Whilst helping students get sorted for their studies, I had the good fortune to stumble upon a great resource called UK RED, that will interest anybody who has a curiosity in reading, it’s history and the myriad contexts that make up the rich fabric of our cultural experience.

From the about page:

UK RED is an open-access database housed at The Open University containing over 30,000 easily searchable records documenting the history of reading in Britain from 1450 to 1945. Evidence of reading presented in UK RED is drawn from published and unpublished sources as diverse as diaries, commonplace books, memoirs, sociological surveys, and criminal court and prison records.

UK Red captures the literary experience as told by everyday readers.  The search options are comprehensive, covering century, socio-economic group, whether the source is from a reader, listener, or reading group.  It even goes so far as to check through translations, publishers, etc.  The choices allow the reader to go deep into history for study, or just for curiosity.  The room for context of a particular book to a specific group of people at a specific time (and also the changing opinions of society over time) can be fascinating.

Poet Letitia Elizabeth Landon spoke of her experiences reading Robinson Crusoe:

For weeks after reading that book, I lived as if in a dream; indeed I scarcely dreamt of anything else at night. I went to sleep with the cave, its parrots and goats, floating before my closed eyes. I awakened in some rapid flight from the savages landing in their canoes. The elms in our hedges were not more familiar than the prickly shrubs which formed his palisades, and the grapes whose drooping branches made fertile the wide savannahs. (UK RED: 32079)

Another gem I came across was from Mark Twain, who not being a fan of Jane Austen’s novels wrote,  ‘Every time I read Pride and Prejudice I want to dig her up and hit her over the skull with her own shin-bone’ (UK RED: 803146).

I manage to spend a bit of time browsing each day and the opportunities for insight are immense, and also an inspiration to not only see literature through the eyes of others, but also to record our thoughts for future readers and researchers.

18 Replies to “UK RED”

  1. Oooh – you said this would be of interest and it does not disappoint! What an amazing treasury of jewels – I can’t wait to start browsing and by the sound of it may never stop!


    1. I thought you’d like this. I’ve been meaning to post for a while but time is getting more elusive as baby approaches. I love the variety of searches that I can access and anyone can add to the database too.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Wonderful! I particularly love the quote from Mark Twain. The funny thing for a reader is that one can love both Jane Austen and Mark Twain, and relish the humor of the situation.


    1. I find it interesting that writers can be so opposed to other authors when readers can appreciate both. There’s some great stuff on the site, I always enjoy perusing the court transcripts when I get time.


      1. The really deep humor in Twain’s quote, of course, is the kind of “twist” or “turn” he always puts in it, when he says “EVERY TIME” he reads “Pride and Prejudice,” and so on and so forth. That he’s read it several times argues that he likes it in spite of himself.


    1. Crissy feels she’s very close. The official date is near the end of the month but it could be anytime from now. UK RED keeps me sane when my mind starts to wander about baby and what would happen if I needed to leave work to get to the hospital.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. These last few weeks of pregnancy are so much worse for dads than for mums. Women have been taken over by hormones that stop them worrying too much about the inevitable; poor men spend most of their time thinking out contingency plans and hoping they don’t faint/throw up/run away etc. I am sure everything will be fine. There is always plenty of time to get home/to hospital with the first baby and I am also sure that your work will be accommodating and understanding. You have let them know?

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Work have been great, if I need to go, I can go straightaway. I have all the bus times rattling around my head, alternate buses and routes, and so on. Crissy made me watch a video of men fainting at birth, then told me not to so no pressure. I didn’t know that about the hormones, here’s me just living on adrenaline all week.

          Liked by 1 person

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