VOLUME 14 NUMBER 2
SPRING 2013

Electronic Enlightenment

The searchable and browsable database Electronic Enlightenment provides extensive access to the web of correspondence between some of the greatest thinkers and writers of the long eighteenth century and their families and friends, bankers and booksellers, patrons and publishers. Coverage includes letters and documents, document sources such as manuscripts and early printed editions, scholarly annotations, and links to biographies, dictionaries, encyclopedias, newspapers, and other online resources. The resource includes over 60,000 letters and documents and more than 7,000 correspondents representing about 50 nationalities and over 700 occupations. There is a rich variety of people in Electronic Enlightenment covering a real cross-section of early modern society in Europe and the Americas. Including not only the "great men" - as someone significant, the database reveals the existence of the myriad unknown and ignored figures of the period and raises questions about their place in the structures of their time, challenging the traditional concept of the "Enlightenment" as the preserve of philosophers. Thus, through Electronic Enlightenment one can see the ideas and concerns not only of thinkers and scholars, politicians and diplomats, but also butchers and housewives, servants and shopkeepers. The letters and documents cover a vast number of topics, including: art and literature; birth, death and marriages; business and economics; diplomacy and current affairs; educational and cultural institutions; food and drink; health, hygiene and medicine; law and politics; math and geometry; music and theatre; news and gossip; philosophy and theology; printing and publishing; science and technology; shopping and the weather; travel and events; war and revolution. There is even the very odd as we read in Jonathan Swift's letter to Rev. Thomas Sheridan (20 April 1737):

... we have all expected you here at Easter, as you were used to do. - Your Muster-Roll of Meat is good, but, of Drink in sup Port able. Yew wann twine. My stress Alba via hath eaten here all your hung Beef, and said it was very good. I am now come to the noli me Tan Jerry, which begg Inns wyth mad Dam - So So I will go on by the Strength of my own Wit upon Points of the high est imp or taunts.

The database is linked to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography and numerous other online resources.