School of History, Classics & Archaeology

Funding for 'Alice Thornton’s books: Remembrances of a woman’s life in the seventeenth century’ project

Dr Cordelia Beattie, Senior Lecturer in History, and Dr Suzanne Trill, Senior Lecturer in English Literature, have been awarded AHRC funding for the three-year project.

HCA Image of Drs Beattie and Trill viewing Alice Thornton's book in Durham Cathedral
Alison Cullingford, Dr Suzanne Trill and Dr Cordelia Beattie with Alice Thornton's work © Chapter of Durham Cathedral

The School was delighted to hear that Dr Beattie and Dr Trill had received a grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) to conduct a £1million research project into the autobiographical writings of Alice Thornton (1626-1707) and create a digital edition, accessible to researchers and members of the public.

The three-year research project will be carried out in partnership with Durham Cathedral where Dr Beattie found one of Alice’s books, presumed missing since the late nineteenth century in 2019. In 2018, Dr Beattie had located another book written by Alice Thornton that was presumed missing, in private hands. This book, microfilmed for Yale in the 1930s, has now been gifted by a member of the Comber family to the Cathedral. The other two books were acquired by the British Library in 2009.

Alice Thornton (née Wandesford) wrote four books about her life as a seventeenth-century woman, predominantly in Yorkshire, during the British civil wars. She was the daughter of Christopher Wandesford, Lord Deputy of Ireland in 1640.

The research project will enable far more detailed analysis and understanding of Thornton’s writings, including more precise dating of the books and her motives for writing and revising these accounts of her life. It will include the creation of a fully searchable online edition of all four books, the engagement of two post-doctoral research assistants, a research symposium, a range of public outputs, including lectures, a display and play at Durham Cathedral, publications, and other online resources.


Lost manuscript found in Cathedral archives

Read more about research into Alice's writing

Dr Cordelia Beattie's staff profile