The Disraeli Project wins award forty years in the making

Queen’s research project honoured with international award

Michel Pharand and his colleagues are joining the ranks of the many Queen’s faculty and alumni to be recognized for their innovative work in academia. 

Pharand — a professor at the Royal Military College — and his team have been selected by a panel of judges to win the Robert Lowry Patten Award, which recognizes exceptional work in research focusing on British Literature from the nineteenth century. The award has been given in acknowledgement of Benjamin Disraeli Letters, Volume 10: 1868 — a project spearheaded at Queen’s.  

The work was selected from over 270 submissions. In a press release, the award judges commended the work as a “monument to editorial excellence and a beacon of scholarship.” 

Benjamin Disraeli was a British politician who served as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom for two terms in the late nineteenth century and played a crucial role in the development of the Conservative Party and his ideals of the “Tory Democracy”. Aside from his political career, he’s famous for his writing, which includes novels, poetry, non-fiction and plays. Legend has it he was one of the few writers Queen Victoria praised, despite her difficulty to please. 

Benjamin Disraeli Letters, Volume 10: 1868 is the 10th and final volume of the project. It’s the only volume to focus on a single year, the year Disraeli became Prime Minister of the United Kingdom for the first time. 

The project began in 1972 when John Matthews and D.M. Schurman of the Queen’s Department of English and the Department of History, respectively, began looking at Disraeli’s uncovered letters. This later led to the official establishment of The Disraeli Project in 1975, with J.A.W. Gunn, Head of Political Studies at the time, joining the team.

The project has grown substantially since the initial sabbatical work, including the reorganization by M.G. Wiebe of the Department of English in 1984. 

Over a span of thirty years, Professor Wiebe was able to obtain grants and sponsorships from an  agreement between the public and private sectors for the project. By the 1990s, it was funded entirely by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRCC) and later jointly funded with a group of private corporations until 2000. 

In 2007, Weibe played an integral part in obtaining a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. A second grant from the Foundation allowed the whole collection of Disraeli’s letters to be made available online.

Dr. Pharand, and his research associate, Ellen Hawman, took over from Professor Weibe after receiving the first grant and after Weibe’s retirement as the director of the Disraeli Project. However, Wiebe and Mary Millar, a longtime co-editor of the project, still acted as advisors. Sandra den Otter also acted as a consulting editor.

Dr. Pharand and Dr. Erika Behrisch Elce, (Royal Military College), had begun work on the next volume, but the project closed in November 2015 due to the expiration of the grants from SSHRCC and The Mellon Foundation. There are roughly 12,000 letters in print and approximately 6,000 left unpublished. Despite the cessation of the project, it remains a token of the high level of research and academic standards set by Queen’s in the field.

Dr. Pharand accepted the award on Jan. 6 at a reception in Philadelphia, which was held by the editors of SEL: Studies in English Literature 1500-1900.  

“I’m astounded and humbled,” Dr. Pharand stated in a press release. “All of us are thrilled. Editors lurk behind the scenes in introductions and footnotes and appendices, so we’re delighted that our achievement has been recognized with such a distinguished award.”



Award, Research, Research project

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