As regular readers of this blog will know, the WSG is celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2017 (the date is a little bit hazy – it was so long ago! – but it is generally agreed that our panel at BSECS 1987 was our first meaningful action). As part of the celebrations, WSG has not only instituted a bursary, but is in the process of compiling and editing a volume intended to be a reflection of its members’ 30 years of research and activism. Edited by Carolyn Williams, Sara Read and Louise Duckling and with a working title of the Women’s Studies Group 1558-1837 Commonplace Book, it will comprise a mixture of short research articles, reminiscences, interviews and poems by members past and present. Those interested in the upcoming book can get a taste of it by listening to Elaine Hobby, Professor of Seventeenth-Century Studies at Loughborough University and a long-time associate of WSG, in conversation with Sara Read in a separate blog post later this month.
Commonplacing was a common knowledge-making practice during the early modern period whereby people would write short extracts or digests from their reading into books under topical headings. These could be poetry, prose, quotations, proverbs, letters and prayers, which the compiler could then reference and recombine. Books could be kept for pragmatic as well as recreational reasons. Men such as Francis Bacon and John Locke famously wrote about and kept commonplace books, but women kept them too, and in recent years much work has been done on a closely related genre, the recipe book, to which the whole household might contribute. Some thought the practice of commonplacing a cause for concern, because it would encourage superficial reading.
The commonplace book as a discursive practice arguably reached its peak during the early modern period but commonplacing is by its very nature also highly personal and has continued in various forms into the Romantic period and the present day. WSG’s Commonplace Book will be a printed rather than manuscript form, but it will reflect the collaborative, interdisciplinary, unruly, highly mobile forms of interaction and support WSG has encouraged over the years. We hope to see it published in 2018.
The WSG is pleased to announce it has awarded its 30th Anniversary Bursary of £500 to Charmian Mansell for her project ‘A new history of female service in early modern England 1550-1650’, which will give a more accurate picture of everyday life for female servants, how they fitted within their local communities and how their work and sense of place shaped their identities.
Building on her PhD thesis, Charmian is producing a monograph on the history of female service. The WSG bursary will assist with research costs for this as well as a journal article on female service and space within the rural community in early modern England.
In awarding Charmian the bursary, the WSG panel highlighted her thoughtful application, its social interest, and the fact that her dataset will be deposited with the UK Data Service at the end of the project, making these records open access. They thanked the other applicants for their applications, many of which were of very high quality.
Charmian, of the University of Exeter, recently gained her PhD for research examining the experiences of female servants in the south west of England from 1550-1650. She is the current EHS Power Fellow at the IHR and tweets as @charmianmansell.
The Women’s Studies Group 1558-1837 has always been an interdisciplinary collective of scholars, interested in collaboration, and in promoting research that might not otherwise have found a champion in usual university depts, museums, libraries, or other cultural institutions. And since WSG’s founding (or at least its first event) at the BSECS conference in January 1987, this format has proved surprisingly durable. Today the WSG is going from strength to strength, with an expanded annual seminars programme, new connections made through facebook and twitter, and we’re working on a special project… more of which in the new year.
In addition to these activities, WSG is hugely excited to announce that to celebrate its 30th anniversary, the group is offering a £500 bursary to an early career researcher, independent scholar or PhD student who is a member of the Group to support research in any aspect of women’s studies in the period 1558-1837. The grant may be awarded for a new or continuing interdisciplinary or single-discipline project. For further information about the bursary, and to apply, please download the application form. For further information on membership, see here.
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