BECC-BSECS Postgraduate Travel Award 2018


The Birmingham Eighteenth-Century Centre and the British Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies run an annual travel award. The winner of the 2018 award is Dr Elizabeth Spencer (York) for her project 'Women and Accounting, 1680-1830'.

The award is designed to support a doctoral researcher enrolled at a UK university or postdoctoral researcher normally resident in the UK in visiting and using the eighteenth-century resources of the Cadbury Research Library at the University of Birmingham.  The extensive eighteenth-century holdings of this collection are detailed on the library page.

Applicants are also encouraged to take advantage of the rich eighteenth-century resources available in Birmingham more widely, including the Library of Birmingham, Birmingham Museum Trust, Soho House, Think Tank and the Assay Office, as well as the Barber Institute of Fine Arts at the University of Birmingham.

How to apply

The competition for 2018 has now closed.

Terms of award

1. The award of £400 is generously funded jointly by BRIHC (Birmingham Research Institute for History and Cultures) at the University of Birmingham and the British Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies. The deadline for claiming the award will be Monday 25 June 2018. 

2. Candidates will be asked, in addition to their visit, to do three things:

  • provide a written report on the research visit
  • write a blogpost of up to 1,000 words for the BECC/BRIHC website
  • return to Birmingham in the following academic year to give a presentation about the research, ideally as part of an existing event or seminar series in the University of Birmingham research programme; this later visit will be supported by additional travel expenses

3. Early Career Researcher: this award is open to any doctoral researcher enrolled at a UK university, or any post-doctoral researcher normally resident in the UK, and within five years of the award of their PhD.  Preferential treatment may be given to applications from doctoral researchers.

4. The award is designed to support research in the eighteenth century, making use of the relevant holdings of the Cadbury Research Library.

Recent award winners include Tess Somervell (PhD English Faculty, University of Cambridge), whose Postdoctoral Research Project was entitled Risk in Augustan Georgic; she came to study the notebooks of Richard Jago, author of one of the most significant eighteenth-century poems in the georgic mode, Edge-Hill. Another winner was Grace Harvey (PhD student, University of Lincoln, School of English and Journalism), whose thesis is entitled The Politics of Friendship in the 1790s Radical Novel; she came to study letters of Joseph Priestley and the diary and scrapbook of Catherine Hutton, combining her visit with research into materials held in the Library of Birmingham.

Report by a previous winner: Freya Gowrley

The following report is by an earlier winner,  Freya Gowrley, who was a PhD candidate in History of Art at the University of Edinburgh (the working  title of her thesis was The sociability of things: women, material culture and domestic space in Britain, 1760-1820):

As the recipient of the BSECS and Birmingham Centre for Eighteenth-Century Studies Travel Award I spent a week in the Cadbury Research Library, part of the University of Birmingham’s thriving research culture. The travel award gave me the opportunity to conduct work vital for the completion of my PhD, which examines the relationship between women, material culture and domesticity in the period 1760-1820. Whilst there, I consulted a huge array of eighteenth- and early-nineteenth-century sources, including scrap books, diaries, pocket books, travel journals and letters (many of which are included in the BECC reading list).

Specifically, I focused on correspondence and ephemera relating to women’s experiences, paying particular attention to records of gift exchange, travel journalism and collecting or purchasing material objects. These included the travel diary of Mary Ann Keene, a young girl who described a familial tour through the West of England and Wales in fascinating detail, and the letters of Ann Ambler, written mostly to her cousin’s children, and which shed crucial light on schooling and educative practices in late eighteenth-century Britain. I also examined the diaries of Ann Prest, kept using the Ladies own Memorandum Book of 1771. Filled with short, daily entries regarding Prest’s day-to-day activities, the diaries constitute important examples of this kind of journal-keeping, whilst simultaneously providing information on contemporary forms of social activities such as tea drinking, travelling, and weddings. Finally, I was able to consult the capacious Jerningham correspondence, comprised of 1764 letters and 10 volumes of journals. Like the Ambler letters, many of the Jerningham letters discuss the young family members’ time at school, and also include letters from well-known correspondents, such as the ‘Ladies of Llangollen’ and Fanny Burney.

During my time at the Cadbury, both the archivists and colleagues from the University of Birmingham were welcoming and extremely helpful. Several of the Cadbury’s archivists took time out of their own schedules to sit with me and discuss further resources to consult during my time there, and if I had any queries or problems at all, they were quickly and efficiently dealt with. Ultimately, visiting the Cadbury Research Library allowed me to access a wealth of primary source materials dealing with essential themes for my PhD thesis, which I would have been unable to consult without the Travel Award.

Further information

Informal enquiries about the award may also be directed to