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History of books and reading

Studying book history with The Open University

The History of Books and Reading (HOBAR) research collaboration, based in English & Creative Writing has made major contributions to the subject internationally. Members have produced numerous publications in the history of the book, including works on authorship studies, printing, publishing, bibliography, textual editing, and above all, the history of reading. The group’s research interests range widely, from early modern manuscript culture to 21st century digital reading, and from publishing studies, to the postcolonial histories of the book. The HOBAR collaboration includes a number of externally funded projects, including The UK Reading Experience Database, 1450–1945 (UK-RED) which has produced a digitised database recording the reading experiences of British subjects from 1450–1945, with over 34,000 entries.

Most recently, members have been involved in the large-scale pan-European consortium project, Reading Europe Advanced Data Investigation Tool (READ-IT), which is developing digital tools to help us uncover the hidden histories of reading. Members of the group organise regular, well-attended seminar series, conferences, and symposia promoting research in all areas of the history of books and reading.

We welcome applications in areas that correspond with current staff research interests. We look for detailed and well thought-out proposals, which set out specific research questions and outline the originality of your topic or approach. If you would like to discuss your ideas informally before submitting an application, please contact us (details below).

Qualifications available:

PhD or MPhil


For detailed information on current fees visit Fees and funding.

Entry requirements:

Minimum 2:1 (or equivalent) and an MA (or equivalent)

Potential research projects

We welcome applications to study topics that complement our current research.

Current/recent research projects

  • Popular genre fiction in Indian writing in English: recent trends in the Indian literary marketplace (Poojah Sinha)
  • James Lackington: reading and the art of self-advancement (Sophie Bankes)
  • Conrad’s reading (Helen Chambers)

Further information

If you have an enquiry specific to this research area please contact:

Dr Siobhan Campbell
+44 (0)1908 652092

For general enquiries please contact the Research Degrees Team via the link under 'Your Questions' on the right of the page.