New project ‘Popular Geographical Imaginations between 1450 and 1650’ gets underway

University of Hull sign

British Academy funded research could soon shed new light on life in rural communities living in the English Midlands more than 500 years ago.

The new project, ‘Experiencing the landscape: popular geographical imaginations in the English Midlands, 1450-1650’, gets started this week at The National Archives (TNA) based in Kew.

Using court records at TNA, the small project team will investigate property and enclosure disputes in the English Midlands during this period of history, exploring what these records reveal about how early modern men and women understood and experienced the world around them.

It is also hoped that through the team’s work on previously uncatalogued sections of the archives they will be opened up to a new and wider audience of researchers for the first time.

The project, awarded a British Academy Small Grant, is being led by Dr Briony McDonagh, with additional support from Dr Josh Rodda, University of Nottingham.

Project PI Dr McDonagh said: “This was a time of considerable social, economic and environmental change, so we’re expecting the court papers to tell us a great deal about how communities negotiated landscape change and the role ordinary people played in shaping the landscape we see today.”

The project will also involve adding new catalogue descriptions of up to 500 individual court papers to the National Archives’ online search engine, as well as producing a report on an uncatalogued part of the archive.

Dr McDonagh added: “The project team hopes they will open up the central equity court papers to new groups of academics and researchers, including local and family historians who will be able to search uncatalogued sections of the archives for the first time.”

The project will also deliver two journal articles and a book chapter.

For more updates on the project, follow @BrionyMcDonagh on Twitter.

The British Academy supports and champions excellence in the humanities and social science and provides a range of grant and funding to support UK and international humanities and social sciences research.

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