Two Postdoctoral Positions: Books and Borrowing 1750-1830

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The AHRC-funded project ‘Books and Borrowing 1750-1830: An Analysis of Scottish Borrowers’ Registers’ is currently advertising for two postdoctoral researchers (one full-time for three years, one part-time for one year).

Applications are invited for two posts as Research Fellows for the ‘Books and Borrowing, 1750-1830: An Analysis of Scottish Borrowers’ Registers’ project funded by the AHRC, in the Division of Literature and Languages, University of Stirling. The posts offer early career researchers the opportunity to lead and conduct research on historic libraries in Scotland. The project is led by Dr Katie Halsey, University of Stirling, with Dr Matthew Sangster of the University of Glasgow, and fifteen partner and supporting organisations across Scotland. The successful applicants will collaborate closely with the PI, the investigating team, and the project partners in terms of the project deliverables and high impact outputs.

The successful candidates will be responsible for the following specific duties:

1) photographing, transcribing, digitising and interpreting historic library borrowing records drawn from specified historic libraries across Scotland;
2) in conjunction with the rest of the project team, analysing this data and producing excellent research outputs relating to it, including journal articles and database paratexts;
3) knowledge exchange and public engagement work relating to specific partner libraries and other stakeholders
4) working with the two other Research Fellows on the project to organise a major international conference on the latent potential of digital archives;
5) liaising with the Digital Humanities Research Officer as needed to develop the project webpage, interface, and database.

The research will contribute to uncovering and reinterpreting the history of reading in Scotland from 1750 to 1830, reshaping our understanding of a key period in Scotland’s past. Scotland’s high rate of literacy in the period means that it is unusually rich in extant library borrowers’ registers, possessing more surviving records than any other nation in the UK, despite having less than one-tenth of England’s population. As a whole, the project will photograph, transcribe, publish and analyse an extensive corpus of at least 150,000 historic library borrowing records drawn from thirteen diverse libraries across Scotland.

In so doing, the project will complete pioneering new research in the histories of reading and the ideas. Our corpus will be the largest yet constructed in this field. Building on previous smaller-scale work by the PI and CI, the Books and Borrowing project will extrapolate the impacts of the Scottish Enlightenment, Romantic ideologies and disciplinary specialisation from a large-scale evidentiary base. This research will test previous narratives that over-emphasize the secular character of the Scottish Enlightenment and privilege the ‘Big Six’ Romantic poets over writers such as Buffon, Rollin and Tillotson, whose works were much more widely read.

The richness of the records also offers an unrivalled opportunity to interrogate a central tenet of Scottish identity and nationhood: the often unquestioned assumption that Scotland offered greater opportunities to ‘lads o’ pairts’ –talented labouring-class readers – than the other British nations. This assumption continues to dominate educational and political discourse today. The project will pay proper attention to previously ignored or marginalised communities of readers, including women and the young, in its revealing hitherto lost histories of book use and knowledge communities in Scotland.

Full details regarding both jobs can be seen on the University of Stirling website here.

The closing date is the 1st of March 2020.  We’re particularly interested in researchers with completed PhDs demonstrating advanced expertise in one or more of the following fields: Romanticism, Eighteenth-Century Studies, Library History, Book History or Scottish Studies.

For more information, or for an informal chat, please feel free to contact the Principal Investigator, Dr Katie Halsey (, or the Co-Investigator, Dr Matthew Sangster (