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NACBS-Folger Institute Fellowship


The Folger Institute and the NACBS offer a fellowship for scholars of the British world who are working on topics from the early modern period through to the present day. While the Folger is rightly known as a destination for early modernists, this fellowship also encourages use of its extraordinary 18th-, 19th-, 20th-, and 21st-century collections in modern Britain and the British Empire.


Applicants may apply for either a short-term residential fellowship or a virtual fellowship. Short-term fellowships provide funding for a scholar to spend up to three months working in the Folger library between January and June 2024. Virtual fellowships may take place anytime during the 2023-24 academic year.

Applicants must apply through the Folger fellowships process, using the application portal found here:

Due Date

January 15, 2023

Previous Winners


Ari Friedlander, University of Mississippi, for his project, “Inventing Impotence: Disability‚ Sex‚ and Labor in Early Modern England.”

  • Inventing Impotence uses the early modern legal category of impotence, the standard that qualified one for parish poor relief, to reevaluate contemporary accounts of the evolution of disabled identity. Friedlander’s project shows how a strong legal and political category of disabled identity began earlier than generally acknowledged, based in the Elizabethan poor laws and their cultural reception, and formed a key part of the development of the multi-faceted modern political subjectivity.



Nedda Mehdizadeh (University of California, Los Angeles), “Translating Persia in Early Modern English Writing.”

  • The Folger Institute at the Folger Shakespeare Library is delighted to award the 2021-2022 NACBS-Folger Fellowship to Nedda Mehdizadeh for her project, “Translating Persia in Early Modern English Writing.” This multidisciplinary project with broad implications for our understanding of early modern English conceptions of empire explores how England shaped its vision for imperial progress according to its fantasies of Persia in the early modern literary imagination. Popular early modern English literature, including translations of classical texts and biblical commentary about the ancient Achaemenid empire (550–330 BCE) taught English readers that Persia was always meant to be superseded by more enlightened civilizations. English understandings of the biblical model of translatio imperii, or the transfer of empire, positioned Christendom as the culmination of civilization. This supersessionary logic not only positioned England as the inheritor of this transfer of empire, but also sanctioned the “browning” of Persia by casting it to the past and temporally othering it from England’s (white) imperial future.



Wan-Chuan Kao (Washington & Lee University), “White Before Whiteness: Navigating Materiality in Late Medieval Dream Fiction”

  • The Folger Institute at the Folger Shakespeare Library is delighted to award the 2020-2021 NACBS-Folger Fellowship to Wan-Chuan Kao for his project, “White Before Whiteness: Navigating Materiality in Late Medieval Dream Fiction.”  This crucial project, an exemplar within cutting-edge work in late medieval and early modern critical race studies, examines European “dream texts” such as The Book of the DuchessPearlConfessio Amantis, and Piers Plowman, to argue that, in the absence of a rigid association between racial discourses and color, medieval constructions of Whiteness did not denote or connote skin tone alone.  Within this type of literature, which offered explorations of the boundaries between abstract metaphysics and concrete reality, late medieval and early modern Britons sought to reconcile Aristotelian natural philosophy and Christian Neoplatonism.  These texts offered proof that British women and men worked to navigate the divide between the immaterial and the material, the spiritual and the bodily. This project uncovers the complex premodern history of Whiteness in the West and both problematizes and demystifies its modern permanence, power, and significance.



Ruma Chopra (San José State University), “Between God and Darwin: Early Modern Transitions in Understandings about Climate.”

  • Chopra seeks to explore how people in the early modern era construed the relationship between humans and climate in the midst of colonization, conquest, and global travel. It is multidisciplinary, drawing together insights from studies of geography, medicine, and psychology to draw ethical, economic, and political lessons from moments of intercultural contact. The project demonstrates how supposedly “rational” Enlightenment ideologies instead offered a complex of many diverse narratives, borrowed as much from classical assumptions about climate and character, as from pseudo-scientific arguments, and thereby speaks to the deep history of racial ideologies and racism. 



Justin Roberts (Dalhousie University), “Property in People: Slave and Servant Laws in the Seventeenth-Century English Americas”

  • Roberts examines the intellectual and cultural histories of the evolution of slave and servant laws. Rather than approaching slavery and freedom as binaries, his work proposes to view servitude and enslavement as complicated, shifting and overlapping categories, exploring the degrees and kinds of unfreedom in early modern Britain and the Americas. Whereas late eighteenth-century legal theorists and nineteenth-century US pro-slavery apologists argued that they owned slaves’ time or labor, seventeenth-century English colonists and slaveowners placed claims upon the physical bodies of enslaved women and men, and, conversely, upon the time or effort of women and men in service.  This explication of the legal evolution of the chattel principle promises to bring greater and closer attention to study of freedom and enslavement in the early modern British world, and to help us understand how British philosophers, corporations, government officials, and slave-owners understood the principle of property rights in people.

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