R. Bryant-Davies

Rachel Bryant-Davies

Library Research Fellow, 2018-2019

Durham University
Research Project
Classics at Play: Greco-Roman Antiquity in British Children's Culture, 1750-1914

Rachel Bryant Davies holds an Addison Wheeler Research Fellowship in Classics with the Centre for Nineteenth-Century Studies at Durham University, UK, and is an Early Career Associate with the Archive of Performances of Greek and Roman Drama, University of Oxford, UK. She is the author of Troy, Carthage and the Victorians: The Drama of Classical Ruins in the Nineteenth-Century Imagination (Cambridge University Press, 2018) and Victorian Epic Burlesques: A Critical Anthology of Nineteenth-Century Theatrical Entertainments after Homer (Bloomsbury, 2018). With Barbara Gribling, she is co-editing a volume of essays entitled Childhood Encounters with History in British Culture, 1750-1914 (Manchester University Press, forthcoming 2020), and with Erin Johnson-Williams recently convened a conference, funded by the British Association of Victorian Studies and the Royal Historical Society, on ‘The Nineteenth-Century Archive as a Discourse of Power’.

About the Research Project
Classics at Play: Greco-Roman Antiquity in British Children's Culture, 1750-1914

My current project investigates how the classical past informed patterns for the idealised behaviour of children during the long nineteenth century, focusing on the moulding of British imperial citizens. Greek and Roman content provided diverging, and often conflicting, templates for almost all aspects of behaviour to be cultivated in private and public life.

The story of how Greco-Roman antiquity became intellectual furniture and emotional baggage across gender, class and national divides can only be told, my monograph will argue, by drawing on children’s everyday encounters, from earliest lessons to popular shows and pastimes. Embedded in material and visual media as well as performances and texts, the ephemeral afterlives of historical figures and canonical narratives demonstrate how playful, interactive engagement with the past was entangled with traditional experiences, and how elite and popular cultures intersected.

My research in the Firestone RBSC is based around the research collection of the Cotsen Children's Library and ranges across alphabets, board and card games, educational toys, as well as a variety of books and pamphlets.