Research into the early modern period at Reading was central to the foundation of several of its departments: D.J. Gordon, whose foundational work on the court masque still shapes our understanding of that genre, was one of the first heads of the English Department.
In 1989, the first interdisciplinary conference in early modern studies was held at Reading, and this established itself as biennial tradition for many years. Some publications arose directly from the conference (including James VI and I: Ideas, Authority, and Government, edited by Professor Ralph Houlbrooke after the 2003 conference); others emerged from the collaborations developed at the conference. Between 2008 and 2015, the conference was held on an annual basis, bringing together early modern scholars from around the world working in the fields of literature, history, art history, politics, modern languages and philosophy, with papers addressing topics that extend across early modern Britain, Europe and the wider world.
The Early Modern Research Centre was established in 2000 to create an institutional framework for the collaborations begun through the conference; it involved colleagues in various departments (including Modern Languages, English Literature, History, and Classics) who had a research interest in the period 1500-1750. For many years, the MA in ‘Texts in History, 1500-1750’ was run by members of the Centre. The Centre was host to the Early Modern Literature in History’ series of monographs by Palgrave founded by Professor Cedric Brown; Professor Michelle O’Callaghan continues this tradition by serving on the editorial board.
Today, the Centre continues its traditional seminars, although many will now move online, and builds on the history of collaborative working that we have inherited.