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Melanie Bigold  BA Hons (Manitoba), MA (Toronto), DPhil (Oxford)

Dr Melanie Bigold


BA Hons (Manitoba), MA (Toronto), DPhil (Oxford)

Reader in Literature

School of English, Communication and Philosophy

+44 29208 75409
John Percival Building, Room 2.16, Colum Drive, Cardiff, CF10 3EU
Available for postgraduate supervision


My research expertise is in the area of book history and women’s literary history during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. I have published articles, chapters, and books on a range of topics: from letter writing and religious controversy in the eighteenth century to New Elizabethan ballet in the twentieth century. I have edited manuscripts relating to the abolition movement, and documented marginalia evidence across Cardiff's rare books collection. My research always starts in the archive and I try to bring that exciting primary research into my teaching and seminars whenever I can.

My current research project is the first book-length work on women’s libraries and book ownership, 1660-1820. This project constitutes a major intervention in book history studies, in the history of women’s involvement with literary culture, and in approaches to the historiography of reading and collecting practices. I was awarded a Leverhulme Trust Research Fellowship to undertake the research, and you can find an account of the project on the Trust's website: .

One of the interesting tangential discoveries of research on women owners is that it has led me to the libraries of even more marginalised figures in the history of book ownership: servants and labouring-class individuals. Two recent finds have included a Welsh servants' library from 1815 that includes Welsh-language texts (you can read about it here), and a very large servants' library (131 titles) from Alnwick Castle, Northumberland, c. 1750 (open access courtesy of The Library here). 

I am also a section editor on the Elizabeth Montagu Correspondence Online (

From Autumn 2022, I am co-director of the MA programme in English Literature and invite any interested applicants to get in touch. A Master's degree is an excellent opportunity to both enhance your employability and to widen your intellectual horizons. We have an excellent programme that will help you develop your core competencies, as well as explore the wonderful diversity of subjects on offer from our scholars.









  • Bigold, M. 2010. Letters and learning. In: Ballaster, R. ed. A History of British Women's Writing: 1690-1750., Vol. 4. Basingstoke: Palgrave, pp. 173-186.



Book sections

  • Bigold, M. 2016. English ballet: a national art for the new Elizabethan moment. In: Morra, I. and Gossedge, R. eds. The New Elizabethan Age: Culture, Society and National Identity after WWII. International Library of Twentieth Century History London and New York: I.B. Tauris
  • Bigold, M. 2010. Letters and learning. In: Ballaster, R. ed. A History of British Women's Writing: 1690-1750., Vol. 4. Basingstoke: Palgrave, pp. 173-186.





Research interests

I have a number of upcoming and/or ongoing research projects:

1. A Leverhulme Trust Research Fellowship (2019-2022) to complete a monograph and database on Women’s Libraries and Book Ownership, 1660-1820. A short article on this project can be found on the Trust's website here:

The Early Modern Female Book Ownership blog has lots of information on single books with female provenance. I contributed a blog post here:

In the course of researching women's libraries, I've also rediscovered libraries belonging to their servants. In Cardiff's Special Collections and Archives we found records for a Welsh servants' library from 1815 that includes Welsh-language texts (you can read about that find here). However, over 60 years earlier, c.1750, the first Duchess of Northumberland created an even larger library (131 titles) for the servants at Alnwick Castle, Northumberland (you can read about that library here). 

2. I am one of the section editors for the Elizabeth Montagu Correspondence Online (

3. I have also been researching and writing a joint biography of George Ballard (an antiquarian and historian of learned women) and Elizabeth Elstob (an early anglo-saxonist and one of the women Ballard 'rediscovered'). 


At Cardiff I teach on modules across the curriculum, including literature of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, drama, and book history. I always try to introduce students to research areas and material that they haven't been exposed to before, whether that be working with rare books and manuscripts, or with understudied historical genres. 

I have led a number of Cardiff Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme (CUROP) initiatives in Special Collections and Archives. These awards have enabled current Cardiff undergraduates to have paid placements on my academic research projects over the summer months. They are an excellent opportunity for undergraduates to gain experience of larger research projects, and to gain invaluable experience about the processes and practicalities of daily research, as well as the dissemination of research outcomes. Here are a few blog posts from some of the students who undertook this work:

I have previously held lecturing posts at Jesus and St. Anne's Colleges at Oxford; at the University of Toronto; and have participated in Erasmus teaching exchanges at the University of Oslo and the University of Stuttgart.


From the age of 10, I trained at professional ballet schools (first, at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School in Canada, and latterly the Australian Ballet School in Melbourne, Australia). Though an injury ended that journey in 1994, I have drawn on my experiences and continue to explore the significance of the performing arts in relation to national culture (for example, I've written about the cultural reach of ballet at the start of Elizabeth II's reign).

I completed my undergraduate and master's degress in Canada at the University of Manitoba and University of Toronto, respectively. I majored in English during my undergraduate degree, and then went on to a master's in Drama at the University of Toronto. After my Master's, I went into a government job for Service Canada where I learned how useful and effective a humanities degree can be in transforming communication and processes. 

Eager to do more original research, however, I was awarded a Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) doctoral fellowship to complete my Dphil at the University of Oxford. My research project at Oxford aimed to recover the ideas and careers of significant British Enlightenment women. I was then awarded a Postdoctoral SSHRC Fellowship based at the University of Toronto, and was also a Plumer Visiting Fellow at St. Anne's College, Oxford. My post-doc work focused on early antiquarian interest in women's history.

I joined Cardiff University in 2008. During my time at Cardiff, I have held visiting fellowships at Chawton House Library, Hampshire, the Huntington Library, California, and a Leverhulme Trust Research Fellowship. I have also led workshops and training as part of the Women in Book History Symposium at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC. I have worked extensively with National Trust Houses, as well as private collections.

Working in manuscript and print history, one is constantly reminded of the fragility of our source material, and the importance of knowledge preservation. There is so much unique material in archives and libraries around the world, and so many original and important stories still to tell. 


My primary expertise are in the period 1600-1800, and I welcome enquiries from potential graduates who would like to pursue research in the following areas:

  • history of the book;
  • reading and reception studies;
  • manuscript culture (including marginalia and epistolary studies);
  • women's writing and women's  literary history;
  • philosophy, religion and literature in the long eighteenth century;
  • life-writing:
  • dramatic literature, dance, and performance studies;

I have extensive experience in public and private libraries around the United Kingdom, USA, and Canada, and practical experience in collaborating with national institutions like the National Trust. 

I have also supported several successful applications for postgraduate funding through the South, West and Wales Doctoral Training Partnership, and I would be happy to hear from prospective PhD students who are seeking funding under this scheme or from other bodies for research in areas that connect to my expertise.