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Birkbeck historian awarded British Academy/Wolfson Fellowship

A major grant will enable Dr Rebecca Darley to produce the first ever study of the Western Indian Ocean in Late Antiquity.

Decorative coin from the Madras Government Museum in Chennai
A decorative copy of a coin, c. 550-600, currently located in the Madras Government Museum, Chennai.

Dr Rebecca Darley, Senior Lecturer in Medieval History, is one of six talented early career researchers who has been awarded a British Academy/Wolfson Fellowship, as part of a major initiative to promote and support high quality research in the humanities and social sciences across the UK.

The Fellowships have been made possible through a generous £10 million donation from the Wolfson Foundation, the largest ever single grant awarded in the humanities and social sciences by the Foundation.

Dr Darley has been awarded £130,000 for her project, in which she will produce the first ever study of the Western Indian Ocean in Late Antiquity (c. AD 200-800), arguing for this as a distinct period that offers new ways to understand global history. This period and region witnessed numerous societies, from huge empires to kingdoms and chieftaincies undergoing processes that simultaneously led to comparative political and economic homogenisation, and social diversification and division.

She said: “This funding will be career-changing in enabling me to write the first global history of the Western Indian Ocean in Late Antiquity, working with colleagues all over the world.

“The project will provide me with two years of research leave in which to write my monograph on the Western Indian Ocean c. 200-800 CE. This will expand substantially on work done as part of my PhD, completed in 2013, and include research conducted since then into material culture and political economic systems in this space.

“As my first monograph, this will be a significant milestone in my own research and, I hope, for Indian Ocean and global history. I am particularly delighted that this funding will also enable me to discuss my research and develop my ideas in dialogue with colleagues in Turkey, Egypt, Ethiopia, India and Pakistan, and to present my research to public audiences in the UK and around the Indian Ocean via exhibitions and texts for school-age learners."

Paul Ramsbottom, Chief Executive of the Wolfson Foundation, said: “It is very exciting to be able to announce funding for some superb early career researchers. The range and quality of research is extraordinary, and there could be no more important moment to support the next generation of researchers.”

Robin Jackson, Chief Executive of the British Academy, said: “We are delighted to continue to work with the Wolfson Foundation and are truly grateful for its support. Fostering the next generation of talented humanities and social science researchers is a major priority for the British Academy, and our new British Academy/Wolfson Fellowships scheme is a vital part of that endeavour. We wish the Fellows every success and look forward to seeing the results of their work.”

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