Dr Bob Nicholson's Research Blog|bob.nicholson@edgehill.ac.uk
19 06, 2013

Open Access: The $2,950 Book Review

By |June 19th, 2013|blog, Uncategorized|2 Comments|

A few months ago I reviewed Leah Price’s latest monograph for the European Review of History. How to Do Things with Books in Victorian Britain explores nineteenth-century representations and perceptions of books and other printed objects such as newspapers and religious pamphlets. It’s an interesting study and well worth a look for  anybody who works on Victorian print culture. A hardback copy with 350 pages will set you back £15.56 on Amazon – not dirt cheap, but more reasonable than a lot of academic monographs. Still, if you’d prefer to read my review before handing over your hard earned cash then you’ll soon be able to find it on the Taylor and Francis website.  If your institution already has a subscription to the European Review of History then you’ll be able to digest my wise words for free, but if not then please don’t despair – you’ll have the option to buy a copy of my review for the perfectly reasonable price of £23.50.  It’s 1,114 words long – that’s about four sides of A4 paper – and will be sent to you in the form of a handsomely presented PDF. How could you resist?

It’s moments like this – when a 4 […]

18 04, 2013

The Pleasures of Print 2: This Time It’s Personal

By |April 18th, 2013|blog, Uncategorized|2 Comments|

I’m hooked. Back in December I wrote a blog post about the pleasures of handling the original copies of old newspapers. This week, I managed to get my hands on a few more. I’ve been researching the history of The Times in advance of a guest appearance on Great British Railway Journeys – the popular BBC2 history series presented by Michael Portillo. It was all rather exciting (I even got my hair cut) until my contribution was squeezed out of the tight filming schedule. TV superstardom will have to wait. On the plus side, I ended up ordering a selection of old newspapers and periodicals to use in the shoot that have since consoled me in my time of disappointment.

Once again, the good people at Historic Newspapers (who I’m starting to think of as my ‘dealer’) ventured into their archive and dug out two copies of The Times from the middle of the nineteenth century. The first comes from 18 October 1845. I ordered it because it contains an editorial on ‘Railway Mania’ – a financial frenzy of the mid 1840s when thousands of Victorians invested their savings in railway companies, many of which were fraudulent or mismanaged. The Times condemned this craze for speculation and “[contemplated] with pity the enormous […]

14 04, 2013
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    ‘Looming Large: America and the Victorian Press, 1865-1902′

‘Looming Large: America and the Victorian Press, 1865-1902′

By |April 14th, 2013|blog, Uncategorized|2 Comments|

To celebrate the anniversary of finishing my PhD thesis I’ve decided to make it available online! A substantially updated version should materialize in the form of a monograph sometime in the next year or two, but hopefully this will do until then. If you enjoy the thesis, reference it in your work, or have any comments at all, I’d love to hear from you (unless you spot any typos).
‘Looming Large: America and the Victorian Press, 1865-1902′
Widespread popular fascination with America, and an appreciation of American culture, was not introduced by Hollywood cinema during the early decades of the 20th century, but emerged during the late-Victorian period and was driven by the popular press. By the 1880s, newspaper audiences throughout the country were consuming fragments of American life and culture on an almost daily basis. Under the impulses of the so-called ‘new journalism’, representations of America appeared regularly within an eclectic range of journalistic genres, including serialised fiction, news reports, editorials, humour columns, tit-bits, and travelogues. Forms of American popular culture – such as newspaper gags – circulated throughout Britain and enjoyed a sustained presence in bestselling papers. These imported texts also acted as vessels for the importation of other elements of […]

15 03, 2013

Welsh Newspapers Online

By |March 15th, 2013|blog, Uncategorized|0 Comments|

Historians have a new toy to play with. The National Library of Wales has just launched Welsh Newspapers Online - a new digital archive that will eventually provide access to more than 1 million pages of Welsh newspapers.

If, like me, you missed the big launch event on Wednesday you can catch up with the twitter stream (#papur) or read a copy of Jim Mussell’s brilliant seminar paper. It’s a bit too early to give the archive a full review. The site is still in beta  (advanced search features and the ability to download articles have not yet been implemented)  but it already promises to shake up the landscape of digital newspaper research.

Open Access
At first glance, the arrival of yet another digital archive might not seem like such a momentous occasion. After all, we’ve become rather accustomed to these resources in recent years – the 19th Century British Library Newspaper Archive and the British Newspaper Archive already provide access to hundreds of British newspapers and have quickly become embedded within our everyday research practices. However, Welsh Newspapers Online has an important new string to its bow – it’s completely free to access.

Whilst the British Library has been forced to work with commercial partners to fund its digitization program, the Welsh Assembly […]

5 03, 2013

‘You Kick the Bucket; We Do the Rest’

By |March 5th, 2013|blog, Uncategorized|0 Comments|

My article on the transatlantic circulation of a nineteenth-century newspaper joke is currently free to access until June 30th 2013. Get it while you can!

Abstract

In December 1893 the Conservative candidate for Flintshire addressed an audience at Mold Constitutional Club. After he had finished attacking Gladstone and the local Liberal incumbent, he ended his speech with a joke. He advised the Conservative party to adopt, with regard to the government, the sign of an American undertaker: ‘You kick the bucket; we do the rest’. How did a sign belonging to a Nevadan undertaker become the subject of a joke told at a political meeting in North Wales? This unlikely question forms the basis of this article. Using new digital archives, it tracks the journey of the gag from its origins in New York, its travels around America, its trip across the Atlantic, its circulation throughout Britain and its eventual leap into political discourse. The article uses the joke to illuminate the workings of a broader culture of transatlantic reprinting. During the final quarter of the nineteenth century miscellaneous ‘snippets’ cut from the pages of the American press became a staple feature of Britain’s bestselling newspapers and magazines. This article explores […]

18 12, 2012

The Pleasures of Print

By |December 18th, 2012|blog, Uncategorized|0 Comments|

Something’s wrong with me. As a self-styled Digital Victorianist I’m supposed to prefer pixels over print. I get my news online, my books on an e-reader, and for the last five years I’ve been preaching the gospel of digital history to anybody who’ll listen. I rarely put pen to paper (as anybody who’s received a barely legible Christmas card from me this year will attest). In fact, I can’t remember the last time I spent a whole day without looking at a computer. I am, in short, a dyed-in-the-wool screen junkie.

Or at least that’s what I thought. Lately I’ve been flirting with the dark side. A few weeks ago the good people at Historic Newspapers sent me a handsomely packaged selection of old periodicals. The first paper to catch my eye was a reprint of the London edition of The National Police Gazette from 26 May 1897. It’s a delightfully salacious paper filled with saucy illustrations of Victorian girls showing off their ankles, strapping boxers flexing their biceps, and the occasional portrait of a racehorse.

The most outrageous material appears in the adverts at the back of the paper. A notice for ‘Mrs Rose’s Famous Female Mixture’ offers to send […]

16 12, 2012

Skedaddlemania!

By |December 16th, 2012|blog, Uncategorized|3 Comments|

Peter Jackson spent somewhere in the region of $150 million dollars on the first instalment of his Hobbit trilogy. My first foray into film making comes in slightly under his budget. Last weekend, I had a go at converting one of my favourite old conference papers to video. The aim was to enter one of the BBC’s recent academic talent competitions, but my finished entry stretched so far over the prescribed 2 minute limit that I’ve almost certainly disqualified myself.

I got a bit carried away. On Saturday morning I started with a webcam and a basic script; by Sunday evening my home office had been converted into a makeshift film studio. A sizeable chunk of Jackson’s cash was spent on high tech CGI facilities, but it turns out that similar effects can be achieved with some sheets of green paper, a roll of sellotape, and a pair of Primark trouser hangers. Who needs a tripod when you’ve got an unsteady pile of overdue library books? The biggest saving, of course, comes from casting somebody who already looks a bit like Gollum.

You can view the result below. A full-length, twenty minute, epic version of the Skedaddle story should hit YouTube […]

25 12, 2011

The Jokes of Christmas Past

By |December 25th, 2011|blog, Uncategorized|0 Comments|

This time last year I was trudging along a slushy pavement with a soggy copy of The Times in my hand. It was only Christmas Eve, but I’d been given an early present – an interview I did with one of the paper’s journalists had just been published. These were heady times. A few month’s earlier I’d given a paper at Yale University and written a well received article for The Guardian. I was beginning to fancy myself as a bit of a media don. This was more than a touch premature – I  haven’t got close to a newspaper, radio show, or TV documentary since. However, at the time, a glittering showbiz career was beckoning (if only in my own mind) and I was undeniably excited.

The whole process started a few weeks earlier. I met with Mike Addelman, the University of Manchester’s brilliant press officer, to talk about publicizing some of my research. I ran through a few possibilities, but when I mentioned my work on American jokes his eyes lit up. “This stuff will really sell”, he said. The only thing missing was a topical hook. It was at this point that I said something that  I’ve lived to regret: […]