Beasts at the British Academy

We thought you might like to see what we got up to at the British Academy on Monday 22 June when we gave a lecture at the invitation of Professor Chris Smith, Director of the British School at Rome.


The British Academy

For those who don’t know, the British Academy is the UK’s expert body that supports and speaks for the humanities and social sciences – that rich variety of disciplines that study peoples, cultures and societies, past, present and future (What is the British Academy? It funds research across the UK and in other parts of the world, in disciplines ranging from archaeology to economics, from psychology to history, and from literature to law – producing knowledge, insights, and ideas that help us to address the great challenges of our time.

The Academy receives around £30m a year in Government grants to support its work which includes funding British Schools overseas, including the BSR in Italy. It also operates autonomously as a Fellowship of more than 1,000 of the world’s most eminent scholars in the humanities and social sciences, elected for their outstanding research. As a recently elected Fellow of the Academy, Matthew had been there earlier in the day but we couldn’t resist a beast-related photo opportunity on the way in.


Boys and Beast-Matthew and Steve (aka Prof. Matthew Collins and Prof. Stephen Milner)

The lecture, entitled ‘Books and Beasts: the anatomy of the textual corpus’ showcased the work we’ve been doing on the biological data which can be derived from the book object itself through the analysis of the skins on which texts were written and printed and other analysable deposits left on the texts. It was a throwback to the US East coast tour of 2014 but gratifying to see how much further the research had progressed over the last twelve months. We had lots of great questions and feedback from the audience including discussions of the prevalence of acne bacteria on monastic texts!


making shadow puppets

A huge thanks to the Director of the BSR, Professor Christopher Smith, and all the BSR team in London for a wonderful evening enjoyed by all. It was great to hear about the sterling work being done across the range of disciplines at the BSR and be associated with its outstanding research culture (see


Friends old and new at the fabulous reception


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