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Harley Fellowships

Applying for a Harley Fellowship in the History of Cartography

(closing date 1st November each year)

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The UK cartographic context:


Purpose and value of the award

These Research Fellowships, established in memory of Brian Harley, are primarily intended to promote the use of the great wealth of cartographic material available in London and other parts of the United Kingdom. Fellowship awards normally range up to £2,000. Candidates should be aware that this is unlikely to cover the full cost of living, especially in London.


Applications are invited from anyone pursuing advanced research in the history of cartography, irrespective of nationality, discipline or profession. 'Advanced research' is taken to mean work towards a doctorate, post- doctoral research, and work of an equivalent level regardless of the applicant's formal qualifications. Proposals from early career applicants are particularly welcome. Applications will be judged on scholarly criteria. They will not normally be accepted from those living within reasonable commuting distance of their chosen collection (i.e. approximately two hours travel time each way). Recipients will be expected to be working towards publication and/or other forms of dissemination and, where appropriate, to participate in activities in the history of cartography in the region of their stay.

All applications should concern the history of cartography rather than a related discipline. The Harley Trustees require that projects we support are concerned with maps as cultural, scientific or artistic artefacts, which may be studied for their production, their meaning, their influence, or their significance in the history of ideas. The study of maps for the specific information they can provide about past landscapes would not be considered by our selection committee to fall within the history of cartography.

Scope of research

The map collections in the United Kingdom are wide-ranging in area, date and subject, and the research need not be limited to British topics. Preference will be given to interpretative studies in map history, irrespective of area, theme or period. This reflects Brian Harley's own contribution to inter-disciplinary and creative research in the history of maps and mapping throughout the world.

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In light of the current coronavirus outbreak, you are reminded that you are responsible for checking your own country’s and the UK government’s travel advice, making your own travel and accommodation arrangements and ensuring that the collections you wish to consult will be open during your visit. For UK-based research you should check local and UK government guidance regularly, as well as that of the institution/organisation in which you are intending to work.

The Trustees will consider extending the award for a period longer than 2020–21 if it becomes necessary because of restrictions arising from COVID-19.

An application must be made by a single individual. There is no special application form. An outline research proposal (in English) of not more than 1000 words, together with a curriculum vitae which includes a list of relevant publications, altogether not more than six pages in total, should be sent, preferably via email, to: Tom.Harper(at)bl.uk [change (at) to @].

The proposal should demonstrate, in appropriate detail, how the applicant intends to make use of the collections listed in his or her application. The Selection Committee will need to be assured that candidates have done as much work as they can to identify relevant material. Trustees do not want to fund time spent reading catalogues, rather than examining original documents. Please, therefore, give as much detail as you can, preferably in the form of a list of library items or of archival classes. We would not expect such a list to be complete, but you should be aware that several applications have been rejected because candidates did not appear to have a clear idea of what they wished to see. Candidates should also indicate briefly the outputs they envisage from the research they wish to undertake.

The preferred Fellowship dates should be indicated and a home (and email) address provided, if available, for notification during the Christmas period.

The candidate should also approach a referee, sending them a copy of the project proposal and drawing their attention to the Referee's form or providing them with a copy of it. This should be completed and returned (preferably via email) by 1st November. Applicants are urged to consider as referee those who could comment in detail on their work, rather than just those in a position of formal authority. It is also suggested that candidates avoid using a Harley Trustee as a referee.

If additional sources of funding are being sought, these should be described. Applicants should also indicate how they seek to fund the cost of travel and other expenses which would not be covered by a Harley Fellowship. Successful applicants working on collections outside London should note that at some stage during the tenure of their award they may have to come to London to meet a trustee. Payment will be made by bank transfer. The Trust is not responsible for any fees charged by a Fellow's own bank for administration of the bank transfer.

Awards will be announced in the following January (to be taken up over the next 18 months). The Trustees regret that feedback will not be provided to unsuccessful candidates, and they reserve the right to withhold awards in the absence of suitable candidates.

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Cartographic collections in the UK

For information about catalogues and other finding aids relating to the British Library, the National Archives [formerly the Public Record Office], the National Maritime Museum and the Royal Geographical Society see the relevant entries on the Map Collections page. There are many other collections of significance in the United Kingdom. On these see: A directory of UK map collections, 4th edition (British Cartographic Society for the Map Curators' Group); and Helen Wallis and Anita McConnell, Historians' guide to early British maps: a guide to the location of pre-1900 maps of the British Isles preserved in the United Kingdom and Ireland, Royal Historical Society Guides and Handbooks, No. 18 (London: Royal Historical Society, 1994). Candidates might also wish to consult the National Library of Scotland’s website.

History of cartography lectures

Applicants may wish to time their visit to coincide with various lecture series, generally held between November and May: the `Maps and Society' talks at the Warburg Institute, University of London, the 'Cambridge Seminars in the History of Cartography' and the 'Oxford Seminars in Cartography'. These provide an ideal opportunity to meet those actively engaged in the field. Check also John Docktor's comprehensive Calendar of forthcoming events.

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If you are engaged in a doctorate that relates to early maps, or have received an award since 1995,
please see the Researchers section of this 'Map History' site, and provide your details to the editor

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