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Magna Carta expert receives New Year Honour

Date: 05/01/2017

Dr Claire Breay, Head of Ancient, Medieval and Early Modern Manuscripts at the British Library, has been awarded an MBE in Her Majesty the Queen’s New Year Honours 2017.

Awarded MBE for services to Medieval History, Dr Breay was a co-investigator for the AHRC-funded Magna Carta Project (2012-2015), and lead curator of the British Library’s Magna Carta: Law, Liberty, Legacy exhibition.

Prior to the of the Magna Carta research project and exhibition – the British Library’s most successful ever paid exhibition – Dr Breay managed the Codex Sinaiticus project (also partly funded by the AHRC) – a project of significant international collaboration, on the world’s oldest Bible. Dr Breay also worked on the British Library’s successful acquisition of the St Cuthbert Gospel, the oldest intact European book.

The impact of Dr Breay’s research has been significant. The Magna Carta exhibition was incredibly successful in bringing history to life, attracted more than 126,000 visitors and has generated interest and understanding that outlasts the exhibition visiting dates. Codex Sinaiticus is now available to view online with a new transcription, with all parts having been digitally reunited. Similarly, the St Cuthbert Gospel, dated to the early 8th century, has been digitised by the British Library and put online, and last year Dr Breay edited, with Dr Bernard Meehan, The St Cuthbert Gospel: Studies on the Insular Manuscript of the Gospel of John, which brought together new research on many aspects of the manuscript.

Dr Breay said, ‘The AHRC has played an invaluable role in supporting a number of projects on medieval manuscripts at the British Library.  Most recently, it funded the Magna Carta Project, led from University of East Anglia by Professor Nicholas Vincent. This very successful partnership  supported the Library’s development of the exhibition, and helped to maximise the public impact of the research project through the partners’ contributions to the exhibition catalogue, website and video interviews in the show.’

Without the tireless work of Dr Breay, such jewels from the national collection would not be so accessible. The MBE awarded to Dr Breay celebrates her work in the written heritage of the UK, and highlights the significance of such research.

Want to have a go at reading old documents? You can visit the National Archives’ free online tutorials here.

For more information on these projects, visit the following websites:

Codex Sinaiticus:

St Cuthbert Gospel:

Magna Carta Project:

Magna Carta Exhibition:

Notes to Editors

[1] Arts and Humanities Research Council funds world-class, independent researchers in a wide range of subjects: history, archaeology, digital content, philosophy, languages, design, heritage, area studies, the creative and performing arts, and much more. This financial year the AHRC will spend approximately £98 million to fund research and postgraduate training in collaboration with a number of partners. The quality and range of research supported by this investment of public funds not only provides social and cultural benefits and contributes to the economic success of the UK but also to the culture and welfare of societies around the globe. You can find out more information via or following us on Twitter at @ahrcpress, on Facebook at Arts and Humanities Research Council, or Instagram at @ahrcpress.

[2] The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom and one of the world's greatest research libraries. It provides world class information services to the academic, business, research and scientific communities and offers unparalleled access to the world's largest and most comprehensive research collection. The Library's collection has developed over 250 years and exceeds 150 million separate items representing every age of written civilisation and includes books, journals, manuscripts, maps, stamps, music, patents, photographs, newspapers and sound recordings in all written and spoken languages. Up to 10 million people visit the British Library website - - every year where they can view up to 4 million digitised collection items and over 40 million pages.

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