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RSA Fellowships

Research fellowships for members of the
Renaissance Society of America


Application deadline: 15 September 2019.

 

The Society awards a number of competitive fellowships to members each year supporting individual research projects and publications that advance scholarly knowledge about the period 1300–1700. The purpose of the fellowships is to support members who need to travel to archives, libraries, and historic sites to conduct short-term research, and then to publish their results for the scholarly community and the general public. Fellowships are made possible by donations from RSA members and grants from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation. Donate here to support RSA fellowships. The deadline for submitting applications for the next cycle will be 15 September 2019.

New for the 2019 cycle:

The RSA has reduced the number of residential fellowships to three, and increased the number of short-term research fellowships to twenty-eight. This change is in response to the preferences expressed by RSA members, and by the desire of the RSA to support the very best applications regardless of location. All RSA-Kress residential fellowships have been converted to research fellowships that may be conducted at any location. Applicants are welcome (indeed, encouraged) to continue using those archives and libraries with whom the RSA has partnered in the past, but now have greater opportunities to work elsewhere, too.

Starting in the 2019 cycle, fellowship winners may not apply for another fellowship for three years after their successful application. If you won a fellowship in the last three years you may not apply again this year.

The fellowships

RSA residential fellowships for scholars in all disciplines

RSA research fellowships

Samuel H. Kress fellowships in Art History

Application guidelines

General guidelines for residential fellowships

Model proposals

Testimonials from past winners

Career stage categories

Selection criteria

Application and award timeline

Research fellowship award statistics

Frequently asked questions

Past winners


The fellowships

The RSA offers two types of research fellowships: residential fellowships supporting one month of research at one of the institutions with which the RSA has a partnership agreement and short-term research fellowships that may be used to support research at the collection or collections of the applicant’s choice.

Those who have received an RSA fellowship in the past will not be considered for further fellowships for three years after the award and will not be considered for further fellowships for the same project. Applicants will win at most one fellowship per year; the RSA does not give multiple awards to the same individual in a single year.

All applicants must be current RSA members. If an applicant is not a current member, they should either join the RSA or renew their membership before applying for a fellowship. As of June 2018, RSA memberships last for a full twelve months from the start date or time of renewal.

Successful applicants must agree to complete the proposed research by 30 June 2021 and submit to the RSA a brief report indicating the accomplishments of the fellowship within one month of returning from the research trip.


RSA residential fellowships for scholars in all disciplines

The RSA expects to award one residential fellowship to a scholar in any discipline at each of the following three host institutions. Applicants may apply for one (and only one) RSA residential fellowship per year. In the event you do not win a residential fellowship, your application will be automatically considered for any short-term research fellowship for which you qualify. For more information about application requirements specific to the host institution and details about the highlights of the collections and residency please click on the name of the fellowship. The RSA reserves the right to not award a residential fellowship if the Fellowship Committee finds no qualified applicant(s).

Name Stipend Duration Eligibility Host
RSA–Bodleian Library Fellowship $3,000 1 month All Bodleian Library, Oxford University, UK
RSA–Patricia H. Labalme Fellowship $3,000 1 month All Centro Vittore Branca at Fondazione Giorgio Cini, Venice, Italy
RSA-Huntington Fellowship $3,500 1 month ABD or PhD Huntington Library, San Marino, CA

RSA research fellowships

The RSA will award up to thirteen RSA Research Fellowships in amounts of $3,000 for research travel. All applicants for a Short-Term Research Fellowship or a RSA-Kress Fellowship in Art History are automatically considered for the Kristeller Fellowship, which is typically awarded to applicants whose applications are considered especially meritorious by the committee. Applicants who wish to be considered for the Palisca Fellowship in Musicology or the Pedretti Fellowship in Leonardo da Vinci studies must indicate that as part of their application. The RSA Short-Term Research Fellowship is intended for topics other than art history (art historians have the RSA-Kress fellowships described below). For more information about application requirements please click on the name of the fellowship.

Name Maximum Award Number of fellowships Eligibility
Paul Oskar Kristeller Fellowship $3,000 3 All. Awarded to the top applicant in each career stage (Senior, Junior, Non-doctoral).
RSA Short-Term Research Fellowship $3,000 8 All, topics other than Art History.
Claude V. Palisca Fellowship in Musicology $3,000 1 All, Musicology
The Pedretti Fellowship $3,000 1 All, Leonardo da Vinci Studies


Samuel H. Kress fellowships in Art History

Thanks to generous grants from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, the RSA will award up to five RSA-Samuel H. Kress Publication Subvention for Art Historians of $3,000 each, and up to ten RSA-Kress short-term research fellowships of $3,000 each for research travel. For more information about application requirements please click on the name of the fellowship.

Name Maximum Award Number of fellowships Eligibility Notes
RSA-Samuel H. Kress Research Fellowships in Renaissance Art History $3,000 10 All, Art History
RSA-Samuel H. Kress Publication Subvention for Art Historians $3,000 5 PhD, Art History Primarily to subsidize publication costs


Application guidelines (click for a description)

All application materials must be written in English. Letters of recommendation are not required and are not accepted by the proposal submission software.

Applicants for all fellowships submit the following:

  • Project description
  • Curriculum vitae

Applicants for residential fellowships submit the following:

  • Project description
  • Curriculum vitae
  • Relevance of collection to project

General guidelines for residential fellowships:

  1. The research proposal must be relevant to the specific library collection and should indicate primary collection resources that are relevant to it.
  2. The fellowship must be used for full-time onsite research during the period of residency at the specific library, working in its collection.
  3. The residency must end on or before 30 June of the following year and may not be subdivided into more than one continuous period of residency at the library.

Model proposals

Beginning in the 2015 fellowship cycle, we posted several examples of successful application essays, as well as excerpts of the evaluations provided by the Fellowships Committee. These examples are only intended to be representative; they are not to be slavishly imitated, nor do they provide a proven formula for success.

Please note that we no longer require a budget.


Testimonials from past winners

For information on how past winners used their RSA Fellowships please see here.


Research fellowship award statistics

2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
Total Fellowships Available 16 18 18 22 24 33 33 34 33 33
Total Applicants 83 68 98 101 134 146 173 254 258 273
% winning applications 19% 26% 18% 22% 18% 19% 16% 13% 13% 12%

 

Career stage categories


  • These awards will support doctoral candidates, pre-university teachers, and other applicants who do not have doctorates.


  • These awards will support assistant professors; associate professors in the first two years of appointment at that rank; temporary, adjunct, and/or part-time professors; and junior independent scholars holding a PhD granted within the past ten years.


  • These awards will support associate professors with more than two years at that rank, full professors, retired professors, and senior independent scholars who received the Ph.D. more than ten years ago.


Selection criteria

The Fellowships Chair, nominated by the RSA Nominating Committee and elected by the RSA membership, consults with the RSA office to select from the RSA membership the other members of the Fellowships Committee each year, seeking senior scholars who will cover a range of disciplines and geographical areas. The full committee is then approved by the RSA Executive Committee on behalf of the Board. Applications will be evaluated using the following criteria:

  1. The scholarly quality of the proposal (scope, theoretical framework, and grounding in the relevant scholarly literature) and the project’s potential to make a significant and original contribution to knowledge about the Renaissance.
  2. The scholarly record and achievements of the applicant.
  3. The demonstrated need for access to research materials and the feasibility of accomplishing this research in the given time frame; or, in the case of RSA-Samuel H. Kress Publication Subvention for Art Historians only, the worthiness of the project for publication support.

The Fellowships Committee reserves the right to award fewer or more fellowships in any one category, depending on the nature and size of the pool of applications, and on the financial position of the Society.


Application and award timeline

  • 15 September 2019: applications due
  • By January and February 2020: all applicants notified
  • By 30 June 2021: winners expected to complete research trip, publication-related spending (for publication subventions only), or residency

Frequently asked questions


  • Yes. All applicants must be current RSA members. If an applicant is not a current member, they should either join RSA or renew their membership before applying for a fellowship. As of June 2018, RSA memberships last for a full twelve months from the start date or time of renewal.


  • You can review your dues payments by signing in to the RSA website and going to Membership Info. It indicates what date your membership is current through and you will see a list of all dues payments in the list of transactions.


  • No, RSA does not accept applications in languages other than English.


  • Please choose the rank that best describes your current professional status. We understand that the terminology may not precisely match.


  • If your application for a residential fellowship is unsuccessful, you will automatically be considered for the non-residential fellowships for which you are eligible. You can only submit one application each year.


  • No. The three residential fellowships are in different countries and have different collections. Your application should indicate how the collection is relevant to your research.


  • The application does not allow additional uploads other than your CV. The committee discourages the inclusion of comments from the publisher or peer reviewers as these cannot be independently verified.


  • We no longer require a budget in the application materials. Winners may use their award to cover travel; the RSA-Samuel H. Kress Publication Subvention for Art Historians are used to subsidize the cost of publications. RSA fellowships are NOT awarded purely for living expenses (i.e., a writing fellowship) nor does the RSA typically support the creation of databases.


  • We do not accept recommendation letters.


  • The RSA research grants are competitive, but less competitive than some others (e.g., NEH Summer Stipends). There is no precise formula to determine your chance of winning a fellowship, as each year there is a different applicant pool, and a different Fellowships Committee. See the table above for statistics on recent numbers of applications and winners.


  • The committee looks for the strongest proposals each year. It is true that projects in art history, history, and literature have received a majority of fellowships in previous years, but it is also true that a majority of RSA members conduct research in those areas. Projects pertaining to Italy have in some years (but not all years) received a disproportionate share of these fellowships as the committee sometimes receives more proposals for Italy than for other geographic areas.


  • Yes. The Fellowships Committee looks for a balance between graduate students (aka non-doctoral scholars), junior scholars, and senior scholars when making awards, but there is no precise formula for distribution of awards. The fellowships go to the strongest proposals each year.


  • Yes. Scholars at liberal arts colleges or community colleges, and independent scholars, are encouraged to apply, and do regularly win research fellowships.


  • A good proposal makes a clear, concise, and cogent argument for the significance and viability of the project. It should briefly address the historiography, to show that the applicant is aware of previous work in the area, and explain how the proposed work will enhance scholarship in Renaissance studies and not just their specific area of study. It should demonstrate familiarity with the sources to be studied. It is not necessary to explain when/where the work will be published, though that information should be included if available.


  • Members can live or work in any country. The research can be conducted in any country.


  • You can win only one RSA fellowship in a calendar year. The RSA fellowship can be combined with fellowships from other institutions, although not for identical expenses on an identical project at an identical time (i.e., no double-dipping). Starting in the 2019 cycle, fellowship winners may not apply for another fellowship for three years after their successful application. If you won a fellowship in the last three years you may not apply again this year. You may not win more than one RSA fellowship for the same project.


  • Some applicants apply past the deadline; some applicants previously won an RSA fellowship to fund research on the same project; some applicants are not members when they apply.


  • The Fellowships Chair is nominated for a three-year term by the RSA Nominating Committee and elected by the RSA membership. The Fellowships Chair, in consultation with the RSA office, selects from the RSA membership the other members of the Fellowships Committee each year for two-year terms, seeking senior scholars who will cover a range of disciplines and geographical areas. The full committee is then approved by the RSA Executive Committee on behalf of the Board. All members of the Fellowships Committee are volunteers. The Fellowships Chair is a member of the RSA Board; the identity of members on the Fellowships Committee is revealed at the annual meeting after the selection process has been completed for that year.


  • Yes. Beginning with the 2015 fellowship cycle, we posted several examples of successful application essays, as well as excerpts of the evaluations provided by the Fellowships committee. These examples are only intended to be representative; they are not to be slavishly imitated, nor do they provide a proven formula for success. Please note that as of 2017 a budget is no longer required.


  • RSA anticipates that fellowship winners will be contacted by late January. Upon confirming with all winners, notices will be sent to all applicants who did not receive funding, typically by late February.


  • You should plan to use the award by 30 June 2021. If you need to conduct the research or complete the publication preparations after the deadline please contact the RSA office to request an extension.


  • Before receiving the award check you will need to return a copy of a signed agreement that sets out the rules for fellowship money use, timeline for fellowship completion, and the process of filing a report after the research has been completed. After the conclusion of the research, no more than one month after your return, you should prepare a report that includes a narrative description of the accomplishments of the fellowship. Any unspent funds should be returned to RSA immediately, with your report.


  • Funds usually arrive within one month of the RSA office receiving a signed agreement form from the fellowship winner. This means that winners should usually have their checks in hand by 31 March.


Past Winners

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