I’ve been working on an article which has brought me back to looking at some of my earliest post-grad work, specifically material relating to Robert Sanderson, Regius Prof. of Divinity, Oxford, and later bishop of Lincoln. In the course of doing that, I have been struck by the horrible realisation that I have no easily accessible electronic copy of my thesis (I *think* it is lying around on a floppy disc somewhere) and I certainly don’t have accessible copies of my M. St. thesis on the Parliamentary Visitation of Oxford. Seminar/conference papers pre-2002 are also probably malingering somewhere on a small, square, piece of plastic.
I’ve now resolved to find these odds and sods and rescue them from oblivion by uploading as PDF and/or html files to this blog – that’s if the discs aren’t corrupted.
A parlous state of affairs, which got me a-surfing those googles …browsing Index to Theses (yet another crazy Saturday night), I was struck by the number of institutions which now have up and running free to access digital archives:
Cambridge has one, although not much here that might interest historians, bar a large number of mp4 files by Alan Macfarlane, including one on Japanese toilets. Although the English faculty have developed Scriptorium, there is little evidence yet of historians uploading stuff.
Oxford has one, though theses only just now being added, and again not much for early modern historians beyond this article by Joanne Bailey on ‘Married Women, Property and ‘coveture’ in England: 1600-1800.’ I was, though, tempted to download this thesis on badgers.
UCL and LSE also have repositories, though, again, a bit of searching didn’t uncover that much
of interest to early modernists.
There have been discussions at Liverpool regarding setting up a similar digital repository (closed departmental ones already being in existence) and, doubtless, other HEIs outside the ‘golden triangle’ may already be in the process of setting them up.
On the one hand, this is exciting stuff, with the potential to make theses and academic papers much more accessible. On the other, it does seem to pose a serious threat to the scholarly monograph. With the re-fashioning of the RAE, students may feel increased pressure to ‘publish’ their theses on-line before developing their work in book form. And as anyone who has written a thesis knows, a dissertation, even a good one, is not a book.