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Libraries of the Enlightenment: An Introduction to the Eighteenth-Century Libraries Online Database

Friday, October 20, 2023 - 12:00 PM | Livestream | open to the public | free of charge | registration required

For the past four years, an international team of researchers led by the University of Liverpool in the UK has been exploring the history of libraries and reading habits in the eighteenth century, shedding dramatic new light on the contribution made by books to social, cultural and political change in this vital period in the formation of the modern world. The New York Society Library, with our extensive 18th-century history, is pleased to be a partner library in this project. This talk will feature two of the leading researchers on the project talking through some of their key findings, while also giving audience members a behind-the-scenes look at the project’s database before it is launched to the public later this year.

Dr. Sophie Jones is a Lecturer in Modern British History at the University of Liverpool, and has been a Postdoctoral Research Associate on the ‘Libraries, Reading Communities and Cultural Formation in the Eighteenth-Century Atlantic’ project since it began in October 2019. Sophie received her PhD from the University of Liverpool in 2018 and previously held a PDRA position at Keele University. An historian of the eighteenth-century British Atlantic, she has published on a range of topics including loyalism, early-modern merchant families, eighteenth-century subscription libraries, and early-modern literacy. Her research has been funded by the Library Company of Philadelphia, the American Antiquarian Society, the New York State Archives, the British and European Associations for American Studies, and the United Empire Loyalist Association of Canada. Sophie is primarily interested in the socio-cultural development of the North American colonies, and her first monograph project considers how local socio-cultural contexts shaped political identities in New York during the American Revolution.

Dr. Mark Towsey leads the project "Libraries, Reading Communities and Cultural Formation in the Eighteenth-Century Atlantic," working with collaborators and partners across the UK, USA, and Australia. He studied at the University of St Andrews at undergraduate and postgraduate level, completing his doctorate in 2007. After one year at the Institute of Historical Research, University of London, as the Past and Present Society’s Postdoctoral Fellow, he arrived in Liverpool in October 2008 on a three-year Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship. he was then appointed to a permanent position as Lecturer in 2010, earning promotion to Professor in 2018. He is primarily interested in the history of reading in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, using the practice and experience of reading in the past as a key to understanding much broader social and cultural processes across the English-speaking world. His research on the history of reading and libraries (including four books and more than twenty peer-reviewed essays) has been funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the British Academy and the Leverhulme Trust.