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ENGL 4325/5325- Victorian Literature: Primary Sources

Finding Primary Sources in the Catalog

“A PRIMARY SOURCE is firsthand testimony or direct evidence concerning a topic under investigation. The nature and value of a source cannot be determined without reference to the topic and questions it is meant to answer. The same document, or other piece of evidence, may be a primary source in one investigation and secondary in another. The search for primary sources does not, therefore, automatically include or exclude any category of records or documents.” (Yale University Library)

Primary sources may include diaries, letters, speeches, interviews, autobiographies, personal narratives, eyewitness accounts, memoirs, or government documents. They may be published or unpublished, printed or handwritten, on microfilm or fiche or online.

                               • Correspondence     • Diaries

                               • Interviews                • Personal narratives

                               • Sources [will pull up collections of documents]

 

Statistical and regional information

  • A Vision of Britain Through Time. This site was created by the Great Britain Historical GIS Project based at the University of Portsmouth. It provides a geographical survey of Britain from 1801 to 2001, including census reports, historical maps, election results, and the largest collection of historical British travel writing available online. Best used for tracking statistical trends for specific counties, districts, and parishes within Britain. 

  • Charles Booth and the Survey into Life and Labour in London (1886–1903). Provides an index to the original records of Booth’s Inquiry into the Life and Labour of the People in London, an extensive study of working class life undertaken between 1886 and 1903, which is archived at the London School of Economics and Political Science library. Also contains a great deal of digitized material, including police notebooks and the Maps Descriptive of London Poverty, in which maps of London were color-coded to indicate the poverty level and social class in different areas of the city. 

  • Historical Directories. A collection of digitized local and trade directories for England and Wales from 1750 to 1919. Useful for research in local and genealogical history. 

  • HISTPOP: The Online Historical Population Reports Website. HISTPOP provides online access to the British population reports for Britain and Ireland from 1801 to 1937 as well as supplementary documents from the National Archives, critical essays, and other material. 

Crime & Punishment

  • Studies in Scarlet: Marriage and Sexuality in the U.S. and U.K., 1815–1914. Digitized images of more than 420 separately published trial narratives from the extensive collections of the Harvard Law School Library. Included are American, British, and Irish cases from 1815 to 1914 involving child custody, bigamy, and violent crime as it relates to sex and marriage. 

  • The Proceedings of the Old Bailey, 1674–1913. Beautifully organized and fully searchable collection of the digitized images and electronic text of the proceedings of more than 197,745 criminal trials held at the Old Bailey, London’s Central Criminal Court, from 1674 to 1913. Also includes contemporary maps, images, and other supplementary material. Essential resource for anyone researching crime and punishment in Britain during this time period. 

  • The Workhouse. Detailed and comprehensive site on all aspects of the workhouses in Britain, including more than 5,000 illustrations and photos and 1,800 maps and building plans.

Serials & Publication

  • 19th Century British Pamphlets Online. The result of two large scale cataloging and digitization projects, records for nearly 180,000 pamphlets held within 21 UK research libraries have been created and linked to digitized versions in JSTOR (free to researchers and the public in the United Kingdom; elsewhere by subscription). Additionally, a useful Pamphlets Guide allows for easy browsing by collection, institution, and subject. 

  • Aspects of the Victorian Book. Online exhibition from the British Library providing an introduction to printing technology, formats (including yellowbacks, “three-deckers,” and penny dreadfuls), illustration techniques, and more. 

  • Internet Library of Early Journals. Includes digitized runs of six 18th and 19th century journals (at least 20 years each), including Notes and Queries, The Builder, and Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine. The project was completed in 1999, and no additional material will be added. 

  • Nineteenth-century Serials Edition. Searchable database of the digitized versions of six 19th-century serials and newspapers segmented to the article level and downloadable. 

  • Science in the Nineteenth-Century Periodical (Sci-Per) Index.Searchable index to the science, technology, and medical content of 16 19th-century nonscientific periodicals. Invaluable resource for those researching the representation and interpretation of science in the general literature of 19th-century Britain. 

  • The Internet Archive. An essential resource for any researcher looking for digitized material in audio, video, or text formats. This immense “Internet library” offers almost two million digitized texts, including many 19th-century periodicals. 

  • Victorian Women Writers Project. Includes transcriptions of the work of British women writers of the 19th-century, including poetry and verse, pamphlets, religious tracts, novels, and more. The site has not been updated since 2003, but it continues to be a useful source of 19th-century women’s writing. 

 

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