Previous Oxford DNB research bursary recipients


The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography and Oxford Centre for Life-Writing research bursaries have been awarded to a number of scholars over the previous three years. Below you will find information on five of these projects.


Dr Katherine Collins (Wolfson College, University of Oxford)

Brexpats: British Expatriate Communities in Europe in the 19th and 20th Centuries

Katherine undertook a prosopographical survey of the ODNB to identify individuals that belonged to a British expat community in the 19th or 20th centuries, to draw connections between those individuals temporally and spatially, and to place them in an historical and social context. She focused particularly on how living abroad may have influenced their work and its subsequent reception in Britain.

The project sought to contribute new data to the ODNB by consulting primary sources in The Expatriate Archive Centre in The Hague, which carries a collection of life writings, photos, letters, digital material and secondary sources from the late 19th century to the present day, created from donations by expatriates and their families. It provided a deep historical and cultural context to this highly topical and important work, enriching our understanding of the lives of expatriated Britons in Europe at various times in the British past, in various locations and political climates.


Alice Little (Music Faculty, University of Oxford)

Unsung Musicians of Eighteenth-Century Oxford

Alice’s research focused on the collecting practices of the band leader and artist John B. Malchair, who collected ‘national music’ in Oxford from ca. 1770 until his death in 1812. In her project, she planned to uncover the network of previously unacknowledged – or ‘unsung’ – musicians who contributed to his collection. Using the ODNB to research these figures will make it possible to identify for the first time a group of people involved in musical networks in Oxford in the 18th century who did not necessarily have any connection to the Oxford Music Room or the University’s School of Music.

Alice’s research responded to the need to reassess our understanding of music collecting, how music was shared, and its social and cultural function in 18th-century society. She used digital technology to visualise her findings, showing Malchair’s network of contacts and their chronological and geographical coincidence in Oxford and at the Oxford Music Room, which she plans to make available as an online resource. Ultimately, her project will make an essential contribution towards a biography of Malchair, which Alice is in the process of writing.

  • Alice Little is studying for her doctorate at the University of Oxford’s Music Faculty. She writes her thesis on eighteenth-century collecting practices, focusing on the music collection of J.B. Malchair. Her research interests include 18th- and 19th-century traditional music; folk music; the history of collecting; and musical instruments.


Anna Gielas (Department of History, University of St Andrews)

The socio-cultural networks of early commercial science journals, 1797-1840

Anna’s project recreated and mapped networks of authors who contributed to Britain’s first generation of commercial science journals. The survey analysed the lives of more than 400 authors who contributed to the four earliest journals—published in the opening decades of the nineteenth century—and who have entries in the Oxford DNB. Particular attention was paid to contributors’ education, professional experience, and involvement with British and overseas science academies.

These biographical connections and themes provide new insights into the appeal and formation of this innovative strand of scientific publishing, and of the wider scientific and literary community. The project also studied authors’ engagement with formal social and professional networks to extend what’s known about those who contributed to early scientific journals. The results of Anna’s research demonstrate the extent and character of early nineteenth-century science networks.

  • Anna Gielas was studying for a PhD at the University of St Andrews on the creation of commercial science journals in Britain and Germany, 1770-1840. She is a graduate of RWTH Aachen University, in Germany, and was a visiting fellow at Harvard University, 2008-9.


Professor Christopher Warren (Associate Professor of English, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, USA)

International lives and national biographies: distant reading the Oxford DNB

Christopher’s project demonstrated how scholars might use technology to read national biographical dictionaries against their nationalist grain. In its online edition, the Oxford DNB offers new ways to mine and visualize large quantities of historical data with—here—a particular focus on the ‘hidden’ internationalisms that may be traced across the Dictionary’s 60,000 biographies. The ‘International lives’ project considered what ‘distant reading’ of national biography can tell us—in aggregate and individually—about the development and character of Britons’ internationalism and overseas engagement over time.

By treating the ODNB as a single text, Christopher’s survey studied patterns of rising (and declining) internationalism from the eleventh to the twentieth century, presenting the findings in a series of written and visual formats. In so doing it aimed to contribute to current historiographical interests in the ‘global turn’ and of the digital history for studies of the longue-durée.


Zoe Thomas (Department of History, Royal Holloway, University of London)

Prosopography of women art workers in the Arts and Crafts movement, Britain, 1870-1930

Zoe’s project provided a prosopographical survey of women art workers associated with the Arts and Crafts movement. The Oxford DNB includes entries on more than 60 women with professional associations to this movement. Zoe’s study surveyed these lives for patterns in social origin, education, family relations, and geographical mobility—furthering the survey with reference to the archive material contained within each ODNB entry.

Particular attention was paid to how these women sought to professionalize their activities and to establish a professional structure in their daily lives. Using the ODNB, Zoe’s research formed part of a larger project to write a new study of the Women’s Guild of Arts from 1907. In doing so, she seeks to demonstrate the centrality of women to the Arts and Crafts movement and to trace the ways in which women artists established professional artistic networks across Britain in the early twentieth century.

  • Zoe Thomas completed her PhD on ‘The Women’s Guild of Arts, c.1870-1930) at Royal Holloway, University of London. A graduate of Lancaster University, she is a recipient of fellowships to the Huntington Library, CA, and the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art at Yale University. Zoe worked on an edited book, Suffrage and the Artspublished via Bloomsbury in March 2018, and a monograph based on her thesis.