in P. Goetsch (ed.), Lesen und Schreiben im 17, und 18. Jahrhundert  (Tübingen, 1994): 49-60
  • 'Selling one's life: James Lackington, eighteenth-century booksellers and the design of autobiography', in O .M. Brack (ed.), Writers, Books and Trade: An Eighteenth-Century Miscellany for William B. Todd (New York, 1994): 1-24
  • 'The representation of credit in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries', in L. Fontaine and G. Postel-Vinay (eds.), Les chaines du crédit en Europe XVIIe-XIXe siècles (Lyon, 1994)
  • 'The wholesaling of books in early modern Europe', in F. Barbier and D. Varry (eds.), Librairies et nègoce en Europe, annèes 1510-1830  (Lyon, 1994)
  • 'Selling books across Europe', Publishing History, 34 (1993): 5-20
  • 'Serial advertisement in eighteenth-century Britain and Ireland', in R. Myers and M. Harris (eds.), Serials and their Readers, (Winchester and Detroit: Oak Knoll and St Paul's Bibliographies, 1993): 103-24
  • 'Sablukov, beauty and English titles at St Petersburg', Factotum (Dec. 1992)
  • 'Book distribution networks in early modern Europe: the case of the western fringe (La rete distributiva del libro), Produzione e commercio della carta e del libro secc. XIII-XVIII', Istituto Internazionale de Storia Economica F.Datini Prato, 23 (1991): 583-630
  • 'The abolition of the English state lotteries', Historical Journal, 34 (1991): 371-89
  • 'The Noble brothers and popular publishing', The Library, 6th ser., 12 (1990): 239-345
  • 'British history and the enterprise culture', Past and Present, 123 (May 1989): 178-204
  • 'The publication of fiction in Britain and Ireland', Publishing History, 24 (1988): 31-48
  • 'Commercial marts and early newspapers in Britain and the American colonies', Journal of Newspaper and Periodical History, 2: 2 (1986)
  • 'Viscount Townshend and the Cambridge Prize for Trade Theory', Historical Journal, 28 (1985): 535-55


Forthcoming articles/chapters 

    • ‘Transforming the Eighteenth-Century Book Trade: John Nourse and his Enlightenment Bookshops on the Strand,’ in Neil Keeble and Tessa Whitehouse (eds.) Textual Transformations: Books and their Makers from Richard Baxter to Samuel Taylor Coleridge (Oxford University Press, 2019)
    • ‘Books’ in Ann Blair, Paul Duguid, Anja Goeing, and Anthony Grafton (eds.), A History of Modern Information [Information: A Historical Companion] (Princeton University Press, 2019)
    • ‘Publishing Business in Eighteenth-Century Ireland’ in Louisiane Ferlier (The Royal Society), Bénédicte Miyamoto (Université Sorbonne Nouvelle) (eds.), Innovative Practices: Circulation in the Book Trade (special edition of the Book Collector 2019)
    • ‘La fondation et le développement des bibliothèques en Grande-Bretagne au XVIIIe siècle’, in Anne Saada (ed.), La circulation des livres dans les bibliothèques européennes au XVIIIe siècle: constitution des fonds et pratiques savants.
    • Jobbing: Was it the financial mainstay of the printing house?’ in Robin Myers, Michael Harris and Giles Mandelbrote (eds.), Balancing the Books (Oak Knoll and British Library)


Published reviews - more than 120 since 1985, in learned journals, periodicals, and TLS, THES, Observer, Times among others