Eighteenth Century Collections Online brings learning to life and new dimension to history at Leeds University.
John Chartres, Professor of Social and Economic History, Leeds University, and former Oxford Scholar, tells us about the significant difference this primary digital resource has made to the quality and depth of work produced by lecturers and students in the history, history of art, history and philosophy of science and English departments.
IMPACT ON TEACHING AND LEARNING
“Eighteenth Century Collections Online (ECCO) is a true feast of delights. It’s like being Hansel and Gretel from the Brothers Grim fairy tale walking into a delicious gingerbread house, but without a witch to stop you”, Professor John Chartres exclaimed.
Accessible anytime anywhere by Leeds University’s 35,000 students, ECCO has had a significant impact on teaching and learning across departments, in particular lecturers, undergraduates, postgraduates and PhD students in his history department.
“It’s extremely interesting how this resource has enriched the educational experience for my students. In year one when students study A tour thro' the whole island of Great Britain (Daniel Defoe’s matter-of-fact account of his visits to various places within Britain) and access primary resource material from ECCO, it’s fascinating for them to discover for themselves the extent of Defoe’s plagiarism. Students can readily track the intertextuality or unacknowledged quotation from one primary resource to another.
“In their third year when students are preparing their research dissertations they make extensive use of ECCO and are able to conduct global library searches that would have been inconceivable before its arrival. MA and PhD students are taken to another level – the depth and range of materials to which they have instant access is astonishing. They, like the teaching staff at Leeds, can follow their own inclinations, provide evidence for their arguments and view secondary resources with a critical eye. This simply wasn’t possible before. They can achieve a much more sophisticated appreciation of what history actually means.
“Today’s generation of students are more inclined to sit online than look in the library, so it makes this resource all the more valuable.”
“Before the arrival of ECCO, students keen to perform even a simple primary resource task would have the daunting job of gaining access to a special part of our library – one of the top 10 research libraries in the country – searching through reams of microfiche which can be technically problematic, and still only gain access to approximately 20 percent of the original primary source material. When studying at Oxford I had to travel the breadth of the country to gain access to the material I wished to examine and pay for expensive photocopies of primary resource documentation held in universities abroad. I then spent days and days reading through extensive collections of magazines, catalogues and trade cards, often finding just a nugget of information that would lead me to my next discovery. It was hugely time consuming.”
“The arrival of ECCO and its powerful search facilities opens up new avenues for students and lecturers to explore subjects that before would not have been possible.
“For example, one student recently presented a study on the sexual mores of eighteenth century society by interrogating pamphlet accounts of particularly elite women and their love affairs and volumes of criminal conversation cases. Interestingly, she was able to see that if a married woman committed adultery, the husband could sue the adulterer for invasion of property rights.
“Another student presented a study on the history of perfume. By reading trade cards (small cards, similar to the visiting cards exchanged in social circles, that businesses would distribute to clients and potential customers) they were able to track its evolution from the original nosegay, used to mask the unpleasant smells of the time, to the arrival of perfume applied directly to the body. Students searching manually for this information would have had to visit several different libraries. It would have been like searching for a needle in a haystack.”
“Every year I see at least 10 percent of my students moving up to a top First Degree performance in their dissertations through the application of ECCO.”
“Powerful search capabilities, a key feature of ECCO, mean that for the first time students have access to material that can radically change their understanding of a topic. It’s an extraordinarily exciting resource”, he concluded.