Enlightenment and Romanticism Research Cluster

The Enlightenment and Romanticism Research Cluster is an interdisciplinary group of researchers from across the Humanities whose work engages with the history, literature and culture of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Our work is particularly interested in the intellectual and philosophical milieu of the so-called ‘Enlightenment’ and ‘Romantic’ periods in a local, national and international context. Our research aims to help to emphasise Derby and the region’s importance at the time, while also recognising the period’s broader global contribution to intellectual and cultural history. 

Our aims

The research cluster aims to promote and develop the research around the 'Enlightenment' and 'Romantic' periods and is well-placed to foster collaborations with local and national organisations. We have expertise in diverse but intersecting areas such as eighteenth and nineteenth-century literature (especially Romanticism), the history of science, environmental history, country houses, epistolary writing, publishing and print history and the history of censorship. Members of the cluster have in recent years worked with local and national organisations such as the Derby Museum and Art Gallery, the Derby Local Studies Library, Chatsworth House, Pickford’s House (Derby), Erasmus Darwin House (Lichfield) and the Wordsworth Trust (Grasmere).

"My work, which is primarily focused on Romantic-period literature, has benefitted enormously from the input of scholars from other disciplines in the cluster, particularly those from History. This has in turn helped me to recognise the significance of the region to the history of both the Enlightenment and Romanticism and to open up the possibilities of collaborations with local organisations. In this way, the research cluster has helped me to further appreciate that Romantic poets did not write in a vacuum and that their work may well have had an under-appreciated local dimension" – Dr Paul Whickman.  

Research Cluster Team

Our research

Trees and the English Lake District: A Literary and Arboreal History

As an active member of the Enlightenment and Romanticism Research Cluster, Dr Anna Burton has undertaken research for her project entitled, Trees and the English Lake District: A Literary and Arboreal History. Through the lens of literary Lakeland writers this project explores the cultural significance of tree planting and cultivation in the Lake District national park. Anna undertook a research fellowship with the British Association for Romantic Studies and The Wordsworth Trust in 2022 and, through this, she developed her initial research on the significance of the Wordsworth family's Lakeland tree plantings. Anna has developed aspects of this work for publications now in process, has given public talks, appeared on the 'Countrystride' podcast and has assisted with an exhibition commission connected to this research for The Wordsworth Trust.  


In November 2022, Dr Amanda Blake Davis co-organised 'Mush(Rooms)', a public event at Pickford's House Museum, as part of Being Human Festival: the UK’s national festival of the humanities, run by the School of Advanced Study, University of London. She received support from Research England, in partnership with the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the British Academy. Building upon the strengths and specialisms of the Enlightenment and Romanticism Research Cluster, Amanda gave a public talk on Romantic botany, mushrooms, and the local Enlightenment figures, Erasmus Darwin and Lucy Hardcastle. This was followed by an exploration of, and creative response to, the Pickford's House Georgian garden. Attendees praised the 'writing and activity inspiration' and were inspired to 'research Erasmus Darwin and Lucy Hardcastle' after the event. This event was influenced by research that Amanda undertook on the Lucy Hardcastle manuscript recently acquired by Derby Museums, and by her ongoing research on Romantic botanical poetry.

Midlands Romantic Seminar

The Enlightenment and Romanticism Research Cluster are proud hosts of the Midlands Romantic Seminar. While the series spotlights leading scholarship in Romantic Studies more generally, our programme also promotes academics based in, or whose work engages with, the Midlands of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The series is convened by Dr Paul Whickman and Dr Amanda Blake Davis.

Upcoming events

Join us

If you wish to join the cluster, are interested in applying for a PhD in the area or simply want to know more about our work, please email Dr Paul Whickman: P.Whickman@derby.ac.uk


  • Burton, Anna, Trees in Nineteenth-Century English Fiction: The Silvicultural Novel (London & New York: Routledge, 2021) Monograph. 
  • Davis, Amanda Blake, ‘“[L]ife among the dead”: Translation and Shelley’s “On a Future State”’, Romanticism on the Net, 76 (2021) https://ronjournal.org/articles/n76/ 
  • ‘“Ephemeral are gay gulps of laughter”: P. B. Shelley, Louis MacNeice, and the Ambivalence of Laughter’, Essay Prize, English: Journal of the English Association, 70.268 (2021), 23-46 https://doi.org/10.1093/english/efaa021  
  • Elliott, Paul, Erasmus Darwin's Gardens: Medicine, Agriculture and the Sciences in the Eighteenth Century (Woodbridge, Suffolk: Boydell & Brewer, 2021) Monograph  
  • Larsen, R.M,  ‘Gender and the Home’ in C. Edwards (ed.) A Cultural History of the Home in the Age of Enlightenment (London: Bloomsbury, 2021), 131-154. 
  • ‘An Archaeology of Letter Writing: the correspondence of aristocratic women in late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century England’ in C. Archer-Parré and M. Dick (eds) Pen, Print and Communication in the Eighteenth Century (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2020), 75-88. 
  • ‘Sisterly guidance: elite women, sorority and the life cycle, 1770–1860’, in T. Dooley, M. O'Riordan and C. Ridgway (eds) Women and the Country House in Ireland and Britain (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2018), 157-169. 
  • Whickman, Paul, Blasphemy and Politics in Romantic Literature: Creativity in the Writing of Percy Bysshe Shelley (London: Palgrave, 2020) Monograph. 
  • ‘Laon and Cythna and The Revolt of Islam: Revisions as Transition’, The Keats-Shelley Review, 32:2 (2018), 102-112.