Category Archives: News

Eighteenth-Century Talks in NYC

The Eighteenth-Century Interdisciplinary Group welcomes you to our speaker series this semester. We have three events planned, all of which will take place on the second Fridays of the month at the Graduate Center (365 Fifth Ave) in room 5414. For those who have been with us before, please notice that this is a different venue from our usual spot in the Eighteenth-Century Reading Room, which has, unfortunately, been closed. This semester, we will be meeting in a room on the fifth floor that has windows and a bit more space to move around in.

If you plan to attend any of our meetings this semester, please let me know so I can know how much food and drink to provide. (If you don’t have a CUNY ID, you will need to sign in at the front desk, but they don’t need a list of your names.) The Eighteenth-Century Interdisciplinary Group hosts a wide range of talks on eighteenth-century subjects, each followed by lively conversation.

Our first meeting will be on Friday, September 12 at 2 pm in room 5414. JoEllen DeLucia of John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY will be presenting “The Celtic Paratext of Radcliffe’s Gothic: The Mysteries of Udolpho and Scottish Enlightenment Historiography.”

Please also save the dates for talks by Kathleen Urda of Bronx Community College, CUNY (Nov. 14th at 2pm) and James Horowitz of Yale University (Dec. 12th at 2pm).

Please email me at if you’d like to attend or join the email list!

Old Bailey Online: now from 1674 to 1913

Tomorrow it all goes public (and we kind of expect it to crash at some point), and today there is a pretty nice feature in the Observer:

The Proceedings of the Old Bailey Online 1674-1834 is now the Proceedings of the Old Bailey and Central Criminal Court 1674-1913.

This doesn’t only mean that you can now search for 200,000 trials held at the Old Bailey over a period of 2 and a half centuries. The other new set of goodies of special interest to 18th-century scholars is the full text of (almost) every Ordinary of Newgate’s Account between 1690 and 1772 (in the next few months this should expand to a full archive of every known surviving Account from c.1674 onwards).

I’ve posted before about these grimly fascinating pamphlets. They’ve been used by a number of historians, including Andrea Mackenzie and Peter Linebaugh, but the surviving pamphlets have been scattered across a number of different libraries and archives. From now on they’ll be together in one fully searchable digital archive. Plus, I’m in the process of completing a database that links every convict mentioned in the Accounts to their trial, providing it has a surviving report (perhaps 3/4 of the links have already been made).

This should make for some interesting research possibilities. For example, historians often argue that women who successfully ‘pleaded their bellies’, ie had their death sentence postponed on grounds of being pregnant, usually escaped hanging. In fact, we say that in our own background section. But I’m not so sure. Through the process of cross-referencing trials and Ordinary’s Accounts, I’ve already discovered several women whose sentences were respited for pregnancy but subsequently carried out (eg in September 1695. So what I’ll be asking (once I’ve finished making the damned links) is: how many were executed and how many were permanently reprieved? Have we historians been getting it wrong? Answering those questions wasn’t impossible before now, but it would have been extremely difficult. And there will, no doubt, be many more possibilities like this.


The other news, because I haven’t been plugging it enough and you’ve probably all forgotten, is that we’re holding a conference in July to celebrate the relaunch: The Metropolis on Trial, in the throbbing metropolis of… Milton Keynes. If you’d like to attend, registration is open and you can download a booking form at the website.

X-posted at EMN.

Writing Women 1700-1800 Symposium

Bryan Waterman at NYU just sent me a link to their upcoming symposium, “Writing Women 1700-1800,” and it looks really exciting! The plenary talk is by Paula Backsheider, and other speakers include April Alliston, Toni Bowers, Joanna Brooks, Simon Dickie, and Elizabeth Maddock Dillon, and Mary Poovey will be the respondent.

April 10-11th at NYU’s Fales Library and Special Collections

Hope to see you there!

Johnson’s letters, scanned

I briefly pop my head up out of an excruciatingly busy semester to note that Harvard is in the process of scanning their collection of Johnson’s letters. From the OASIS website:

This collection consists of 746 letters and fragments written by Johnson between 1731 and 1784, and manuscript transcripts and reproductions of other Johnson letters which are unavailable elsewhere. It is the largest single collection of Johnson’s letters in existence, comprising nearly half of the known surviving letters. It includes 232 letters to Johnson’s most regular correspondent, his friend Hester Lynch Thrale (later Hester Lynch Piozzi), from 1765 until Johnson ceased his correspondence with her in 1784.
Other particularly noteworthy correspondents were actor David Garrick (1717-1779); the painters Frances Reynolds (1729-1807) and Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792); and novelist Samuel Richardson (1689-1761). Regular correspondents represented most heavily in the collection include Mrs. Thrale’s daughter Hester (later Hester Maria Elphinstone, Viscountess Keith, 1764-1857); friend and protege Bennet Langton (1737-1801); stepdaughter Lucy Porter (1715-1786); and boyhood friend John Taylor (1711-1788).

So far, only a fraction of these letters has been scanned, but they appear to be working through their collection to make them available to the public. If you scroll down on their site, you’ll see links to color facsimiles from this collection. (I’m particularly fond of this one.) And I’ll also put a link in our resources sidebar, so if you’re looking for it later, it will be here.

-Carrie Shanafelt

Women Writers for March

I’ve learned from Intute: Arts and Humanities that Women Writers Online is available FREE!! for the whole of March, to celebrate Women’s History Month. It’s a treasure trove for the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries, so this is great news.

Intute also has a special feature on web resources for International Women’s Day. And while I’m at it, let me point you to my own webpage for all online things early modern and gender-related.

Blog Triumphalism, Redux.

Apparently the oldest title still in (continuous) circulation has just left off printing entirely, becoming a purely online publication. I don’t read Swedish, so I can’t decipher a word of the thing, although “logga in” is both obvious and, to anglophone ears, funny.

Poor Hans Holm, the paper’s editor for twenty years, thinks it’s “a cultural disaster.” I think it’s fabulous. A readership of a thousand people was huge three hundred years ago; now it’s miniscule by newspaper standards. If the most important effect of print culture was its democratizing potential (answer: yes), then online publication–cheap, self-archiving, and available worldwide–expands the project exponentially.

I’ma cross-post this at The Valve.

Crisis at the British Library?

I’ve read a really disturbing news story that the British Library is facing major financial cuts – there is a possibility that readers will be charged to use the St Pancreas reading rooms and the newspaper library will close altogether. This could be disastrous for large numbers of researchers in British history and literary studies (not least eighteenth century folks). Does anyone know any more about this? How bad is the situation?


The story has been covered more extensively since my first post and it could well turn out be very bad for many researchers. It should be said that the reports are talking worst-case scenarios, and we can all hope that it won’t be quite that bad. But the BL seems unlikely to come out of this unscathed.

See: The Grauniad; Telegraph (and more); This is London.

NB: Library staff will go on strike tomorrow (Wednesday 31 January) in protest and the reading rooms will be closed.