Stewart Mottram, research lecturer, Institute for Medieval and Early Modern Studies, department of English, University of Wales, Aberystwyth.
Advertised: The Times Higher , June 2
Stewart Mottram is one of three early-career researchers who have been brought together at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, to launch the Institute for Medieval and Early Modern Studies.
The institute is a collaborative virtual venture that also involves researchers at Bangor and Swansea universities. But Dr Mottram said that he finds it hard to feel at home in a virtual institute. "I spend four days a week on research, and for teaching I am based in the department of English.
So I feel that the department is more my home."
"We have a series of video-linked seminars that are joined by people in Cardiff and Lampeter as well, so we connect with the community in Wales. It allows someone starting out in research to meet like-minded people," he said.
Dr Mottram is studying how English and Welsh writers in the early modern period helped shape conceptions of English and British identities. He found that "British" identity was being discussed more than 200 years before the American and French revolutions.
"Some writers in 1540 were already trying to create a political reality out of England, Wales and Scotland, writing to a 'British' and international audience in three or four languages," he said. "But in imagining the idea of 'England', I believe the main focus must be Bible reading."
In the early 1500s, reading the Bible in English, not Latin, was condemned. "People were frequently killed for the act... But when English Bible reading was sanctioned by Henry VIII, it opened up possibilities. It was like the internet now - it had enormous cultural impact."