British Academy President’s Medal

The Institute is pleased to report that Professor Warwick Gould FRSL, FEA, FRSA was presented with the British Academy President’s Medal 2012 in a ceremony which took place at the Academy on 8 November 2012.

The President’s Medals reward “signal service to the cause of the humanities and social sciences” and, in his case the Medal, “seeks to recognise [his] contribution to the outstanding work at the Institute of English Studies”, School of Advanced Study, University of London. 

The following is an excerpt from his acceptance speech given at the Academy.

President and Fellows:  I am profoundly grateful to accept this medal. It rewards a long tradition of engagement with the idea of an Institute of English Studies well before the founding of it fell to me. The late Harold Jenkins FBA told me that the inter-collegiate Faculty of English in London began pressing for an Institute in 1949. I was just two. The University of London established it just fifty years later, in 1999.

In Walter Savage Landor’s phrase, the Institute ‘dines late’, but the company is ‘few and select’—now ten Institutes of the School of Advanced Study (est. 1994). Each began ‘as an expression of the capacity of the University to invent and sustain new forms of academic organisation to meet national scholarly needs by drawing on the rich intellectual resources of its metropolitan location’, to quote the founding Dean, Terence Daintith. Their purpose grew with the Funding Council’s emerging vision of Research Promotion and Facilitation for their subject communities, within and beyond universities, a national resource, an international cross-roads in Bloomsbury.

Four people (two of them Fellows of this Academy), sought me out during my British Academy Readership in 1992-4, with a view to turning a then very provisional Centre for English Studies into an Institute; I expect because I was young enough to be consigned to the long haul. Ian Willison CBE of the British Library, the late Robin Alston OBE of University College, London, Ian Donaldson of Edinburgh, later Cambridge and ANU, all building on the vision of Don MacKenzie (Pembroke College, Oxford). Tonight honours their faith that an Institute could try to refocus the hospitable cluster called English Studies via revitalising core endeavours, with their root-tip in MacKenzie’s 1985 Panizzi Lectures at the British Library.

The British Academy also honours my College, Royal Holloway. The College’s long-term investment has been my long-term secondment to realize at Senate House that wider vision of a research environment for the English subject community, nationally and internationally.

Of course, the Institute works with and for all researchers who can benefit from its existence. Its bedrock is the series of more than 35 concurrent Research Seminar programmes. From these grow intellectual partnerships and networks, conferences, publications, collaborative research projects and consequent training and summer schools. While it thus develops English Studies in the widest sense, it finds its own renewable energies for research facilitation and training, in the core areas of Historical Bibliography, the History of the Book and Palaeography, Editing (in a variety of media) and Textual Transmission, fields where it has won from a variety of external funding sources a notable series of research projects undertaken with a variety of partners.

Centres for this and that are everywhere, and then suddenly nowhere: well, centres ‘cannot hold’. Our founders would be satisfied only with an Institute, held in trust in London, interacting freely with metropolitan and national libraries, museums, archives, publishers, literary estates, independent scholars, learned societies—the British Academy itself—as well as universities.

I am but the instrument of this vision which you honour tonight, and beyond that, the Academy’s award belongs to my splendid, loyal and focused colleagues at the Institute. Above all perhaps, it rewards the constant stream of Fellows and scholars who freely give time, ideas, conferences and seminars, and advanced research projects, to their peers via the Institute, and thereby contribute to our national research life in English Language and Literature.

In thanking you, President, and your Academy, I would thank them.

Warwick Gould,