Hello 2017! It’s great to be back and to be blogging again. It’s been a busy few weeks, as I’m sure it’s been for all of you, too! Probably the most exciting professional development for me is that my new article has been published in Slavery & Abolition!
You might remember that last spring I wrote about the Wellesley Index and how great this resource is for finding out about authorship of anonymously written articles in popular 19th century periodicals. I wrote that blog post in the midst of working my way though the latest draft of my article, ‘The Edinburgh Review, The Quarterly Review, and the Contributions of the Periodical to the Slavery Debates’, which has now been published online by Slavery & Abolition. I also provided some resources for finding information about 19th century readers that I had come across while trying to assess the potential impact and readership of these periodicals.
At the time I was writing about how the slavery debates unfolded in the pages of these popular works. The Edinburgh Review and The Quarterly Review were two of the biggest periodicals (journals) in early 19th century Britain and they took opposing sides in the slavery debates. In my article I examined the background that led to this division, the major arguments, and the ways in which they attempted to prove that their position was superior to that of their opposition.
One characteristic of the reviews that I was working with is that they were written anonymously under the overall name and responsibility of the journal’s editor. Some historians have asserted that readers would likely have known at least some of the authors at that time (although false attributions also occurred) but this information could have been lost if it weren’t for resources like The Wellesley Index to Victorian Periodicals, 1824-1900. Thanks to the Index, I was able to draw connections between authors and editors across a number of periodicals to spot examples of times where the authors had a history of taking one side or the other, held political office, or were possibly hostile to the competition for personal reasons.It was really interesting to watch how the debate unfolded and assess why these journals took opposing sides in the slavery debates. From the excerpt above you can see that, in the course of reviewing popular works, the reviewers shared their personal and professional opinions using passionate language and unrestrained opinion and in turn could find themselves subject to criticism. Lockhart’s above takedown of the abolition movement and the passing of the Slave Emancipation Act, for example, draws significant fire from the Edinburgh Review. Not only did the anonymous reviewers defend their positions and attempted to dismantle their opposition’s platform, but they also attacked one another. It’s a topic that’s kept me coming back for years. Be sure to check it out online now or in a print issue in the coming months (date TBC).