The Astra Foundation has made a gift of £395,000 to the Voltaire Foundation to fund innovative digital research, and enable the appointment of Professor Glenn Roe as the Astra Foundation Research Fellow in Digital Humanities. The appointment will last for four years, starting from Michaelmas term 2021.

Professor Roe will be overseeing the Voltaire Lab for digital humanities in Oxford, fulfilling the Voltaire Foundation’s vision of providing a virtual space for cutting edge research on eighteenth-century writers, starting with Voltaire and his enduring impact on the intellectual and literary landscape. Together with Professor Nicholas Cronk, Professor Roe will supervise a series of postdoctoral researchers, also funded by the Astra Foundation.

Detail from Jean Huber’s Dîner des philosophes, c.1772 depicting Voltaire entertaining other Enlightenment thinkers to dinner.

Professor Cronk, Director of the Voltaire Foundation, said: ‘This transformational gift will enable the Voltaire Foundation to secure its position at the heart of digital humanities research in Oxford and internationally. We are most grateful to the Astra Foundation for its support.’

The Voltaire Foundation will publish the final volumes of its critically acclaimed 203-book Complete Works of Voltaire towards the end of 2021, and is now working on Digital Voltaire – a fully digital scholarly edition of Voltaire’s works, which will be available from 2024.

Elisabeth de Kergorlay, Founder and Chair of the Astra Foundation, said: ‘We are delighted to support the Voltaire Foundation in its ambitions as a pioneer in digital enlightenment studies. With the efforts of world-leading researchers, we are excited that the works of Voltaire and other enlightenment authors will reach new audiences and engage younger generations through the outreach activities of this grant.’

Established in 2020, the Astra Foundation is a UK-based family foundation. Their mission is threefold: to advance efforts to combat loneliness in young adults and give them the life skills to manage the experience; empower youth and give them the confidence to reach their potential regardless of their circumstances, and to reduce plastic pollution by alerting consumers to the importance of changing consumption and encouraging alternatives to single use plastic. The geographic focus of the foundation is the UK, France and the African continent.