Blunden online

The First World war Digital Archive has just added a lot of Edmund Blunden material – manuscripts of poems, but also letters, army notebooks and so on.
This is a particularly handy resource, since it brings together material from several sources – Queen’s College Oxford, The Harry Ransom Centre in Texas and the Blunden family archive.
The Texas items are especially interesting, since they include his army notebooks, including plans of battle areas, orders for operations, and so one, revealing a conscientious officer.
Could this be the future of literary research? With the remnants of a writer like Blunden scattered across two continents, it is immensely useful to have documents easily accessible, especially for those of us unlikely ever to make the visit to Texas, where the Harry Ransom Centre seems to have bought up most of twentieth-century literature.
Not only does the digitisation make the manuscripts generally available, but it protects them from mucky fingers.
Recently I wanted to look something up in a wartime Commons debate, and was a bit bothered to find that the upper floor in the Radcliffe Camera in Oxford, where Hansards are stored, is closed for the summer. Then I discovered that ancient Hansards are online. The system is not all that easy to use, and you need to know what you’re looking for, but it’s there.
Will future researchers have no incentive at all to leave their computer stools? Will they all grow unbelievably fat?


  1. Alan Allport
    Posted September 2, 2009 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    When I read ‘Harry Ransom’ above I initially misread it as ‘Harry Ramsden,’ which makes me wonder if any luckless scholar has ever made a pilgrimage to Guiseley hoping to inspect a First Folio, only to be offered two cod and chips instead.

    (BTW, your links bar now sits to the right-hand-side of the page when viewed with Internet Explorer – intentionally so?)

  2. Posted September 3, 2009 at 2:55 am | Permalink

    Since I have on more than one occasion spent an enjoyable time researching the properties of haddock at Harry Ramsden’s, I think it would be a very good idea for them to add a literary dimension to their establishments. Maybe each branch could incorporate a small philosophy library, and the motto could be Brecht’s “Grub first, ethics later.”

    I’ve given the site a small re-design, which I hoped tightened it up a bit. The lines used to straggle a bit too far across the page. I think I prefer the sidebar to the right, but that might change.

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