Spotlight on Research: TIDE

TIDE: Travel, Transculturality, and Identity in England, c. 1550 – 1700

An Indian broker, Jadu, enters the employ of the fledgling East India Company, leaving an elusive trail in the archives. A Spanish woman moves to London and creates Catholic relics from the bodies of executed priests. An English scholar travels to Syria and returns to occupy the first Chair of Arabic at Oxford. 

TIDE research project logo

The TIDE project (Travel, Transculturality, and Identity in England, 1550 – 1700) is an ERC-funded project that investigates how mobility shaped English perceptions of human difference and belonging in the first age of global expansion. Based in the English Faculty, its interdisciplinary research team works to uncover the range of migration and border-crossing within and beyond England in this period. That work involves tracing individual lives, such as those mentioned above. It also involves exploring how particular terms and concepts were developed and adapted in attempts to categorise difference. A major output of the project has been the co-written, open access TIDE: Keywords, a series of 36 essays that focus on critical terms around early modern race, mobility, and identity, from 'broker' to 'blackamoor', 'subject' to 'stranger'. 
TIDE's investigation of belonging and exclusion, of the status of foreigners in early modern England, and the spaces where such issues were debated – on the stage and in parliament, in printed treatises and coffeehouses – is perhaps more relevant now than ever. A significant part of the project's research involves bringing these conversations about Englishness and identity outside academia. Last year, TIDE collaborated with the Runnymede Trust, the UK's leading think tank on race and diversity, to produce a policy-advisory report on 'Teaching Migration, Belonging, and Empire in Secondary Schools', which was launched in parliament in July 2019. The report has since been cited by policy-makers to highlight the urgency of teaching migration in schools, most recently on 13 June 2020 by the signatories of an open letter published in The Times (which also spurred a new hashtag: #TeachMigrationRaceEmpire).

TIDE has worked with a contemporary writer every year since 2016, in partnerships that have taken the project's research to unanticipated new places. The World Museum in Liverpool, for example, will integrate the object poems written by TIDE's 2017/18 visiting writer, Sarah Howe, in the permanent redisplay of their pre-modern Chinese ceramics. TIDE is currently working with the novelist Preti Taneja, whose collaboration with musicians and spoken word poets will showcase responses to TIDE's keywords on an interactive website. Combining the voices of sixteenth and seventeenth-century individuals in the archives with new interpretations by creative writers has allowed the project to explore the slipperiness of belonging, and the enduring poignancy of ideas of home in moments of fracture and upheaval. 
Project team:
Professor Nandini Das (Director)
Dr João Vicente Melo, Dr Haig Smith, Dr Lauren Working (Postdoctoral Researchers)
Tom Roberts, Emily Stevenson (Doctoral Researchers)

This project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement No 681884).