Eighteenth Century and Romantics Research School

Portrait at Fairfax House, York

The Eighteenth Century and Romantics Research School at York includes scholars and students working on diverse subjects in British literature, culture and history as well as the the Global Eighteenth Century, whose research interests range from the late seventeenth to the early nineteenth centuries.

We have close links with York’s interdisciplinary Centre for Eighteenth Century Studies and our staff are committed to cross-disciplinary research and collaboration with other departments and institutions. Members of the School are also involved in a wide range of events on campus and beyond.

Eighteenth Century and Romantics Research School

The Centre for Eighteenth Century Studies (CECS) was founded in 1996 at the University of York, and is now an internationally renowned centre for the study of the 'long' eighteenth century, 1650-1850.

Eighteenth Century and Romantics Research School

Our school includes a lively group of scholars and students with broad scholarly interests. We run the MA programme, Literature of the Romantic Period 1775-1832, and contribute to the Centre’s interdisciplinary MA in Eighteenth Century Studies.

Some recent monographs include Mary Fairclough’s The Romantic Crowd: Sympathy, Controversy and Print Culture; Jon Mee’s Print, Publicity and Popular Radicalism in the 1790s: The Laurel of Liberty and Chloe Wigston Smith’s Women, Work and Clothes in the Eighteenth-Century Novel.

Centre for Eighteenth Century Studies 

All English department staff and students who belong to the Eighteenth Century and Romantics school are members also of the Centre for Eighteenth Century Studies (CECS).  CECS is an interdisciplinary centre which brings together, at King’s Manor in the centre of York, members of the departments of Archaeology, English, History and History of Art. King’s Manor has seminar rooms, a library, computer facilities, workrooms for MA and research students, a staff-student common room and a refectory.

Seminars and Conferences

In association with the school, CECS runs a well-attended research seminar which meets four times per term for lectures by national and international speakers. In addition, CECS speakers often run special workshops for students on their research interests and professional topics. Our postgraduate students organize a lively forum that meets frequently each term.

CECS also hosts a one-day conference each term and runs, in collaboration with other institutions and centres, multi-day international conferences. Our staff has organized and contributed to conferences and study days on the following subjects:

  • Medical Matters: the cultural politics of the body in the eighteenth century
  • Portraiture: Exchanges, debates and performances, 1700-1840
  • London Scenes
  • Encounters, Affinities, Legacies: the eighteenth century in the present day
  • Networks of Improvement: British Literary Clubs and Societies, 1760-1840
  • Disseminating Dress: Britain and the World
  • Sociability and Print Culture
  • Domesticating the Exotic, Exoticising Gender
  • Sheridan, Theatre and Public Opinion
  • John Tallis’s London Street Views, 1838-1840

In connection with CECS, the school also sponsors the annual Copley lecture, in commemoration of Stephen Copley, one of the Centre's founding members. Past speakers include Nigel Leask (Glasgow), Kathryn Sutherland (Oxford), Brean Hammond (Nottingham), and Peter De Bolla (Cambridge).




Interdisciplinary approach

The school has a strongly but not exclusively interdisciplinary character, as reflected by recent books published by our members and our strong engagement with the Centre for Eighteenth Century Studies, museums and archival centres.

Current staff includes: 

Mary Fairclough, who works on the intersection between literature, science and politics in the eighteenth century and Romantic period, with particular interests in cultures of feeling, radical discourse and print culture. Her latest book investigates the science of electricity in the long eighteenth century and its textual life in literary and political writings.

Emma Major, who works on religion, politics and culture, with particular interests in gender and national identity. She has research interests across the period 1680-1890. She was awarded a British Academy Fellowship to work on her current book, Faithful Citizens 1789-1829.

Jon Mee, who works on the intersection between literature, culture and politics in the eighteenth century and Romantic period, with particular interests in radicalism, social networks, and print. He is currently writing a book on literature, science, and technology in the manufacturing cities of the north of England in the period 1760-1830.

Stephen Minta, whose research interests include Romantic poetry; romantic Hellenism; Byron; Byron and the political and cultural history of Greece.

Alison O’Byrne, who works on the representations of the city in the long eighteenth century.  She has edited a special issue of the London Journal called “London Scenes” (37:3) and is completing a book on walking in eighteenth-century London.

Jim Watt, who works on Empire and identity (1750-1840), British Orientalisms in the ‘long’ eighteenth century and Gothic literature.

Chloe Wigston Smith, who works on gender and women’s writing in the long eighteenth century, with special interests in material culture studies, the history of fashion and the history of the novel. Her current project studies domesticity and domestic artefacts in the eighteenth century Atlantic world.



Members of the School have access to a rich and expanding range of resources at York’s libraries. The University Library subscribes to Eighteenth-Century Collections Online (ECCO), with thousands of digitized facsimiles of books and periodicals from the period. The university provides access also to major research tools, including Literature Online, the MLA, JSTOR and Project Muse.

The Special Collections at the University’s Borthwick Institute holds around 30,000 books on a wide range of subjects. 18th century literature and poetry are found throughout the collection, and two collections particularly support this subject; Dyson and Heath. All items in Special Collections can be found in the online catalogue via Yorsearch.

The Dyson collection is primarily English poetry with some literary criticism and biography.  Hugo Dyson was Emeritus Fellow of Merton College, Oxford, and one of the Inklings, a literary discussion group that included C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. Publication dates range from the 17th to the 19th century, although there are later editions of Roman and Greek poetry. The collection includes the first and second editions of Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads (1798 and 1800), and Coleridge’s Fears of Solitude (1798).

The Heath collection includes holdings in 18th century poetry and other genres. Women writers include Frances Burney, playwright Elizabeth Inchbald and other members of the ‘Bluestockings’ such as Elizabeth Carter, Hester Chapone, Hannah More and Elizabeth Montagu.

Staff and students have access to the holdings at York’s Minster Library, which is particularly strong in period newspapers and sermons. A regular bus service also runs from York to the British Library Document Supply Centre at Boston Spa, which provides a comprehensive collection of monographs, manuscripts and rare books.

York and North Yorkshire includes a diverse collection of resources for researchers that reflects the area’s cultural and commercial importance during the period. These include Fairfax House, with strong holdings in furniture, domestic artefacts and annual exhibits; the Castle Museum, with good holdings in textiles and costume; Beningbrough Hall (which displays period items from the National Portrait Gallery); Shandy Hall (Laurence Sterne’s home); the Bowes Museum, with strong collections of paintings and decorative arts; and many country houses (such as Harewood House).