Stephen Milner


Personal profile


I have been Serena Professor of Italian at the University of Manchester since 2006. Between 2017-21, I was Director of the British School at Rome, the UK’s largest British International Research Institute (BIRI) and Fine Arts Academy, the first non-Classicist or Archaeologist to hold the post. In 2011-12, I led the relaunch of the John Rylands Research Institute at the University of Manchester. I am currently Honorary President of the Manchester branch of the Società Dante Alighieri and a Trustee of the Co-operative Heritage Trust.

I undertook my PhD. in Combined Historical Studies at the Warburg Institute, University of London under the mentorship of Michael Baxandall. As a postgraduate researcher, I held fellowships from the British Academy, the British School at Rome, the Leverhulme Trust and an Italian government award at the Scuola Normale Superiore in Pisa.

I have held a number of research fellowships and visiting professorships. In 2023 I secured a major research award from The Bibliographical Society. In 2015 I secured a Katharine F. Pantzer Jr. Fellowship in Descriptive Bibliography, Houghton Library, Harvard University. In 2012, I was Robert Lehman Visiting Professor at Villa I Tatti, the Harvard University Centre for Renaissance Studies and in 2011-12 I secured an AHRC Research Fellowship and was an International Society for the History of Rhetoric (ISHR) Research Fellow in 2010. I was a Research Fellow of the Institute for Advanced Studies at the University of Bristol in 2005-06. In 1999-2000, I  was a Hannah Kiel Fellow at Villa I Tatti, Florence and in 1998-99 I secured and AHRB Research Leave Fellowship.

As Director of the BSR, I managed the institution through both the Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit and oversaw a major programme of renovation and investment in the BSR’s buildings and infrastructure, including the restoration and conservation of the iconic Edwin Lutyens façade in 2018-19 and the completion of Stages 1-2 of a £13.5m BSR New Master Plan. In 2019, I lay the foundations for a major Management and Governance Review through commissioning external HR and Library & Archive Reviews and reforming the management of the BSR’s historic funds. I introduced a new Research Managment Policy and made strategic investments in Archaeology and Digital Humanities. I established a new cross-Faculty Architecture Advisory Committee to explore the potential to re-establish a Faculty of Architecure within the BSR's governance structures and extended both the Humanities and the Fine Arts programmes through new fellowships. I worked to coordinate the fellow BIRIs in presenting a unified brand which led to the first BIRI manifesto as part of the UK’s overseas research infrastructure as well as coordinating input into UKRI’s Research Landscape Survey and HMG’s 2019 Soft Power Review led by DCMS.

In Manchester, I was Head of Department of Italian until 2010 and again from 2012 during which time Italian at Manchester headed the NSS rankings for three consecutive years. In 2011, I proposed the re-launch of the John Rylands Research Institute at Manchester in a working paper 'Unlocking the Rylands: Stage 2', chairing the Working Party and authoring the JRRI Business Plan in 2012 which secured an initial £1.2 million to unlock the library's world leading special collections.

I have served as a member of the AHRC Peer Review College (2017-21), sat on the Rome Committee of the Keats Shelley House (2017-20) and Steering Committee of the Unione Internazionale degli Istituti di Archeologia, Storia e Storia dell’Arte in Roma (2017-20). I was on the Executive Committee of the Society for Italian Studies (2011-2016) and a member of the Faculty of Archaeology, History and Letters of the British School at Rome (2007-13). I was Honorary Secretary of the Society for Renaissance Studies between 1992-98.

I have served on the editorial boards of Italian StudiesRenaissance Studies, Annali di storia di Firenze and Papers of the British School at Rome. I am, and have been, on the Academic Advisory Boards of the Mellon-funded 'Medici Archive Project’ and the ERC-funded 'Italian Voices' and ‘Beasts to Craft’ projects. I am a member of the Society for Italian Studies, the Society for Renaissance Studies and The Bibliographical Society.

Research interests

As a cultural historian I aim to produce a form of interdisciplinary history which draws on the Warburgian tradition in stressing the interrelation between linguistic, pictorial, material, and spatial practices in the articulation of cultural identities. My focus is mainly on late medieval and Renaissance Italy and on their reception in the nineteenth century. I am also interested in cultural translation in the broadest sense and in exploring new ways of reading and writing about the past whilst addressing the present. My two formative influences at undergraduate and graduate level were Peter Burke and Michael Baxandall.  

Areas of particular interest include:

Rhetoric and the revival of popular vernacular oratory 1240-1512 / parchment printing and the bioarchaeology of the book/ Space and communal imagination in the late medieval communes / The medieval reception of Cicero, Sallust and Boethius / The Florentine republican territorial state under the Medici / Artistic patronage and cultural translation in Renaissance Italy / Cultural theory and the historiography of the Italian Renaissance / Cities and Urban Experience / Italy in Manchester in 19th Century 

Collaborations and networks

I am on the Academic Advisory Board of the 5-year ERC-funded project 'Beasts to Craft: Biocodicology as a new approach to the study of parchment manuscripts' led by Prof. Matthew Collins. As Director of the BSR I oversaw multiple collaborations and joint research grant bids with UK and Commonwealth HEIs, fellow BIRI across the MENA region, universities in Italy and fellow Rome-based international Academies. I was on the Academic Advisory Board of the 4-year ERC-funded 'Oral Culture, Manuscript and Print in Early Modern Italy, 1450-1700' led by Prof. Brian Richardson and the Academic Advisory Board of the Mellon-funded 'Medici Archive Project' based in Florence. I was a participant in the AHRC funded 'Street Life and Street Culture Network' 2009-12 and a member of the steering group of the AHRC funded 'Historical Sociolinguistics Scientific Network' 2008-09. I was also involved in the 'cities@manchester' initiative which led to the foundation in 2017 of the Manchester Urban Institute (MUI) within the Faculty of Humanities. In 2013, I co-organised a two-day international conference in Manchester entitled 'Locating Boccaccio in 2013' and co-curated a six-month exhibition under the same title at the John Rylands Library. In 2015, I co-curated a further exhibition at the John Rylands Library, 'Merchants of Print: from Venice to Manchester' celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Venetian printer Aldus Manutius and his workshop and co-curated the 'Transitions in Print: Revealing Secrets of the European Printing Revolution' exhibition in 2022-23.

Research Awards

  • 2023 The Bibliographical Society (UK), Major Research Award
  • 2015 Katharine F. Pantzer Jr. Fellowship in Descriptive Bibliography, Houghton Library, Harvard University
  • 2012 Robert Lehman Visiting Professor, Harvard University, Centre for Italian Renaissance Studies, Villa I Tatti, Florence
  • 2011-2012 AHRC Research Fellowship
  • 2010-11 British Academy Small Research Grant
  • 2010 International Society for the History of Rhetoric Research Fellow
  • 2005-06 Institute for Advanced Studies Research Fellow, University of Bristol
  • 1999-2000 Hannah Kiel Fellow, Harvard University, Centre for Italian Renaissance Studies, Villa I Tatti, Florence
  • 1998-99 UK Arts & Humanities Research Board, Study Leave Award
  • 1990 Italian Government Research Award, Scuola Normale Superiore, Pisa
  • 1989-1990 Leverhulme Study Abroad Studentship, European University Institute, Fiesole
  • 1989 British School at Rome, Short Term Fellow


Supervision information

Giulio Camillo’s Theatro della Sapientia: Theatres of Knowledge in the Early Modern Period
Author: Seip, Oscar, 2021
Supervisor: Milner, S. (main supervisor) and Brillaud, J. (second supervisor)
UoM administered thesis: PhD.

Twentieth-century Italian Texts in Translation and Manchester's Carcanet Press
Author: Anne-Marie Stead, 2016
Supervisor: Milner, S (main supervisor) and Armstrong, G. (second supervisor)
UoM administered thesis: PhD.



Dante Alighieri's Divina commedia between the mid-Victorian Age and Early Modernism (1860-1935)

Author: Coluzzi, Federica, 2019

UoM administered thesis: PhD.


Cultural Identity Reconstruction in the Translation of Modern Chinese Fiction

Author: Di Xiao, 2015

UoM administered thesis: PhD.


Aspectual and Modal Periphrases in Modern Sardinian

Author: Casti, Francesco, 2012

UoM administered thesis: PhD.


Using Men to Think with: the Reception of Augustine by Suo Juana Ines de la Cruz

Author: Fuller, Amy, 2010

UoM administered thesis: PhD.

The Culture of Technical Texts and its impact on Translation from English to Greek

Author: Papadoudi, Dafni, 2010

UoM administered thesis: PhD.

Existential Constructions in Early Italian Vernaculars

Author: Ciconte, Francesco Maria, 2010

UoM administered thesis: PhD.



Education/Academic qualification

Doctor of Philosophy, Combined Historical Studies, Warburg Institute

Award Date: 1 Sept 1996

Bachelor of Arts, History, University of Cambridge

Award Date: 20 Jun 1985

External positions

Honorary President, Societa Dante Alighieri (Manchester)

2019 → …

Director, The British School at Rome

1 Oct 20174 Jan 2021

Senior Lecturer, University of Bristol

1 Sept 199231 Aug 2006

Lecturer, University of Cambridge

1 Sept 199130 Jul 1992

Areas of expertise

  • PQ Romance literatures
  • Z004 Books. Writing. Paleography
  • DG Italy
  • HT Communities. Classes. Races

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Manchester Urban Institute
  • Creative Manchester


  • Medieval Studies
  • Italian Renaissance
  • Rhetoric
  • Machiavelli
  • Cultural Studies
  • Manuscripts


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