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Professor James Raven elected Fellow of the British Academy

last modified Jul 23, 2019 04:06 PM

James Raven, Affiliated Lecturer in the Faculty and Senior Research Fellow of Magdalene, is a pioneer of the history of the book, a subject which he has shaped over thirty years by his research and publications, and by the founding of the Cambridge Project for the Book Trust in 1990.

He has worked across disciplines to combine cultural, social and economic history with bibliography and literary communication studies to produce internationally renowned books on the history of printing, publishing, libraries and reading. His bibliography of the eighteenth-century English novel (2000) transformed the understanding of the production and reception of fiction in Britain and remains foundational for modern historical study of novels.

Since then he has produced ground-breaking studies of the economics of publishing, propaganda and unsolicited print, and the transatlantic book trade, delivered numerous named lectures around the worlds (including the Panizzi Lectures in 2010 which became an important book, Bookscape), and his work has become increasingly global, moving the History of the Book to greater conceptual ambition. His What is the History of the Book?, published last year and translated into several languages, is the first short global survey to challenge our thinking about how we define a book and what it has done since ancient times. His college-based Book Trust continues to hold major conferences and seminars to encourage and support new work, especially from younger scholars (


Next year, James becomes President of the Bibliographical Society (only the second historian to do so since 1890) and sees the publication of his major Oxford Illustrated History of the Book, a mammoth global survey of the transformation of our reading materials from ancient cuneiform tablets of 3,000 BC to the digital tablets we all hold in our hands. Among the many reasons for his election to the Academy’s Fellowship is the sheer breadth and influence of his scholarship, enabling the development of media, communication, literary and historical studies in new and engaging ways – including influencing public understanding of what a book is in a world where technology is rapidly changing our ways of reading and keeping ourselves informed and entertained by the written, printed and digitized word and image (a BBC2 television series on the Novel appears this autumn).


James is one of seventy-six academics who have been elected as Fellows of the British Academy today, in recognition of their achievements in the humanities and social sciences.  These new Fellows of the British Academy join a community of over 1400 of the leading minds that make up the UK’s national academy for the humanities and social sciences. Current Fellows include the classicist Professor Dame Mary Beard, the historian Professor Sir Simon Schama and philosopher Professor Baroness Onora O’Neill, while previous Fellows include Dame Frances Yates, Sir Winston Churchill, Baroness Mary Warnock, C.S Lewis, Seamus Heaney and Beatrice Webb.

As well as a fellowship, the British Academy is a funding body for research, nationally and internationally, and a forum for debate and engagement.

Professor Sir David Cannadine, President of the British Academy, said:

“The British Academy has always recognised pioneering research in the humanities and social sciences, and 2019 is no exception. This year we have elected a particularly multi-skilled and versatile cohort of Fellows whose research crosses conventional academic boundaries.

“Whether it is climate conservation or the ageing society, the rise of artificial intelligence or social cohesion, our new Fellows’ wealth of expertise means the Academy is exceptionally well-placed to provide new knowledge and insights on the challenges of today. Their work has opened rich new seams of understanding and discovery, offering new perspectives on long-standing and emerging challenges alike.

“I extend my warmest welcome and heartiest congratulations to all our new Fellows, Corresponding Fellows and Honorary Fellows. I look forward to working with these outstanding scholars to build on the Academy’s excellent and ever-expanding record of achievement.”



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