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My PhD research: Rebecca

Rebecca Bowd Portrait
Rebecca Bowden introduces her research.
Register of circulation from LGI
William Hey's casebooks
reading across sources
primary sources in phd research

My PhD thesis 'The Purposes of Reading in late Georgian Britain: Science, Medicine, Industry and Intellectual Culture in the Leeds Subscription Libraries, 1768-1815', questioned how and why private lending libraries were formed in Leeds in the eighteenth century. Leeds had four such libraries at this time, including a Medical Library, which was formed in 1768 and attached to the Leeds General Infirmary.

Initially my intention was to divide the thesis into four chapters with each chapter examining one of the libraries and their surviving archival records. For the Leeds General Infirmary Library these included a manuscript catalogue of books in the library (1784) and a register of circulation (1802-1827), both located in Special Collections at the University of Leeds.

However, when I began my chapter on the Infirmary Library my PhD supervisor recommended I examine the notebooks of case histories made by William Hey (1736-1819) a Leeds-based surgeon and man-midwife. The discoveries I made in Hey's notebooks, a fantastic and largely untapped resource, changed the way that I approached my thesis.

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