Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Two Large-Scale Archive Projects Launched

by Derry Nairn

News today of the launch of two important but contrasting archive projects at Oxford and Essex universities.

A University of Essex led census project is set to create a massive historical research resource which focuses society in Britain for the period 1851-1911. The £1.06m project, is a collaboration between the university’s History Department and the UK Data Archive (UKDA), which is based on campus. It aims to bring together more than 200 million individual records from the censuses for .

The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) has funded research on the collection, which is the largest of its kind in the world. Professor Kevin Schurer, along with Dr Edward Higgs, is leading the project. Professor Schurer said:
These records contain vast amounts of information on every house, household and individual in the country and are the basis of much of our knowledge of changing social and economic structures over this period. Bringing all the existing computerised versions of these censuses together will completely transform our ability to research this period... This will put British social scientific research at the forefront of international efforts in this field
The project will bring together computerised versions of the censuses that have been created by public and commercial bodies. Once it is complete, it is hoped that researchers from a wide variety of fields will be able to carry out cross-discipline studies of the highest quality. Ultimately, if further funding can be found, the project may lead to the creation of a Victorian Panel Survey.

For more info, see Essex University's website

Meanwhile, over at Oxford University, plans are afoot to have records of the Hundred Years War available to academic researchers and to the general public.

The Gascon Rolls, as the pieces are known, number 113 unpublished manuscripts and cover the years 1317 to 1468. They contain copies of letters, grants and many other documents mostly written in Latin, to be published in English summaries in on-line and printed form. It is expected to take three years to complete the project.

Academics from Oxford are collaborating with the University of Liverpool and King’s College London on the initiative and have been funded almost three-quarters of a million pounds by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. The National Archives and The Ranulf Higden Society are also co-operating in the project.

The Hundred Years War is a significant era in British history. It ended after a massive defeat by the French of an English army on a battlefield at Castillon, near Bordeaux. This marked the end of an era, terminating three hundred years of English rule in southwest France and the end of England’s rule as a continental European land power.

Dr Malcolm Vale, of St John’s College Oxford, said:
The history of the old emnity between England and France today still arouses interest and,... parts of the story have not yet been fully told. This research project aims to make available the most important unpublished documentary source for the Hundred Years War, its prelude, course and aftermath so we can arrive at a better understanding of how and why relations between the two countries deteriorated, leading to a century-long conflict.
Plans for the project include an initial translation and summary of the entries on the rolls, followed by editing and publishing and, finally, the production of a full edition (text and translation) of the roll for 1337-38.

Watch this space for more news!

...And in the meantime, feel free to browse this full-length 2006 article on the Hundred Years War:-

Poitiers: High Point of the Hundred Years’ War

Ian Mortimer remembers the English triumph at Poitiers in September 1356, and suggests that this victory was the dramatic culmination of Edward III’s visionary approach to waging war, the consequences of which are still with us today.

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