PERSONAL CORRESPONDENCE IN ENGLISH, 1400 – PRESENT: A CONFERENCE
University of Northampton, 10-11 September 2020
Across history people have used letters to communicate. Letters were used in the exchange of news, emotions and opinions; they constructed networks, formed and destroyed friendships and relationships. Personal correspondence has been intrinsic to human society, bonding and breaking links between individuals, family and social groups.
Historians have been alert to the value of the contents of letters for a wide range of historical perspectives. Similarly we have fixed our gaze on the letters as objects and as processes. Much of this work, however, has concentrated on specific and often quite short periods. The eighteenth century has dominated the field, although women’s letters in the early modern period have also focused minds.
In this conference and in the planned resulting edited collection we will for the first time chart the development of the English language letter and other personal correspondence, which we define loosely as correspondence sent from a named individual to other named individual/s. Papers are invited on any social, cultural, economic or political theme, and we welcome contributions that interpret the medium of “correspondence” creatively. From the gentry letters of the late medieval period through to the rise of the postcard in the mid-nineteenth century to the prison pen pal services in the present day, personal correspondence takes many forms in material, cultural and generic terms.
While we have chosen to focus on English language correspondence for this collection, we welcome contributions that represent history beyond the United Kingdom and North America, and would particularly welcome contributions that centre BAME, LGBT and women’s voices. We warmly welcome contributions from postgraduate and early career researchers. We are applying for funding to support travel and registration costs for ECR/postgraduate attendees, though we won’t be able to confirm the details of that for a little while.
We invite abstracts of a maximum 200 words to be submitted by Friday 15 May.