Dr Rachel Hewitt

Rachel came to Wolfson College in October 2011, to continue her Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellowship, and to take up the Weinrebe Fellowship in Life-Writing. She is a member of the English faculty, and attached to the Oxford Centre for Life-Writing (OCLW) at Wolfson College.

Her research is concerned with Enlightenment and Romantic biography. Her first book, Map of a Nation: A Biography of the Ordnance Survey, charted the early life of Britain's national mapping agency. Her current research concerns the emotional impact of the French Revolution.

She is one of the ten New Generation Thinkers selected by the BBC and AHRC to disseminate their research through radio and festivals.

Research Interests
In the recent past, Rachel has been fascinated by the early history of Britain’s mapping agency, the Ordnance Survey, and by the cultural and political circumstances in which it began mapping the British Isles in the 1790s. In October 2010 she published Map of a Nation: A Biography of the Ordnance Survey (Granta), and was delighted when it won first prize in the Royal Society of Literature Jerwood Awards for Non-Fiction. It has also been shortlisted for the Galaxy National Book Awards in the Popular Non-Fiction category.


Her second book, A Revolution of Feeling, will be published by Granta in 2014 and will trace the inner life of 1790s Britain. It will narrate a biographical trajectory from intense optimism to frustrated disappointment; an emotional arc that defined a generation of British citizens who hoped that an uprising, inspired by the French Revolution, would materialise at home.

She would love to hear from anyone with an interest in early OS history, Enlightenment cartography, the history of emotions and the significance of failure and disappointment. She is also very interested in the history of the Dundas family of Arniston, Midlothian.

Selected Publications
Map of a Nation: A Biography of the Ordnance Survey (London: Granta, 2010; paperback 2011)
A Revolution of Feeling (London: Granta, 2014)


Journal Articles
‘A Family Affair: The Dundas Family of Arniston and the Military Survey of Scotland’, Imago Mundi: The International Journal of Cartography (winter 2011)
‘The Ordnance Survey: the Modern Mapping of Britain (1681-2000)’, The Literary Encyclopaedia, August 2010.
‘William Wordsworth and the Irish Ordnance Survey: “Dreaming O’er the Map of Things”’, Wordsworth Circle 38 (2006), 80-85.  

Newspapers and Other Publications
‘The Ordnance Survey in Ireland: A Bloody Military Operation?’. Programme note for production of Brian Friel’s Translations at Abbey Theatre, Dublin, summer 2011.
Rachel has also written for, among others, the FT Magazine, Telegraph, TLS, Literary Review, and has reviewed for various academic publications.

Forthcoming Talks
Since the publication of Map of a Nation in October 2010, Rachel has spoken about the OS at eighteen book festivals in the UK and Ireland, and has given numerous academic lectures, seminars and conference papers. Over the next couple of years she will be concentrating on her next research project, but she is speaking at the following events:


Tuesday 31 January 2012, 7.30-9pm: 'Dreaming o'er the Map: The Early Ordnance Survey and Those who Loved It', Hull Literary and Philosophical Society, Mercure Hull Royal Hotel.

Thursday 23 February 2012, 5-6.30pm: 'The Military Survey of Scotland (1747-1755): A Family Affair?' , The Oxford Seminars in Cartography (TOSCA), School of Geography and the Environment.

Friday 23 March 2012: 1pm, 'The Early Ordnance Survey and the Royal Society: ‘The Perfect Concurrence of Two Great Organisations’’.' The Royal Society, London.

Rachel will be on maternity leave between April and September 2012, and will not be speaking at any events. 

Rachel is the Weinrebe Fellow in Life-Writing, attached to the Oxford Centre for Life-Writing (OCLW). She came to the Centre in October 2011 from Queen Mary, University of London, where she had held a Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellowship since September 2009. Previously, between May 2007 and May 2009, she was a Research Fellow, attached to the Research Centre for Literature, Arts and Science at the University of Glamorgan in South Wales.


Rachel completed a PhD on the subject of Romantic landscape poetry and mapping at Queen Mary, University of London, between 2003 and March 2007, after obtaining a Master of Studies in Research Methods in English (M.St, distinction) from the University of Oxford (Corpus Christi College) in 2003, and a First Class BA in English Literature, again from Oxford (Corpus Christi), in 2002, after matriculating in October 1999.

She lives in east London, with her partner and cat, and is a keen hiker and, unsurprisingly, a map-addict.

Oxford Centre for Life-Writing
Rachel is responsible for much of the administration for the Oxford Centre for Life-Writing (OCLW). Please visit the website for information about OCLW and contact her if you have any queries, or to be put on the Centre's mailing list.
If you would like to get in touch regarding her past or present research, or concerning the Oxford Centre for Life-Writing, please email Rachel. Address any correspondence to Dr Rachel Hewitt, Wolfson College, Linton Road, Oxford OX2 6UD. You can follow her on Twitter at @DrRachelHewitt.
Marc Ventresca at the OUSU awards
25 November 2015

Several Wolfsonians were honoured at the University...

Prof Roger Bagnall. Credit John Cairns
19 November 2015

On Thursday 12 November, Professor Roger Bagnall delivered the annual Ronald Syme Lecture entitled ‘The councillor​ and the clerk’.