Religious Archives Group Conference, Pusey House, Oxford, 8 May 2014 Religious Archives and Universities The Dr Williams’s Centre for Dissenting Studies http://www.english.qmul.ac.uk/drwilliams/ The Dissenting Academies Project http://www.english.qmul.ac.uk/drwilliams/academies.html The Dr Williams’s Centre for Dissenting Studies is a collaboration between Dr Williams’s Library, London, and the School of English and Drama, Queen Mary University of London, established in 2004 by Dr David Wykes and Professor Isabel Rivers. Its objectives include promoting the use of the Library’s unique holdings of Protestant nonconformist and dissenting books and manuscripts, and encouraging research into and dissemination of these materials, by means of funded projects, conferences, studentships, fellowships, and publication (in print and online). The aim of the Dissenting Academies Project is to provide a comprehensive, archivebased history of the dissenting academies in the British Isles for the period 1660 to 1860. It was set up in 2006 and funded from 2008 to 2013 by the Leverhulme Trust and the Arts and Humanities Research Council. The funding has made possible the employment of four postdoctoral research fellows, two research assistants, and a technical assistant, who have created the databases. The AHRC has also funded four collaborative doctoral students associated with the project, whose publications on the Centre’s website derive from their archival research. It has two outcomes: 1) the ongoing Dissenting Academies Online (published on the Dr Williams’s Centre website), consisting of two fully searchable databases: Database and Encyclopedia and Virtual Library System. 2) A History of the Dissenting Academies in the British Isles, 1660-1860, in preparation, with over 30 contributors (to be published by Cambridge University Press). The research is based on manuscript and print sources in over seventy repositories, including Dr Williams’s Library, Bristol Baptist College, Harris Manchester College, Oxford, the John Rylands Library, Manchester, the National Library of Wales, and Castle Hill United Reformed Church, Northampton. Database and Encyclopedia so far contains records of c.230 academies, 700 tutors, 4,300 archival sources, and 10,000 students; over 60 academy histories and over 150 tutor biographies have been published, with many more being written and edited. It is now possible to make chronological, regional, and denominational (Congregational, Presbyterian, Baptist, or Methodist) or theological comparisons of academy size, subjects studied, kinds of student, entry requirements, qualifications of tutors, students’ subsequent careers, and student and academy funding. Virtual Library System contains catalogue entries for over 20,000 academy library books in seven leading Baptist, Congregational, and Presbyterian academy libraries in England, including Bristol Baptist College, Manchester College, Homerton Academy, Coward College, and Lancashire Independent College, and records of library loans made to over 600 borrowers at Bristol, Manchester, and Homerton. Three members of the Project will discuss the databases and their own research on the academies: Dr Mark Burden, who is a Visiting Fellow of the Centre and a former AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award holder, will talk about his research for A Biographical Dictionary of Tutors at the Dissenters’ Private Academies, 1660–1729, published online at http://www.english.qmul.ac.uk/drwilliams/pubs/dictionary.html. Dr David Wykes, Director of Dr Williams’s Library, will talk about his research on the various transformations of Manchester College from 1786 to the 1850s. Professor Isabel Rivers, Professor of Eighteenth-Century English Literature and Culture at Queen Mary, will talk about her research on the Wesleyan Theological Institution, Southern Branch, Richmond.