Dawn Hollis

BA (Oxon), MPhil (Cantab)

Contact: dljw@st-andrews.ac.uk
Website: www.thehistoriansdesk.weebly.com

Research Interests: My research interests span both the early modern and modern period. In past years I have investigated the cultural preconceptions of Tibet as expressed in sources relating to the early Everest expeditions (1921-1924), and have edited a collection of letters written by Elizabeth Elstob (1686-1753), the early Anglo-Saxonist. In the future I hope to utilise my knowledge of Mandarin by pursuing research centred upon China in the early modern period. Above all, and regardless of specific topic, place, or period, I am intrigued by the unspoken assumptions, cultural values, and emotional experiences that can be retrieved from historical sources.

Thesis Title: High Places of the Heart and Mind: Natural Knowledge of and Reactions to Mountains Before 1750.
Supervisor: Dr Bernhard Struck

Ask almost anyone - be they an academic, a mountaineer, or neither - about mountains in the early modern period, and most of them will say that as far as they knew people then were either afraid of or simply indifferent to mountains. My PhD thesis has grown out of a desire to put this deeply-embedded historical perception to the test through a study of the sources of the period. As a whole, my current research is driven by a number of key questions:

- What did Europeans 'know' about mountains in the early modern period - i.e. what was the consensus, if any, regarding their origins and physical structure?
- What kind of activities took place on or around mountains? Did people climb up mountains, and if so, why?
- In the discourse of the time, were mountains judged to be valuable or aesthetically pleasing elements of the natural world?

The approach of the thesis, as indicated by the title, is based on a conviction that it is impossible to separate 'mental' knowledge or understanding of a phenomenon or object (in this case, mountains) from the emotional or aesthetic reaction had in response to it. Historiographically, the thesis will also seek to explicate how and why the current perception of early modern 'mountain gloom' has come to be, by revealing the ways in which a narrative of modem exceptionalism has been silently intertwined with the rhetoric of European mountain appreciation for over two hundred years.


‘Dragons Over the Great Wall: A Game of Thrones and Chinese History’, in Janice Liedl (ed.), A Game of Thrones and History (forthcoming).

Review of The Summits of Modern Man: Mountaineering After the Enlightenment by Peter Hansen, Reviews in History (January 2014), review no. 1529.

Review of Paper Memory: A Sixteenth-Century Townsman Writes His World by Matthew Lundin, Reviews in History (April 2013), review no. 1403.


‘Real and Imagined Spaces: The Visualisation of Mountain Landscapes, c.1550-1700’, at the Social History Society Annual Conference, University of Northumbria, Newcastle, 7th April 2014.

‘How to be a feminist historian of early modern Europe’ at Smashing the Patriarchy in 100,000 Words: Feminism and Academic Theses, University of Dundee, 13th January 2014.

‘Beauty in Utility: Late Seventeenth-Century Understandings of Mountains’, at the History Graduate Research Conference, University of Cambridge, 6th June 2013.

Other Duties: I am currently the School of History Communications Intern, helping to run the School blog, Twitter feed, and Facebook page. I also co-convene the Early Modern and Modern History Postgraduate Forum.