New SRS Postdoctoral Fellows Announced (2019-20)

June 24, 2019
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The Fellowships Committee is pleased to announce Helen Newsome and Xiaona Wang as the winners of this year’s Postdoctoral Fellowships Competition (2019-20). Helen will be working on a critical edition of the holograph letters of Margaret Tudor, Queen of Scots (1489-1541) and Xiaona’s project is entitled ‘Francis Bacon on attractio and gravitas: Sources, Context, and Later Influence’. As ever, we received a high number of applications this year and, as ever, the field was exceptionally strong.


Dr Helen Newsome holds a PhD from the University of Sheffield. For her postdoctoral research, Helen will be working on a scholarly edition of the holograph letters of Margaret Tudor, Queen of Scots (1489-1541)

As Queen of Scots and Princess of England, Margaret Tudor (1489-1541) was pivotal in Anglo-Scottish relations in the early sixteenth century. Actively involved in Scottish government, she served as regent of Scotland for her son, James V, after the death of her husband James IV at the Battle of Flodden in 1513. Despite being sister to one of the most notorious kings in English history (Henry VIII), Margaret has been largely omitted from historical narratives and little attention has been paid to her epistolary communication (with the exception of Williams 2016). My research to date has identified 110 surviving letters written in Margaret’s own hand (also known as holograph letters); a collection which forms one of the largest archives of holograph correspondence written in English or Scots of any British medieval or early modern queen hitherto discovered. Her project will collate this material and produce the first printed edition of Margaret Tudor’s holograph letters. The edition will make this unique archive available to others, as well as providing new insights into the character, letter-writing practices, and diplomatic activities of Margaret Tudor. Such a resource also has the potential to revolutionise our understanding of Anglo-Scots politics, medieval and early modern queenship, epistolary genres, women’s writing, and royal language more widely.


Dr Xiaona Wang holds a PhD from the University of Edinburgh. The title of her postdoctoral research is ‘Francis Bacon on attractio and gravitas: Sources, Context, and Later Influence’.

Francis Bacon was one of the first thinkers in England to suggest that gravity was an attractive force capable of acting at a distance—a notion of gravity that achieved its most influential form in Newton’s Principia Mathematica (1687). In the Medieval scholastic tradition, and in the new mechanical philosophies of the early seventeenth century, gravity was never seen as an attractive force, but Bacon initiated an alternative tradition in English natural philosophy which culminated in Newton’s universal principle of gravitation. Bacon’s important role in the development of the idea of gravity as an attractive force has not previously been recognised and the aim of my project is to provide the first scholarly account of his innovations in this area. Additionally, it will consider likely sources for Bacon’s ideas in Renaissance debates about the nature of matter, and show how these ideas were taken up by subsequent generations of English thinkers.

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