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British Isles Free Web Sites: Literature/Language

Selective guide to free web sites about the British Isles organized by broad topics: general and history; images and museums; libraries; literature/language; news; politics, government, and contemporary society.


Austen Said: Patterns of Diction in Jane Austen's Major Novels

From University of Nebraska-Lincoln.  Allows users to visualize and analyze the language patterns of Austen's most popular works.  Word frequencies is a place to begin.  View data about unique vocabularies of particular characters in a novel.  Or, compare vocabularies used by characters sharing the same age, gender, or character type (such as cad, fool, or heroine).  In the novel visualization section view highlighted examples of free indirect discourse, a technique Austen used.  Search tool allows user to find select words or phrases in all six of her published novels.

British Fiction 1800-1829

British Fiction allows users to examine bibliographical records of 2,272 works of fiction written by approximately 900 authors, along with a large number of contemporary materials (including anecdotal records, circulating-library catalogues, newspaper advertisements, reviews, and subscription lists).

CELM Catalogue of English Literary Manuscripts 1450-1700

The Catalogue of English Literary Manuscripts 1450–1700 provides a complete catalogue of literary manuscripts by 237 British authors of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. It offers descriptions of more than 37,000 manuscript texts of poems, plays, discourses, translations, etc., as well as notebooks, annotated printed books, corrected proofs, promptbooks, letters, documents and other related manuscript materials, many hitherto unrecorded, found in several hundred public and private collections world-wide.

Database of Early English Playbooks (DEEP)

Contains every playbook produced in England, Scotland, and Ireland from the beginning of printing to 1660.  Database created by Alan B. Farmer, Ohio State U. and Zachary Lesser, U. of Pa.  Contains single playbooks as well as collections of them.  For scholars of 15th, 16th, and 17th c. English lit.

Dictionary of the Scots Language

The Dictionary of the Scots Language (DSL) comprises electronic editions of the two major historical dictionaries of the Scots language: the 12-volume Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue (DOST) Main PE 2106 .C7 and the 10-volume Scottish National Dictionary (SND) Main PE 2106 .S4. DOST contains information about Scots words in use from the twelfth to the end of the seventeenth centuries (Older Scots); and SND contains information about Scots words in use from 1700 to the 1970s (modern Scots). Together these 22 volumes provide a comprehensive history of Scots, and a New Supplement now (2005) brings the record of the language up to date. These are essential research tools for anyone interested in the history of either Scots or English language, and for historical or literary scholars whose sources are written in Scots or may contain Scots usages. In the DSL, these two dictionaries are being published together in their full form for the first time. Thus, information on the earliest uses of Scots words can be presented alongside examples of the later development of the same words.

Digital Archive of Scottish Gaelic

DASG is an online repository of digitised texts and lexical resources for Scottish Gaelic, with two main components, Corpas na Gàidhlig and the Fieldwork Archive.  The former aims to provide a comprehensive electronic corpus of Scottish Gaelic texts for students and researchers of Scottish Gaelic language, literature and culture. It is also the textual basis for the interuniversity project, Faclair na Gàidhlig (Dictionary of the Scottish Gaelic Language), upon which the future historical dictionary of Gaelic will be based. The DASG Fieldwork Archive is a collection of vernacular materials (questionnaires, wordlists and sound recordings) collected throughout Gaelic Scotland and in Nova Scotia between the 1960s and 1980s as part of data collection for the Historical Dictionary of Scottish Gaelic (HDSG) project, which was based at the Department of Celtic between 1966 and 1997.

English Server Drama Collection

Girton Girl

In 1885, popular British writer Annie Edwards penned A Girton Girl. The title refers to Girton College, part of the University of Cambridge network and the first residential college for women in Britain. Despite the title, the main character in this novel does not attend Girton, yet the story nevertheless provides contemporary readers with a glimpse into Victorian ideas about gender roles in education and society. Here readers may browse the fully digitized book, along with a number of Edwards's other novels, courtesy of Oxford University and the Internet Archive. While published in limited numbers at the time, many of Edwards's novels were serialized in newspapers throughout the late nineteenth century or adapted for the theater. This resource will be of interest to literary and history scholars alike as it offers historical context and insight into popular literature at the turn of the twentieth century.

Global Shakespeares

Global Shakespeares Video & Performance Archive is a collaborative project providing online access to performances of Shakespeare from many parts of the world as well as essays and metadata provided by scholars and educators in the field.

Helsinki Corpus of English Texts

The Helsinki Corpus of English Texts is a structured multi-genre diachronic corpus, which includes periodically organized text samples from Old, Middle and Early Modern English. Each sample is preceded by a list of parameter codes giving information on the text and its author. The Corpus is useful particularly in the study of the change of linguistic features in long diachrony. It can be used as a diagnostic corpus giving general information of the occurrence of forms, structures and lexemes in different periods of English.

History of English in Ten Minutes

Humorous, sound bite, animated video in ten minutes.  Click on chapter title, then on the start arrow below left of the screen where the video plays.  Done by Open University.

Illuminating Shakespeare

To celebrate the 400th year of Shakespeare's death, 2016, Oxford University Press is offering, for free, the best of its Shakespeare online resources: blogs, videos, articles, books, infographics, more. 

Jane Austen's Family

The subject of this website is the genealogy of the Austen family: Jane Austen's ancestors; the descendants of her brothers; and details of many of the other families associated with them. It begins with Joan Corder's Akin to Jane - the first genealogical study of George Austen and Cassandra Leigh's descendants. This work, written in 1953, has until now only been available in manuscript. Research since then has revealed vastly more information. Joan Corder listed just over 300 individuals, but there are now more than 1200 on record with many still missing. In addition, I have done a great deal of work on the Austens' ancestors. Details will be found on the Austen Genealogy link.

Literary History

"Literary History is an index to free scholarly and critical articles, covering more than 300 English and American authors of the 19th and 20th centuries.  With over 7,000 citations, we have the largest collection of free links on these authors on the internet.  All links are screened by a literary scholar and must meet minimum academic standards to be included in the index."  Good, reputable resource for free scholarship and general information on literature. 

Map of Lexical Distances Between Europe's Languages

Presents an alternate view of European cultures: rather than geographic and territorial borders defining the outlines of Western Europe, the Indo-European language families are used to depict relationships and to rethink the way we view proximity.


From University of Iowa.  A social network analysis of publishers, writers, manuscripts, and booksellers in the late-fifteenth through eighteenth century England. Created by a team of English scholars and librarians, along with a computer scientist, this project allows English and history scholars to explore metadata compiled from the English Short Title Catalogue (ESTC) - a catalogue of [most] every book printed in England between 1473 and 1800. Visitors can explore this data in three ways. In Social Network Analytics, visitors can explore a network map between two specific dates (e.g. 1473-1500) and search for specific individuals within a graph. Alternatively, visitors may explore publications by decade or conduct a text search of the catalogue.

Shakespeare Census

Database that attempts to locate and describe all extant copies of all editions of Shakespeare's works through 1700, excluding the four folio editions.

Shakespeare Documented

From the Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, D.C. Brings together high-res images, descriptions, and transcriptions of all known references and allusions to Shakespeare, his family, and his writings, almost entirely from his own lifetime. Over 30 institutions have contributed to the effort. Chief partners include the Bodleian Library, the British Library, The National Archives, and Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.

Shakespeare Quartos Archive

A prototype that collects full-color, high-quality digital images and TEI-encoded text of 32 quarto editions of a single play, Hamlet.  Need to use Google Chrome or Safari browsers to display.  Shakespeare in Quarto is similar, works in all browsers, has  less advanced viewer technology, and brings together many existing quarto editions of his plays, which predate the famous folio editions.

Shelley-Godwin Archive

Offers digitized manuscripts of Percy Bysshe Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, William Godwin, and Mary Wollstonecraft, bringing together the widely dispersed handwritten legacy of this family contained today in the Huntington Library, British Library, and the Houghton Library.  Together these institutions have over 90% of the known relevant mss.

Walter Scott Digital Archive

Site from Edinburgh includes full-text of Scott's works, as well as Biography and Bibliography materials.


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