Institute of Cornish Studies

The Institute of Cornish Studies is a partnership between the University of Exeter and Cornwall Council, which combines academic research and teaching with community engagement. It seeks to promote a greater knowledge of historical and contemporary Cornwall.

Our work is disseminated to the public and other academics through publications (notably the Cornish Studies magazine series), the Cornish Story outreach programme, an annual conference and a programme of lectures, seminars and workshops.

The Cornish Story website combines unique, exclusive stories, films and recordings with articles on all aspect of Cornwall’s culture in the past and the present.

Members of the public with an interest in Cornish Studies are invited to become Associates of the Institute, or to volunteer with the Cornish Story initiative. 


The ICS has created the Cornish Audio-Visual Archive (CAVA) – a unique collection of recordings relating to Cornwall’s past and present. Subjects covered include agriculture, brass bands, geographical communities, identity, kinship, mining, politics and religion.

The archive is accessible at the Cornish Studies Library in Redruth, and we are making its recordings accessible to a wider public through the Cornish Story site.  

The development of society, industry and the landscape in our fast changing world is as much of concern … as the history of those vast topics in the recent and remote past.

Charles Thomas, the first Director of the ICS.

Our research

Since its launch in 1971, the ICS has always been concerned with researching Cornwall today as well as in the past. Our current research agenda focuses on three broad and related themes:

Political Behaviour and Traditions

How distinctive is Cornwall’s political culture? What impact do family, occupational and religious factors have on this culture?

A Cornish Political Research Group was launched in March 2013 to analyse election statistics and create a political resource including election leaflets, letters, photographs, film and oral history recordings.

Global Connections

What are Cornwall’s connections in a global context?  Alongside historical and contemporary connections with Celtic nations from Scotland to Brittany, we are looking at the impact of the global Cornish Diaspora in countries like the USA, Australia and New Zealand.

Cultural Representations

How is Cornwall portrayed through the arts and media? We are particularly interested in Cornwall’s sense of place in relation to such mediums as written texts, music, storytelling, film and photography. 

Research funding highlights

In April 2015 we obtained £36,600 from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Cornwall Heritage Trust and other sources for a project called 'Landmark Travels: our past in a suitcase.' This community-based study is being delivered in partnership with Storylines and the Cornwall Heritage Trust, and through a series of study sessions, workshops, and oral history recordings, will unearth the stories, traditions and histories connected with heritage landmarks throughout Cornwall.

We are also working with Cornwall Record Office and MAGA, the Cornish language partnership, on a £34,000 study of the Cornish language revival in the twentieth century.