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Magdalene College Cambridge

Professor James Raven FBA

Professor James Raven is a Life Fellow of Magdalene College.

He is a member of the History and English faculties, Professor in the Humanities at NTNU, Trondheim, Norway, and Emeritus Professor of Modern History at the University of Essex. He is currently President of the Bibliographical Society and Director of the Cambridge Project for the Book Trust and was formerly Reader in Social and Cultural History at the University of Oxford, and Professorial Fellow of Mansfield College, Oxford; Fellow and Director of Studies in History at Magdalene, and Munby Fellow, University of Cambridge. A Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, Fellow of the Linnean Society, and a member of the American Antiquarian Society, he has also held various visiting appointments in the United States, France, Italy and Britain. His publications in social and cultural history and cultural studies were recognized with the award of LittD from Cambridge in 2012 and he was elected to the British Academy in 2019.

For many years Professor Raven has worked at senior level for several international and national educational charities, with particular interest in educational access and widening participation, including the English-Speaking Union of the Commonwealth of which he is now Chairman. He is Chair of the Lindemann Trust for UK postdoctoral awards for scientific study in the US; and is Patron and Trustee  Emeritus of the Marks Hall Estate, Essex. He is a regular reviewer for the Times Literary Supplement, and an occasional contributor to radio and television programmes.

James Raven gave the 2008 Karmiole Lecture in Los Angeles, in 2010 the 25th annual Panizzi lectures at the British Library, London, and in 2016, the 5th Annual J. R. de J. Jackson Lecture, Toronto.

Research Interests

British, European and colonial social and cultural history since c. 1500.

Research Supervision

Seventeenth-, eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century cultural history, with particular interests in:

  • Historical, Communications and Cultural Studies after 1500;
  • The history of representations, emotion, humour and cross-cultural relations;
  • Hospitality and immigrant and foreign language communities;
  • Translation and language learning;
  • The cultural history of loss and the relationship between any of the following: material culture, spatial aspects of memory, communications networks, the past in relation to social media and the language of space.


  • MA PhD (Cantab)
  • MA (Oxon)
  • LittD (Cantab)

Professional Affiliations


2000 Fellow of the Royal Historical Society

2008 Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries

2012 Vice-President (and President-elect), Bibliographical Society

2016 Fellow of the Linnean Society

2019 Fellow of the British Academy

2020 President of the Bibliographical Society

Member, CILIP (Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals) and member, Academic and Research Libraries Group, and Rare Books and Special Collections Group


1991 Director, SHARP, 

1991 Associate, Projekt Fürstliche Bibliothek Corvey Paderborn, Germany

1997 American Antiquarian Society

Selected Publications

James Raven: Interview
On the book world of 18th-century London and Bishop Pontoppidan’s sea monsters. (British Academy Review December 2019)

What is the History of the Book? (Polity Press, in progress)

The Oxford Illustrated History of the Book (Oxford University Press, under contract)

Lottery Lives: Gambling and the British State (Oxford University Press, under contract)

(ed.) Lost Mansions: Essays on the Destruction of the Country House (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015)

Publishing Business in Eighteenth-Century England (Boydell, 2014)

Bookscape: Geographies of Printing and Publishing in London before 1800 [the Panizzi Lectures 2010] (Chicago and The British Library, 2014)

(ed.), Books between Europe and the Americas: Transatlantic Literary Communities 1620-1860 [with Leslie Howsam] (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011)

The Business of Books: Booksellers and the English Book Trade 1450-1850 (London and New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007) – awarded the De Long prize for 2008

(ed.) Lost Libraries: The Destruction of Book Collections since Antiquity (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004)

London Booksellers and American Customers: Transatlantic Literary Community and the Charleston Library Society, 1748-1811 (Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 2002)

The English Novel 1770-1829 2 vols. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), with Peter Garside and Rainer Schöwerling

(ed.) Free Print and Non-Commercial Publishing since 1700 (London and Vermont: Ashgate Press, 2000)

The Practice and Representation of Reading in England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), with Helen Small and Naomi Tadmor (eds.)

Judging New Wealth: Popular Publishing and Responses to Commerce in England, 1750-1800 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992)

Inventing the term 'Bookscape'