Almanacs, Meteorology and the Origins of Weather Forecasts

This project forms part of the PI's research on Medieval Meteorology in Context, and will itself make an important contribution to the history of meteorology.

Department: History

Supervised by: Dr Anne Lawrence-Mathers

The Placement Project

The established view is that meteorology originated in the nineteenth century; but the PI has been awarded a Research Fellowship by the AHRC to challenge this belief and to study the origins of scientific weather forecasting. The University of Reading holds a good range of early printed almanacs, distributed across the holdings of MERL, Special Collections, the History Department and the Centre for Ephemera Studies. However, no unified list or description of these currently exists. One part of the placement will therefore be for the researcher to compile a detailed list of the almanacs held across the university. In the case of those which form part of the John Lewis collection of printed ephemera, for which no full catalogue exists, the researcher will also gain experience in examining, identifying and formally describing relevant items. The second part of the placement will be the analysis of this body of evidence, with special attention to the yearly ‘Prognostications’, or predictions of weather for the coming twelve months. This stage of the research will involve a comparison of the methods used in the making of these predictions, and in particular an analysis of the role played by astrology. Since some of the almanacs contain annotations by their original owners, comments upon these forecasts will also be examined.


The student will begin by working under the supervision of the PI, first to conduct a literature search on the subject of astro-meteorology and then to produce descriptions of the small collection of almanacs held in the History department. Following this training, the student will work in Special Collections, MERL and the Department of Typography, to examine and describe relevant items held in their collections. These descriptions will then be used by the PI in writing up the early history of meteorology, and will also be drawn upon by the student in designing and planning a possible exhibition on the subject.

Skills, knowledge and experience required

The student will need experience in writing on historical questions, and a genuine interest in both archives and the history of science and magic. Study for a degree in History or English Literature would be valuable; though Typography or Archaeology would also be relevant.

Skills which will be developed during the placement

The new skills to be gained will be in both research and areas relevant to archives and the heritage industry. Working with rare primary sources, drawing up catalogue descriptions, writing up the results of research, contributing to a funded research project,and experience with mounting a small exhibition, will all be covered.

Place of Work

The History Department (with visits to Typography, Special Collections and MERL).

Hours of Work

35 hours per week

Approximate Start and End Dates (not fixed)

Monday 23 June 2014 - Friday 01 August 2014

How to Apply

Applicants should submit a CV and a one-page letter of application to Dr Anne Lawrence by 21 March 2014. Shortlisted candidates will be interviewed by Anne Lawrence and Helen Parish in the Department of History on Tuesday 25 March, and feedback will be given to all candidates.

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