Victoria Research Web

Exploring Victorian Projects

There are a great many splendid Victorian-related websites these days. Some of them date all the way back to "the 1900s" while others are still very much under construction.  A number of useful websites are referenced throughout this site, but there are hundreds of others, far too many to list.  The following is simply an annotated selection of impressive projects to which we would like to call closer attention. At a time when paywalls continue to distort and constrain what can be researched and by whom, these sites all possess the singular virtue of being entirely free for anyone to explore.

The Victorian Web
George Landow, a pioneer in the theory and practice of hypertext in the humanities, has created in The Victorian Web a splendid teaching and reference tool in the form of a growing encyclopedia of Victorian culture. Visitors to the site will find capsule summaries of many events, movements, and themes, with an emphasis upon Victorian literature and religion, written by leading scholars in the field. This hugely informative and well-illustrated site, now a product of many hands, is by far the most comprehensive Victorian resource of its kind online.

George Eliot Archive
The riches of the ever-growing George Eliot Archive can hardly be exaggerated.  The Archive team, overseen by Beverley Park Rilett, has brought together all of GE's writings and translations, each of them searchable and downloadable, along with hundreds of her letters and an enormous array of documents reflecting her contemporaries' comments on Eliot's life and works.  The data visualizations on offer include a biographical chronology and a selection of interactive maps, while the  ambitious Illustrations Gallery aims to supply meticulously tagged scans of illustrations of her works as well as portraits and images of her homes. George Eliot Scholars provides a digital commons in which to share GE scholarship with other scholars worldwide.

Livingstone Online: Illuminating Imperial Exploration
Adrian S. Wisnicki's Livingstone Online allows users to encounter the written, visual, and material legacies of the famous Victorian explorer, missionary, and abolitionist David Livingstone (1813-73)--and, even more importantly, their contexts.  The site features revelatory manuscript material only made available in recent years through spectral imaging of Livingstone's journals.  An innovative outgrowth of this important project, One More Voice, decenters Livingstone himself in order to bring attention and understanding to the long-neglected stories of the non-European people usually shunted to the margins of his story.

 At the Circulating Library: A Database of Victorian Fiction, 1837–1901
Troy Bassett's ever-growing, easily searchable compendium represents the most extensive bibliographical research project on Victorian fiction ever attempted, making it an absolutely indispensable resource, and one from which we are still learning.  The basis for Bassett's seminal 2020 monograph, The Rise and Fall of the Victorian Three-Volume Novel, ATCL covers over 21,000 novels by over 4700 authors; the database includes information about a host of publishers and the periodicals in which much of this fiction originally appeared. Visualizations about authorship and much else help to clarify the larger conclusions to be drawn from the data.  Any literary scholar today who wishes to generalize about who wrote and published the Victorian novel will find At the Circulating Library an essential research tool.

Reading Like a Victorian: Victorian Serial Novels
Created by Robyn Warhol of Ohio State University with assistance from her graduate student, Colleen Morrissey, this site brings the serial reading experience to its visitors through links to online facsimiles of such novels as Dombey and Son, The Woman in White, East Lynn, and many others. Timelines conceived as "stacks" of titles show at a glance which novels--and other publications--were coming out the same time, either in magazines or in numbers. A particular strength of the site is its easily accessible array of high-resolution reproductions of illustrations for each novel, with explanations about how editions differed. Dr. Warhol plans to include non-fiction works in future expansions of the project. Those looking for more serial fiction will also want to explore the University of Victoria Library's splendid collection, followed by a deep dive into the wonderful Project Boz, which features readily accessible scans of the individual numbers of Dickens's serial novels. 

Dickens Search
And speaking of Dickens, the aim of this growing resource by Emily Bell and Lydia Craig is, in their words, "to provide free access to all of Dickens's works," including such under-explored writings as his verse and his speeches.  Best of all, the site offers tools like Ngram search and text comparison that allow visitors to explore these texts in a variety of ways.  A browse through Dickens Search furnishes revelations even to those who think themselves particularly well steeped in the Dickens world.

Dickens Journals Online
Under the leadership of John Drew at the University of Buckingham, a team embarked in 2006 upon an ambitious plan to digitize, and manually proof, every article in the vastly popular and influential journals that Charles Dickens edited -- Household Words and All the Year Round -- and to make them available in fully searchable form in six years, in time for 2012, the 150th anniversary of Dickens's birth. With the help of dedicated "correctors" all over the world, they did it. Replete with features and a joy to use, DJO is a major resource for Dickensian studies and periodical studies alike.

The Dante Gabriel Rossetti Archive
A pioneering (1993) project that aimed to create a vast multimedia hypertext archive of all of this astounding figure's writings and pictures, the Rossetti Archive is the work of a team led by renowned scholar Jerome McGann under the auspices of the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities at the University of Virginia. The site contains thousands of images, texts, and commentaries. In 2008, the directors of the project declared it completed, and in 2012, Professor McGann announced that he would make no further updates to the site. Another splendid Pre-Raphaelite resource is the Simeon Solomon Research Archive, which offers a wide range of texts concerning the artist, his family, his work, and his life. Begun in 2000 by Roberto C. Ferrari, it is still very much a going concern, edited by the founder and by Carolyn Conroy.

The Florence Nightingale Digitization Project
This project, begun in 2014, joins the online letter projects of the Carlyles, Darwin, and Dickens to bring us one of the great letter-writers of the Victorian period, a woman whose name had become a household word. Confined to her bed for years, Nightingale exercised enormous influence through her correspondence. A collaborative effort by the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center, the Florence Nightingale Museum in London, the Royal College of Nursing, and the Wellcome Library in London, this site brings together a (comparatively) small but fascinating sample of that correspondence, while inviting other repositories of Nightingale letters to join and share their own holdings.

The Carlyle Letters Online
One of the great editions of Victorian correspondence, The Collected Letters of Thomas and Jane Welsh Carlyle from Duke University Press has now been meticulously encoded and made available to everyone through a beautifully designed interface. Thousands of letters by the inimitable Carlyles can easily be browsed by date, subject, or recipient, or searched in a variety of ways. But that's not all: the site also features treasures from the fabulous Rubenstein Collection and samples from the Carlyles' family photograph albums. As the legendary Duke-Edinburgh edition approaches its final volume -- the 50th -- the CLO remains committted to giving free online access to its riches to all of us. Inspired by the CLO, the Victorian Lives and Letters Consortium brings together teams of scholars dedicated to an exciting set of projects. These include ongoing work to transcribe all 29 volumes of the Michael Field Diaries, all of which are now viewable online; a similar effort to bring together all of John Ruskin's far-flung "diary notebooks" along with selections from Ruskin's correspondence with Carlyle; and coordinated projects designed to improve access to the papers of W. E. Gladstone. Many of Gladstone's annotations to his huge collection of books can now be searched via GladCat, from Gladstone's Library.

The Complete Works of Charles Darwin Online, the Darwin Correspondence Project, and the Darwin Manuscripts Project
Between them, these three ambitious sites have published the most extensive set of texts and bibliographies available online for any Victorian figure. The "complete works" features over 50,000 searchable pages of writing, including many hard-to-find works by and about Darwin, and over 40,000 images, with much more planned. The smaller site associated with the correspondence project provides visitors with over 9,000 of the letters, including transcriptions of letters he received. The American Museum of Natural History, in collaboration with Cambridge University Library, has been hard at work digitizing Darwin's surviving manuscripts, including the 30 widely scattered manuscript remnants of the Origin of Species. Together, these projects make the writings of this great and good man more widely and deeply accessible than they have ever been, in a form that reflects the highest standards of modern textual scholarship. Nor is Darwin's great champion neglected: in The Huxley File, the late Charles Blinderman and his collaborator David Joyce, both of Clark University, assembled 1,000 items (text and pictures) by and about Thomas Henry Huxley, including previously unpublished essays and a wide range of 19th-century commentaries on the man and his work.

Hansard at Huddersfield
The texts of Victorian debates in the House of Commons and the House of Lords in the 19th century are rich sources for all sorts of inquiries, but the texts themselves can be awkward to find one's way around in.  The innovative Hansard at Huddersfield project goes beyond simple text-searching to make possible a range of data visualizations that can be truly revelatory.  You can look for frequency of words and phrases within a set span of years, see graphed comparisons among the search terms on a timeline, home in on particular MPs, and much more. Exemplary case studies of how to use these tools include ones on Peterloo and slavery.  The site makes it easy to move from these larger visualizations to the actual speakers and the contexts of their words. Of related interest is The Victorian Commons, which examines the careers of MPs who served between 1832 and 1868.

Proceedings of the Old Bailey, 1674-1913
Although it covers much more than just the 19th century, The Old Bailey Online is a tremendous boon to Victorianist scholars as well. These accounts of criminal trials can be searched by keyword or phrase, surname, given name, alias, offence, verdict, or punishment sentence, and of course can be limited by time period. You can also generate statistical analyses by type of crime, for instance, or gender of defendant (or victim), and other metrics over a certain period. The longest trial in the entire database (150,000 words) is that of notorious poisoner William Palmer in 1856, but most are manageably short. The site is beautifully designed, with a very helpful introduction and useful historical overviews. An important outgrowth that makes use of this data and will be of particular interest to students of the 19th century is the Digital Panopticon: Tracing London Convicts in Britain & Australia, 1780-1925. You can search these datasets, which reflect the lives of 90,000 transported convicts, not only by name but also by gender, age, occupation, and much else, including tattoos.

BRANCH: Britain, Representation, and Nineteenth-Century History
BRANCH, the brainchild of the indefatigable Dino Felluga of Purdue, aspires to provide no less than a peer-reviewed overview of British literature and culture from 1775 to 1925, including a timeline that branches out to include multiple perspectives on the same events. In practice this so far means an excellent online journal with a wide assortment of stimulating scholarly articles by several hands.  Professor Felluga's even more ambitious COVE project opposes the current system of academic publishing with an open-access platform for peer-reviewed scholarly works created with specialized tools and assistance supplied  by COVE itself.  The center of the project is the array of Electronic Editions, all of them well adapted for classroom use. Begun with an exclusively 19th-century focus, COVE has widened its scope but remains essentially a Victorianist resource.

NINES: Nineteenth-Century Scholarship Online
Once a pioneering and lavishly funded project, the venerable NINES site ("Networked Infrastructure for Nineteenth-Century Electronic Scholarship") at the University of Virginia was created to encourage and support digital scholarship by providing software tools as well as a peer-review process. The site allowed scholars to search and annotate selected online resources through its COLLEX software. A noble relic, there remains much to ponder here.

Digital Victorian Periodical Poetry and The Periodical Poetry Index
These two complementary bibliographical projects represent pioneering efforts to index, contextualize, and make accessible some portion of the vast amount of poetry of all kinds that appeared in 19th-century British periodicals and to make the results of that research freely available to students and scholars alike. The more ambitious of the two is DVPP, under the direction of Alison Chapman, which aims to explore a wide variety of magazines and newspapers with the goal of combining a searchable index of poems, including biographical information about their authors, with digital editions of the full text of selected poems drawn from the periodical press, and also features a facility to search illustrations by type.  Like the Curran Index, the DVPP is making great strides toward identifying the authors of unsigned poems in the periodical press.  A database of citations, the PPI allows visitors to browse listings of the poetic offerings of three prominent Victorian magazines (Cornhill, Macmillan's, and Blackwood's) and offers a line, title, and author index.  

Victorian Women Writers Project
Created by Perry Willett and his colleagues at Indiana University Libraries, Bloomington, way back in 1995, the VWWP aimed to make available electronic texts of lesser known women writers of the period, prepared with scrupulous scholarly care. The project's library currently boasts over 150 texts by over fifty authors. Abandoned in 2003 after Willett's departure, the VWWP was revived in 2010 and relaunched with new search tools and features in 2012. Although the project is no longer active, the texts remain. A similar early effort, the British Women Romantic Poets Project, 1789-1832, at the University of California, Davis, has at last disappeared from the UC Davis server, although a searchable and browsable database of these rare texts can still be found thanks to mirroring by the University of Michigan and other libraries.

Greenwood's Map of London 1827, Map of London 1868Horwood's Plan of London and Westminster, and Tallis's Street Views
Interactive maps of 19th-century London abound. Now based at Harvard, Mark Annand's digital version of Greenwood's map of London provides a range of tools that allows visitors to explore the byways of early-nineteenth-century London in fascinating detail. More recent and equally astonishing is this rare map of London from 1868, from David Hale and MAPCO, that allows one to call up truly high-resolution views. Matthew Sangster has created Romantic London, featuring an interactive digital version of Richard Horwood's London maps of 1792-99 "showing every house" (as Horwood aptly described them), supplemented with early 19th-century texts describing the city.  Equally exciting is Sangster's interactive edition of Tallis's London Street Views (1840).

Charles Booth's 1889 Descriptive Map of London Poverty

Building on the pioneering efforts of Mark Annand and others, David Wayne Thomas and Sabiha Ahmad have made it possible to explore late nineteenth-century London as laid out in Booth's celebrated color-coded map of the city. The supporting materials for the site are currently being assembled and the site will soon move to a permanent location but the map itself, allowing visitors to zoom in on specific sections, is a marvel. Those wishing to delve further into Booth's aims and methods have a marvelous set of resources available from the LSE's Charles Booth's London, which features a rich variety of archival materials in searchable form. Quite apart from its intrinsic usefulness, this site demonstrates what can be accomplished when existing archival collection descriptions, instead of being merely scanned and transferred online, are thoughtfully adapted in ways that make the most of the online environment.
The Dictionary of Victorian London
Along with links to his many interesting books, Lee Jackson's enormous, indispensable, and still growing site features an enjoyable collection of excerpts from a range of Victorian sources, organized by aspects of life in the city, from "Advertising" to "Words and Expressions." Included, too, is the whole of the indispensable handbook from which the site takes its name: the younger Charles Dickens's Dictionary of London of 1879. David Perdue's ingenious Map of Dickens's London features links for each site to both Lee Jackson's page and the more detailed maps on Ralph Frerichs's pages.

Romantic Circles
An ambitious site devoted to Byron, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Keats, and "their contemporaries and historical contexts." Designed for scholarly interaction and featuring reliably edited e-texts and other resources, RC made its official debut at the NASSR conference in November 1996. All these years later it has come to host a number of extraordinarily useful and meticulously edited materials for all students of the 19th century, including (to name but two) Letitia Landon's Verses and Keepsake for 1829 and the indispensable Quarterly Review Archive.

The 19th-Century London Stage: An Exploration
A remarkable feat of research organized in imaginative hypertext form, this site was created by PhD. students at the University of Washington School of Drama, working under the direction of Professor Jack Wolcott.
UPDATE: When Professor Wolcott retired in 2004, he expected that the University of Washington would leave these webpages on the university's server, much as a library book would remain on the shelf. They survived for a time, but at last, in a casual act of brutal vandalism, all of the files associated with this much admired and widely referenced collaborative resource, which had been in progress since 1995, were simply deleted from the university's server. Thanks to the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine we can still glimpse fragments of this valuable project, but they are only fragments. I leave the description here as a reminder of the extreme fragility of online scholarly resources.

The Yellow Nineties Online
Lorraine Janzen Kooistra and her team make available a wonderful teaching and study resource for anyone interested in the Aesthetic movement of the 1890s as expressed in its "little magazines"-- not only the famous Yellow Book but the Dial, the Evergreen, the Green Sheaf, the Pagan Review, the Pageant, the Savoy, and The Venture, all of which appear here with full critical introductions and scholarly apparatus. This 2.0 version includes extensive biographies of contributors as well as Alison Hedley's Y90s Personography, featuring visualization of contributor networks and communities. The Database of Ornament allows visitors to explore the visual commentary supplied by the textual ornaments used throughout the aesthetic little magazines of the period.

HBooks
How did the Victorians read and write about the history of their country, their empire, and their world? Years of research into the uses of history in Victorian periodicals is showcased in distinguished historian Leslie Howsam's HBooks. The heart of the site is an annotated chronological bibliography of 2700 contributions to 19 major periodidals, which can also be viewed by periodical title.

The Victorian Plays Project
A boon to students of Victorian theatre everywhere, this impressive resource, begun in 2006 under the direction of Richard Pearson at the University of Worcester (now at the National University of Ireland, Galway), makes available the full texts of dozens of plays and burlesques that before now could be found in most research libraries, if found at all, only on microfilm or microfiche. Much more than merely a collection of e-texts, the project also reproduces successive editions of Lacy's Acting Edition of Plays published between 1848 and 1874, thereby providing a much-needed catalogue of often obscure plays, dramatists, and performances.

Trenches on the Web
Subtitled "An Internet History of the Great War," the late Mike Iavarone's pages are a model of how to make a historical website both exciting to casual visitors and useful to scholars and teachers. With an exemplary site map and thematic "tours," the pages, now managed by the Great War Society, make an extraordinarily diverse collection of articles, sources, and images readily accessible and easily browsable.

Footlight Notes
For devotees of British music hall there is no more delightful or informative browsing to be had than John Culme's "Footlight Notes," an online newsletter about popular entertainment in the English-speaking world from the 1850s to the 1920s. Combining biographies of performers with a marvelous collection of photographs, Mr. Culme brings an infectious enthusiasm to the task of memorializing the culture of this vanished era. Although the site (which began in 1994) was last updated in 2013, fans and serious students of theater history alike will still find much here to enjoy.
 

The Industrial Revolution and the Railway System
Created by Mt. Holyoke student Julia Lee and extended and maintained by Professor Robert Schwartz, this fine site combines reports of original research in progress with a wide range of images and excerpts, most notably a beautifully designed section devoted to articles and engravings about various aspects of Victorian railways culled from the Illustrated London News.

Other Resources of Interest

Resources for various kinds of 19th-century research can of course be found throughout the VRW, while links to museums and other places of Victorian interest can be found on the research trip page. What follows here is a modest selection of useful, entertaining, and unusual webpages, including some smaller or more narrowly specialized sites that tend to get lost in the shuffle.

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