Modern History Collections


We will start Modern History with the American Revolution in 1775 and carry it through to modern times. I would not however exclude the mention of the so-called Early Modern Period (1500’s to 1700’s) in so far as people in the 16th C referred to their period as “modern”, e.g. in the latter part of the Age of Discovery (1400’s to 1700’s) and the crystallisation of modern scientific methods in the early 1600‘s with Francis Bacon (1561-1626) and René Descartes (1596-1650).

Shall we start this page with the French Revolution (1789-1799)? Why not! Exploring the French Revolution is a site with 350 text documents, maps, images, and topical essays. The Bibliothéque Nationale de France, along with the Stanford University Libraries, has created the French Revolution Digital Archive. It includes the archives parlementaires for the years 1787 to 1794, and a ca. 14,000 visual items (e.g. prints, illustrations, medals,...) from the period. You can search according to timeline, people, artist, etc., and one example would be the 218 “estampe” of the illustrator and engraver Jean-Michel Moreau who, despite being a sympathiser of the French Revolution, was best known for his recording of fashionable dress during the Ancien Régime.

Napoleon is the Website of the Foundation Napoléon, a charity that studies the 1st and 2nd Empires. It has a magazine that touches on things such as music scores from the period, period cooking, fashion of the period. There is a section with key places and dates, and a description of the Imperial family tree. There are more than 100 links, so it is really the first place to visit on the topic. Concerning Napoleonica research, there is a digital library as well as pointers to primary material. The Napoleon Series is as far as I can see a collection of more than 14,000 articles, maps, illustrations, etc. They also publish The War of 1812 magazine, and there is a separate section on military topics, another on research, and another on book reviews. Topics that caught my eye during my visit were “An Army Marches on its Stomach?” and “Wellington’s Engineers”.

Hanover College has the Internet Archive of Texts and Documents, and their Historical Texts Collections. It also has a section dedicated to The Italian Renaissance, as well as The Catholic Reformation (1545-1648) and The French Revolution.

The Perseus Digital Library Project hosts resources on the American Civil War. The Lincoln Digital Archives is scanning the entire contents of the past president’s administration, including 14 million federal records covering the US Civil War (1861-1865).

History of the United Kingdom is a link page to primary documents, covering Britain up to 1065, and then right through to 1919 to present. There is also a link page to British legal and governmental documents, and to regional, local and family history sources. This is an impressive source of links. If we just look at the page of links for “Britain 1919 to present”, we have everything from Histpop, the online historical population reports for 1801 to 1937, to the WW I document archive, and the Cabinet Papers 1915 to 1986. In fact this site is part of EuroDocs, and online source for European history. It points to primary documents and key institutional Websites across all historical periods, and for all European countries. A truly impressive source.

British History claims to be the Internet’s most comprehensive resource on British history.  It has the usual things such as biographies and list of monarchs, and narratives. Periods are Prehistoric Britain, Roman Britain, Anglo-Saxon Britain, Medieval Britain, the Reformation and Restoration, the Age of Empire, and finally Modern Britain. The Age of Empire covers the Stuarts, and the Georgian and Victorian periods. Modern Britain starts in the 20th C. The BBC has a History site, and a specific one on British History (archived) covering the Normans, Middle Ages, Tudors, the Civil War, the Empire and Sea Power, the Victorians, and WW I and WW II. There is a special section on the period of Nelson and Wellington, Victorians, as well as WW I and WW II. The UK National Archives - Education has sections on Medieval, Early Modern, Empire and Industry, Victorians, and another 4 sections on the 20th C. The material is set out as classroom resources, for example Florence Nightingale (1820-1910) covers who she is, what she did, and a bit about her role in the Scutari hospital in Turkey, during the Crimean War (1853-1856). British History Online is a digital library of primary and secondary sources about British history between 1300 and 1800.

The British Library has quite a collection of exhibitions and document collections online, pertaining to “modern” times. There is the Crace Collections of Maps of London from 1570 to 1860, a topographical collection dating from 1500 to 1824, a collection of fire insurance maps dating back to 1885, a collection of photographically illustrated books from the 19th C, examples from a collection of 5,000 19th C British ephemera, Scott’s diary, a collection of prints, drawings and photographs from the Indian sub-continent from the late 18th C to the mid 20th C, illustrations from Alice’s Adventures, Jane Austen’s History of England and Audubon’s The Birds of America, and examples from the philatelic collection, the map collection, the photograph collection, the music collection, and music manuscripts (including Handel’s Messiah and Mozart’s musical diary).   

History to Herstory is a UK-based site about women in history (1100 to the present). More than 80,000 documents form an archive of diaries, letters, journals, minutes and other written material plus photographs and artworks that tell the story of women’s lives as led in the home, the workplace, the political arena and even the mental asylum.

The Victorian Web is a long-standing academic site on primary and secondary texts about the British Victorian era, ranging from economics, literature, politics, social history, and the arts. A few examples. Under economics we can find a page on Railway Mania, British and American Copyright Law, and The Price of Bread. Under Architecture (in the visual Arts) we find Housing for the Rich and Poor, Workhouses, and the Gothic Revival.  

The Victorian Research Web is a research resource pointing to archives and printed sources on the period. It links to the Curran Index about people who published anonymously in 19th C British periodicals. The is a guide to Victorian periodicals and a link to “At the Circulating Library” about Victorian fiction between 1837 and 1901.

NINES is the Networked Infrastructure for Nineteenth-Century Electronic Scholarship which brings together different UK and US archives covering the 19th C, with Matthew Arnold, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Blake, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Herman Melville, ... It claims to aggregate more that 860,000 peer-reviewed digital objects from 127 federated sites. For example NINES aggregates the following useful online resources:

The William Blake Archive

The Complete Writings and Pictures of Dante Gabriel Rossetti

The William Wordsworth Electronic Manuscripts

The Letters of Matthew Arnold

The Correspondence of James McNeill Whistler

Romantic Circles dedicated to Romantic period literature and culture

Price One Penny documents early Victorian literature

Victorian Studies list noteworthy publications that bear on the Victorian period

British Women Romantic Poets, the Collective Biographies of Women, the Emily Dickinson Electronic Archive, and the Letters of Christina Rossetti.

Romanticism and Victorianism on the Net is an open-access journal on British 19th C literature. When I visited there was an issue devoted to “Television for the Victorianist” and articles on topics such as melodrama in Victorian culture and Coleridge’s late confessions.

Romantic Circles is a refereed scholarly site devoted to Romantic-period literature and culture. There is an archive of Romantic-era texts, there are volumes of literary criticism, and there are scholarly and pedagogical resources.

The journal of the Société des études romantiques et dix-neuvièmistes covers 19th C Romantisme. The period covered in 1971 to 2006. The most recent articles were on Les grandes boulevards and the economy as a new science. It is a series available on Persee, which looks to be a French-based program of digitisation of past publications and journals. When I visited the site they were talking about putting online: 1895 (historie du cinéma), Africana Linguistica, and the Annales of démographie historique

There is an Australian Newspaper Digitisation Program, which is an archive of Australian newspapers published prior to 1995 (12 million pages from over 650 newspapers). The Europeana Newspapers project plans to aggregate 18 million pages from historic newspapers and convert 10 million pages to full text. A prototype is hosted on The European Library.

The WW I Document Archive is an extensive and well-visited site covering almost every aspect of WW I, from Treaties to diaries, and an image archive and biographical dictionary.  

The First World War Poetry Digital Archive includes around 7,000 items of text, images, audio, etc. of poets such as Wilfred Owen and Robert Graves.

A new interactive map of London shows where German bombs landed over the course of eight months during World War II gives new meaning to the word Blitz.

European Collections 1914-1918 has the stamp of another The European Library effort. For the centenary of the 1914-1918 war more than 400,000 digitised items will be collected and made freely available, including trench journals, maps, propaganda material, medals, etc. More than 45,000 items have already been placed on europeana. In addition europeana itself is building Europeana 1914-1918 designed to collect unpublished letters, photographs and keepsakes. They also have digitise 90,000 items and add more that 7,000 stories. And the European Film Gateway has also a Website EFG1914 providing access to 661 hours of film and more than 5,600 film-related documents. Europeana 1914-1918 also has a search page which includes 60,000 items from New Zealand resources, 24,000 items from US sources, and nearly 110,000 items from Australian resources, all relating to WW I. To be complete on this topic I should also like to link to the International Encyclopedia of the First World War (they have an extensive list of WW I related Websites) and the CENDARI pages dedicated to WW I.

The League of Nations Photo Archive is just that, images of personalities and institutions. There are also pointers to documents on the League, maps, as well as a research guide.

A Vision of Britain through Time brings together historical surveys of Britain to create a record of how the country and its localities have changed (1801 to 2001). It tries to fusion places, historical maps, census reports, travel writing, and statistical data into one information and learning resource.

The European Film Gateway to date provides access to more than 660,000 items, including historic 51,000 film/videos. Everything from a “Day in the Home” of 1951 through “Harnessing the Hills” from 1949 to a Danish film about Bergen in Norway, dated 1916. There is also a related project EFG1914 providing access to 661 hours of film and more than 5,600 film-related documents about WW I.

Archives Portal Europe looks to provide access to archival material. To date “you can search across more than 36 million descriptive units linked to more than 125 million digital objects from 267 institutions”. A couple of examples are provided to demonstrate the type and quality of the content available, namely the Confederation of Warsaw dated 1573 and the Ådalen shootings in Sweden in 1931. This project was initiated as APEnet, and is now continuing with europeana as APEx, a network of excellence on archives.

HyperWar: A Hypertext History of WW II is a collection of official document produced by the Allies. So it covers also the Pacific Theater and well as the European Theatre. It is a very large, and well maintained resource. dmoz: WW II is another resource for WW II covering almost everything, such as air forces, holocaust, the atomic bomb, and the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact. Stone & Stone has a focus on WW II books. For example there  is what looks to be a full-text version of Armies of WW II. The Avalon Project: Documents in Law, History and Diplomacy covers all periods, but this particular page is for WW II documents, e.g. agreement, declarations, conferences, pacts, treaties, etc. 

EuropeanaPhotography has brought together vintage photographs from 1839 through to WW II (1939). They claim to have already loaded 170,000 images into europeana, and they plan to load around 500,000 images through to 2015. On their Website they mentioned 8,000 photographs from the collection of the Italian Geographical Society, and antique photographs of Naples from the Alinari archive in Firenze. The project also has its own showcase with the DigitalMeetsCulture Website.

CVCE (Centre Virtuel de la Connaissance sur l’Europe) is based in Luxembourg and is a collection of more than 20,000 documents concerning European studies, and more specifically European integration. The core of the resources available are found under “Publications” and you will need to use the left-hand menu to navigated, but topics covered include corpora on the integration of Austria, Spain, France, and Portugal, as well as post-war Europe, the Rome Treaties, and the Schuman Plan. There is particularly interesting collection of oral histories from people who witnessed events that shaped European integration.

The US college Bryn Mawr has a series of small collections relating to 20th C history, namely, 800 suffragist photographs, a collection of “civilian public service” periodicals (WW II service by conscientious objectors), 800 “ethnic wedding” photographs showing how immigrants adapted US wedding practices, a “early advertising” collection, 257 Japanese lantern slides, 150 Soviet propaganda posters, and a considerable collection of documents, letters, etc. relating to the Quaker movement.

PMC is Postmodern Culture, is a scholarly publication which provides abstracts and short introductions of articles on things such as the politics of debt and pro-life politics. It includes also linked list of “related readings”, but I’m not sure if it stopped in early 2013.

The People’s Century: 1900-1999 is a companion site to a 26-part TV series on the 20th C. Each of the programs is described, and a text version provided. Impressive resource.  

The Central European University hosts a site called the Open Society Archives. On their front page they mention providing access to more than 35,000 encrypted messages from the Cold War period (1960-1970). provides access to publications in the humanities and social sciences, starting in 1840. It provides access to 170 collections and more than 530,000 documents. As an example it provides access to the revue Romantisme from 1971 through to 2006. Other examples are Archaeonautica from 1977 to 1998, and Cahiers d’Economie Politique from 1974 to 2001.