The History of Reading, Volume 2

Evidence from the British Isles, c.1750-1950

by Katie Halsey, W.R. Owens

How can we find evidence of reading in the past? And how can we interpret this evidence to create a 'history' of reading? To answer these questions, this volume presents eleven fascinating accounts of readers and reading in the British Isles over two hundred years. The authors reveal the huge variety of evidence that exists, not only of what people read, but how, and in what circumstances they read. Covering a wide range of readers and texts, the essays demonstrate how individual reading practices are influenced by – even sometimes defined by – factors such as social class, political affiliation, the place of reading, the availability of books, and changes in publishing practices. With chapters highlighting the importance of reading communities, the uses to which reading may be put, and the importance of newspapers, the volume provides a richly textured account of reading practices in Britain.

  • Palgrave Macmillan; August 2011
  • ISBN: 9780230316799
  • Read online, or download in secure PDF format
  • Title: The History of Reading, Volume 2
  • Author: Katie Halsey (ed.); W.R. Owens (ed.)
  • Imprint: Palgrave Macmillan

In The Press

'This is a welcome contribution to the recent expansion of interest in the history of reading in modern Britain. As befits a field that has become increasingly diverse in focus and methodology, this collection brings together a broad range of scholars at different stages in their careers and offers an unashamedly multi-faceted approach to the study of how contemporaries understood and related to printed texts.

A key feature is the inclusion of studies of readers themselves, in all their near-infinite variety. From groups of elite men and women living in Scottish castles to those who inhabited metropolitan Socialist circles, we learn about the crucial role that books and other printed materials played in the lives of large numbers of people. But individual experiences are not neglected: significant new insights are offered into how the consumption of texts shaped the characters, careers and outlook of avid readers like the bookseller James Lackington and the neurologist Henry Head.

Crucially the collection gives a powerful sense of the sheer variety and ubiquity of printed material in modern British society. Everything from Victorian newspapers and popular novels to crime reportage and biblical commentaries are shown to have animated whole communities of readers, enriching their cultural experiences as it shaped and directed their attitudes and behaviour.' - David Allan, Reader, School of History, University of St Andrews, UK

'This lively collection of essays demonstrates how complex even the simplest, most ordinary act of reading can be. It also vigorously explores a variety of research strategies for making sense of this still ubiquitous and meaningful practice in our digital age.' - Jan Radway, Professor of Gender Studies & American Studies, Northwestern University, USA


About The Author

KATIE HALSEY is Lecturer in Eighteenth-Century Literature at the University of Stirling, UK. Her publications include numerous articles on literature and print culture, and the co-edited volumes The Concept and Practice of Conversation in the Long Eighteenth Century (2007) and The History of Reading (2010).

W.R. OWENS is Professor of English Literature at The Open University, UK. He has published widely on John Bunyan and Daniel Defoe, and is Director of the Reading Experience Database, 1450–1945 (RED) project. His most recent publication is an edition of the 1611 text of The Gospels for Oxford World's Classics (2011).