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Dr Richard Marsden 


Overview

I am primarily interested in the ways in which the past is used as a cultural and ideological resource in the creation of identities. I have researched this theme with reference to ethnic identities in the ‘Celtic’ societies of medieval Britain and have also examined the construction of personal narratives whilst working as a researcher at the University of Glamorgan. However, the main thrust of my expertise is in the conceptualisation and construction of the past in Britain during the late eighteenth, nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This was the focus of my doctoral thesis at the University of Glasgow and the monograph I recently submitted for publication.

Forthcoming Monograph

Marsden, R. (2013, forthcoming), Cartularies and Calotypes: Cosmo Innes and the Defence of Scotland’s Past c. 1825-1875, Farnham, Ashgate Publishing

This is an interdisciplinary and cross-period study examining how medieval and early modern sources were presented and interpreted in Scotland during the nineteenth century, and how this contributed to conceptualizations of the Scottish past in the period. In order to achieve this, it focuses on the work of the record scholar and legal antiquary Cosmo Innes, who was situated at the heart of Scotland’s historical communities during the nineteenth century. Key areas of discussion include the treatment of records pertaining to institutions such as the medieval church, the Scottish parliament, the burghs and the universities; changing approaches to family history; and the use of visual sources such as manuscript facsimiles, book illustrations and architectural photography. The thesis argues that new approaches to sources made a crucial contribution to the re-assertion of a historically-based Scottish identity within the Union, following critiques of Scotland’s past during the Enlightenment. This record movement not only elevated antiquarianism to Scotland’s intellectual mainstream, but also combined elements of Enlightenment and Romanticism to create new visions of Scotland’s pre-Union history whose viability was based on aesthetic sensibilities and a sense of the tangibility of the past. In this way the thesis throws new light on the supposed ‘strange death of Scottish history’ in the 1840s and 1850s.

Other Research

As well as preparing Cartularies and Calotypes for publication and working on a related article for the Scottish Historical Review, I am developing on a similar approach to Welsh history-writing in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. A recent journal article and book chapter on modern interpretations of the writings of Gerald of Wales form an early stage in that research. In a related vein, I am also interested in how present-day ideas about heritage in Britain tap into and sustain a whole range of national, cultural and social identities. I would be pleased to hear from anyone with similar interests and would be happy to receive enquiries about consultancy work relating to history-writing and the construction of the past in Britain over the past 250 years.