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Professor Jerry Brotton, BA (Sussex) MA (Essex) PhD (QMUL)

Professor of Renaissance Studies



Jerry Brotton

I was born in Bradford and educated at state schools in Leeds before studying for a BA (Hons) in English at Sussex University, followed by an MA at Essex University in the Sociology of Literature. I lived in East Berlin before returning to study for a PhD in early modern mapping at Queen Mary. After a research fellowship at Leeds University and a lectureship at Royal Holloway, I returned to Queen Mary in 2003, and was appointed Professor of Renaissance Studies in 2007. My first book, Trading Territories: Mapping the Early Modern World (1997) began an interest in mapping and east-west cultural exchange. This was followed by collaborative work with Lisa Jardine that led to Global Interests: Renaissance Art between East and West (2000). I have since written The Renaissance Bazaar: From the Silk Road to Michelangelo (2002), The Sale of the Late King’s Goods (2006) shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize, The Renaissance: A Very Short Introduction (2006), Great Maps (2014) and the bestselling A History of the World in Twelve Maps (2012), which was shortlisted for the Hessel Tiltman Prize. My books have been translated into eighteen languages. I am a regular broadcaster, critic and feature writer, presenting BBC4’s three-part TV series, ‘Maps: Power, Plunder and Possession’ (2010), BBC NI’s ‘Mapping Ulster’ (2013) and BBC Radio 3’s ‘Courting the East’ (2007). I have also co-curated and edited the catalogue of ‘Penelope’s Labour: Weaving Words and Images’ (with Adam Lowe), an exhibition at the Venice Biennale of 2011. I am Associate Director of the Queen Mary/Warwick University project Global Shakespeare, on which I am developing a series of initiatives in Italy, Brazil, South Africa and India. I am currently writing a book on Elizabethan England, the Islamic world and Shakespeare, to be published by Penguin in 2016.


Undergraduate teaching:

In the 2013-14 academic year, I contribute to undergraduate teaching on:

Postgraduate teaching:

In the 2013-14 academic year, I contribute to postgraduate teaching on:


Research interests:

  • Renaissance intellectual and cultural history
  • Shakespeare
  • Early modern literature
  • History of cartography
  • East-west cultural exchange
  • History of discovery

Recent and On-Going Research:

My research continues to revolve around the history of mapping and early modern global exchange, with particular reference to the European and Islamic worlds. My book A History of the World in Twelve Maps, is being translated into twelve languages, and forms part of my ongoing research into the history of mapping. This includes my participation in a Leverhulme research network grant, led by Alfred Hiatt in English (PI) on early modern cartography between Europe and the Islamic world. I am also working with my long-time collaborator, Adam Lowe of Factum Arte, on a variety of cartographic projects, including the creation of a 3D map of the world as an art installation, digital conservation projects with the Bodleian Library and a projected exhibition at the Cini Foundation in Venice. I have recently published a popular book on cartography entitled Great Maps (Dorling Kindersley and the Smithsonian Institute) and am currently completing a monograph on Anglo-Islamic relations in the Elizabethan period (Penguin, 2016). I am also working on a longer-term global history of discovery in the early modern period.

I am a member of the Centre for Early Modern Mapping, News, and Networks ( at Queen Mary, and a trustee of J.B. Harley Research Trust.


Selected Publications:

A History of the World in Twelve Maps (London: Allen Lane, 2012)

with A. Lowe, eds, Penelope's Labour: Weaving Words and Images (Madrid: Factum Arte, 2011)

‘The Spanish Acquisition of King Charles I’s Art Collection: The Letters of Alonso de Cardenas, 1649-51’, Journal of the History of Collections, 20 (2008), 1-16. doi:10.1093/jhc/fhm035

The Sale of the Late King's Goods: Charles I and his Art Collection (London: Macmillan, 2006)

The Renaissance: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006)

The Renaissance Bazaar: from Silk Road to Michelangelo (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002)

See also my Queen Mary Research Publications profile


PhD Supervision

I would welcome enquiries from potential doctoral students interested in any of the areas of my research. Current supervision projects include the East India Company archives and early Tudor cartography. 

I have recently supervised the following successful PhD projects:

  • Colette Gordon, 'The Play of Credit in Shakespearean Comedy' (2009)
  • Katherine Diamond, 'The Production, Transmission and Reception of "The Principal Navigations"' (2013)
  • Kurosh Meshkat, 'Sir Anthony Sherley's Journey to Persia, 1598-1599' (2013)
  • Kirsty Rolfe, 'Letters of Elizabeth Stuart' (2014)
  • Peter Mitchell, '"The Centre of the Muniment": The India Office Records and the Historiography of Early Modern Empire, 1875-1891'

Public engagement

Much of my academic work is concerned with public impact: I have always believed in the importance of communicating specialised research to a wider audience. This has led me to present two BBC television series, a BBC Radio 3 programme, appear as a guest and contributor to various television and radio programmes, write and review for various newspapers, including The Guardian, speak at various national literary festivals, and also curate art exhibitions, most recently Penelope's Labour: Weaving Words and Images, a critically acclaimed show featuring hand-woven and digitally created tapestry, held at the Cini Foundation, San Giorgio, as part of the 2011 Venice Biennale.

You can see a fuller list of my media and public appearances here.

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