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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

History 498B: Getting Personal: Life Writing as History in Modern Europe

A course guide.

Digital Primary Source Collections

The Library provides access for UIUC faculty, staff, and students to several major collections of digitized texts. These are available from the “Online Research Resources” page off the Library Gateway http://www.library.uiuc.edu/orr. Enter the title of the database in the search box and follow the links. These resources require authentication with a UIUC net id.

The Gerritsen Collection on Women’s History, 1543-1945 contains roughly 4,500 monographs and pamphlets and more than 400 periodicals, fully digitized. Somewhat more than half of the material in the collection is in English, and the remainder is in German, French, and other European languages. The material is searchable by keyword and/or subject headings, and the page images can be downloaded in PDF.

Eighteenth Century Collections Online contains (or will contain when complete) the full content of nearly 150,000 English-language works published between 1701 an 1800. It is being released in sections, and the sections on history and geography, the social sciences (including works on politics, trade and commerce, industry, and finance), medicine, science and technology (including accounts of scientific expeditions), and literature are now complete. (Law, philosophy and religion, and reference will be added later this year.) Here you will find travel accounts, memoirs, gazetteers, historical surveys, parliamentary reports, position papers, commentaries, reports of expeditions, natural histories, and literary works.

To create this database, the publisher scanned the works from thousands of reels of microfilm that had been previously produced. You can perform keyword searches on the full text of all the works in the collection, or you can search for specific authors or titles. A particularly nice search feature enables you to limit a keyword search to the “front matter” of books (tables of content, prefaces, forewords) or the “back of book” indexes. You can combine search terms, and you can stipulate that “near matches” be retrieved, which will help retrieve variant spellings of words, as well as words that might not have been captured in scanning with 100% accuracy. You can print individual pages or up to 10 pages at a time in PDF format (using Adobe Acrobat Reader).

Mass Observations Online provides integrated access to approximately 115,000 digital images of material from the Mass Observation Project, an extensive social survey conducted in Britain during 1937 to early 1950s. The online database also serves as an index to the microfilm collection of Mass Obs documents, which are not replicated in the online database.

Empire Online offers page images of original documents pertaining to the British empire. To date only section I (“Cultural Contacts, 1492-1969”) of five projected parts has been completed. This database combines original documents (138 in section I), both archival manuscripts and printed books, with background essays by scholars and other supplementary material such as chronologies and biographical information. Documents in the database have been indexed by name, place, and subject.

The sources digitized for section I include travel narratives (journals, memoirs, and reports of expeditions), various publications of the Church Missionary Society, such as the periodicals Church Missionary Quarterly Token and Indian Female Evangelist, as well as the Missionary Papers from 1816 to 1878. There are annual reports of the Church Missionary Society and other organizations, correspondence and journals from missionaries in Africa, North America, India, and the Caribbean, and a selection of documents from the Macmillan Cabinet Papers (1957-63). The scholarly essays for section I discuss a range of themes in empire studies and link to specific texts illustrating or documenting the analysis.

British and Irish Women’s Letters and Diaries, 1500-1900 provides the transcribed text of 231 sources written by women who resided in Ireland or the British Isles. The texts included in the database are transcribed, rather than reproduced as digital facsimiles, and they are extensively indexed, as well as searchable by keyword. Biographical information is provided for each author, as well as synopses of many of the source documents.