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The Machine Reading the Archive programme offers support for new and existing digital archives projects through a series of mentoring sessions which we aim to enable researchers to explore new methods and access expert advice on digital project design.

Short descriptions of selected projects in our 2017/18 cohort are below.


Paul Chirico

My project seeks to explore the far-reaching and complex cultural presence of the early nineteenth-century poet John Clare.  As a writer with a marginal social status, who suffered serious mental ill-health and was active through a period of literary deflation when publishers were wary of producing volumes of poetry, Clare tended to find disparate and often less prestigious outlets for his work. Exploiting bibliographic, textual and software resources, I will trace Clare's presence in literary journals, newspapers, annuals, anthologies, magazines, novels, plays, musical scores and other printed texts, in radio and television broadcasts, films, audio and video recordings, and in concerts, theatrical productions, readings, lectures, and other 'ephemeral' public performances, throughout his lifetime (1793-1864) and until the end of the twentieth century. The excavation of this material will shed new light on biographical and editorial issues in Clare studies, and allow a much fuller understanding of how readers throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries (and throughout the world) encountered Clare's writings. It will also model the way in which poetry impacts on a wide range of media and discourses. Ultimately, one might trace the dissemination of an iconic phrase – for example 'I am, yet what I am none cares or knows', the opening line of one of Clare's most widely anthologised poems, first extracted by a visitor to his lunatic asylum –through print and broadcast culture in the pre-internet era.

Dr Paul Chirico is Senior Tutor and Lecturer in English at Fitzwilliam College, co-Director of the Centre for John Clare Studies at the Faculty of English, author of John Clare and the Imagination of the Reader (Palgrave, 2007) and founder of the John Clare Trust, which established a museum and educational centre at the poet's birthplace in Helpston.


Patrick Montjourides

Project description and title: Equity, fairness and justice in education: an exploration of temporal, institutional, academic and geographic dynamics

The Sustainable Development Goals agenda will shape the lives of many; citizens, governments, practitioners and researchers. It is characterized among other things by changes in roles and responsibilities of global and local actors and an expanded operational definition of development. Another notable change related to the evolution of the definition of global development is the introduction of unsettled philosophical concepts such as equity and fairness. Principles for equitable and fair societies have been discussed extensively in political philosophy without reaching a definitive answer as to what we shall pursue as an ideal of fair society. Yet global development actors are now already using measuring devices to assess the extent to which education systems are equitable. This project seeks to map out perspectives on equity in education over time by mining text from research articles and grey literature. By associating text mining and network analysis, it will explore temporal, institutional, academic and geographic dynamics at play in conveying various conception of equity, fairness and justice in education. The key research question the project seeks to answer is whether the Sustainable Development Agenda represents a possible common understanding of equity in education in light of the substantial diversity of understandings across the globe.

Patrick Montjourides (France) is a PhD candidate at the Faculty of Education and works on how philosophical concepts such as equity and fairness have entered the realm of international monitoring exercises. Prior to starting his PhD Patrick worked for 10 years at UNESCO where he was involved with global monitoring of education and issues related to its implementation at the regional and national level. 


 Dr Rune Nyrup

Project description: Philosophers of science are interested in what motivates scientific research, and in particular what role is played by the pursuit of epistemic achievements such 'knowledge', 'understanding' or 'explanation'. My project will investigate patterns of how often scientists use these terms to describe their aims in published papers, in particular in relation to claims that "more research is needed". I am interested in whether there are any differences in when scientists use different terms to describe their aims (e.g. between "applied" or "pure" science, or differences between disciplines). This will provide an empirical input into philosophical accounts of the aims of science.

Rune Nyrup is a postdoc at the Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence, where he works on the philosophy of science and ethics of artificial intelligence.


Dr Emma Spary (with Laia Portet)

Project description: In the period around 1700, European consumption of drugs was expanding in both range and quantity. New drugs were entering consumption, but although these have been studied as individual commodities (for example in histories of ’stimulants’ or ‘intoxicants’), how should we understand them in terms of pharmacological culture and consumption more generally? A large body of printed material, including medical treatises, pharmacopoeias, materia medica, natural history works, dictionaries and encyclopaedias is available for analysis. This project proposes to investigate how patterns of reference to individual drugs in this printed corpus shifted over the period from 1660 to 1730. It asks which drugs were associated with one another in receipts, how and when new drugs entered print, and how references to them changed over time. In addition to placing our understanding of which drugs were most important on a more secure quantitative basis than hitherto, the study will also shed light on an extensive corpus of some 180 works that has been little studied, clarifying the relationship between writing about, knowing and shopping for drugs by backing up text mining with archival research that has already been conducted. If time allows, we also hope to look more closely at the connection between particular drugs and certain diseases or body parts.

Emma Spary is a Reader in the Faculty of History and a Fellow of Corpus Christi College. She has worked extensively on natural history and the history of medicine in early modern Europe.


Sina Talachian

Project Description: This project is based around my PhD research concerning the invention of the Marxist historian’s scholarly persona in the Communist Party Historians’ Group. The primary archives that I am working with are the digitized archives of the Group as well as the personal archives of some of its members, which are part of the broader digitized Communist Party of Great Britain archives. The archives include personal letters, minutes of meetings of the Group, manuscripts, diary notes and essays. Given that my focus is on the scholarly persona the members of the Group fashioned I am particularly interested in the use of virtue and vice language in these documents, which are most often employed during what I refer to as key moments of persona formation—those moments of heated polemics and ‘controversies’, such as that concerning the nature of the English Revolution.

I am a PhD student in History at Cambridge University, Christ's College, focusing on modern European intellectual history, historiography and philosophy of history, which are combined in my PhD research project on the invention of the Marxist historian's scholarly persona in the Communist Party Historians' Group.

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