Reading Communities Conference

Connecting the Past and the Present

Thursday 15 - Friday 16 September 2016, Senate House

The "Reading Communities: Connecting the Past and the Present" Conference aims to bring together scholars studying reading communities and reading practices as well as oral historians, literary scholars, and those working on the relationship between reading and memory, particularly in relationship to World War II.

The last ten years have seen a burgeoning interest in collecting evidence about reading in the past. The Reading Experience Database has amassed over 32,000 individual reading experiences relating to Britain between 1450 and 1945, and parallel projects are now investigating reading in other geographical and historical realms. The increasing number of monographs, articles, and essay collections devoted to investigating the field not only demonstrates that, as Robert Darnton puts it, "reading has a history" but also in many cases showcases innovative new ways of recovering its historical traces. But how do we connect scholarly practice with present-day reading communities outside of academia? How is the historical evidence of reading relevant to contemporary reading practices? How might the two fields of knowledge be brought into a productive dialogue with one another? Are there any continuities between reading communities occupying the same spaces at different times? What might the contemporary inhabitants of a city like London have in common with historical London reading audiences? Where does the memory of reading lie, and how do we recover it? Is reading a way of connecting people through and across history?

These are the questions we will be exploring in 'Reading Communities: Connecting the Past and the Present', a one-day academic conference hosted by the Institute of English Studies, Senate House, University of London, on 15 September 2016. 

Reading Communities: Connecting the Past and the Present, an Arts and Humanities Research Council funded project:




Further information about the conference, as well as the online programme, can be accessed on the event webpage:


Attendance is free. However, attendees are required to register for the conference by emailing the Reading Communities team at

The School of Advanced Study is part of the central University of London. The School takes its responsibility to visitors with special needs very seriously and will endeavour to make reasonable adjustments to its facilities in order to accommodate the needs of such visitors. If you have a particular requirement, please feel free to discuss it confidentially with the organiser in advance of the event taking place.

Enquiries: Events Officer, Institute of English Studies, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU; Email: