Resources and Projects

"But what, you may ask, is a middlebrow? And that, to tell the truth, is no easy question to answer."

Virginia Woolf, 'Middlebrow' in The Death of the Moth, (London: Hogarth Press, 1947; first published 1942) p. 115.

Louise Brooks reads The Smart Set
Courtesy of Louise Brooks Society

If there is a link you think ought to be included here, please email David Rush at middlebrow [at]

Researching the Middlebrow

At the network's 2009 conference at the University of Strathclyde a session was held on 'researching the middlebrow'. The presentations can be accessed here:

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Archives and Databases

Adam Matthew Publications

This publisher offers digital access to manuscripts and rare printed sources, including a searchable, full-text version of the Mass Observation archives.

At the Circulating Library - A Database of Victorian Fiction, 1837-1901

A large database cataloguing information about Victorian authors, titles and publishers.

British Cinema History Research Project

Includes a detailed online index to Kinematograph Weekly for the years from May 1955 to February 1971 when the magazine folded, together wtih sample material from 1915 and from 1943-1945. The index allows researchers to trace the history of individual cinemas, towns, personnel, production companies, studios and subjects as they are mentioned in the magazine. Transcriptions of interviews with people working in the film industry are also available online.

Culture of Celebrity

A comprehensive annotated bibliography of writings that reflect on the culture of celebrity.

HEARTH Homes Economics Archive

HEARTH is a electronic collection of books and journals in Home Economics and related disciplines published between 1850 and 1950. The full text of these materials, as well as bibliographies and essays on the wide array of subjects relating to Home Economics, are accessible on this site.

Mass Observation

The Mass Observation Archive specialises in material about everyday life in Britain. It contains papers generated by the original Mass Observation social research organisation (1937 to early 1950s), and newer material collected continuously since 1981. The Archive is in the care of the University of Sussex and is housed in the Library in Special Collections.

Old Magazines Archive

This is a private site run by a magazine enthusiast. It offers an esoteric collection of magazine articles, essays, poetry, cartoons and photographs in PDF form.

Orlando Project

Orlando: Women's Writing in the British Isles from the Beginnings to the Presentis a dynamic textbase of about five and a half million words (subscription is necessary). It includes documents on the lives and writing careers of about a thousand writers, together with a great deal of contextual historical material on relevant subjects, such as the law, economics, science, writing by men, education, medicine, politics.

Penguin Archive Project

The Penguin Archive contains the archives of Penguin Books Ltd. from its foundation in 1935 to the 1980s. It includes a wide variety of materials on the establishment and business life of Penguin Books Ltd., as well as social events, legal cases (particularly the Lady Chatterley's Lover trial of 1960), exhibitions on the company's history, and the private lives of prominent figures in the early history of the company, including Sir Allen Lane, Eunice Frost and Betty Radice. It also includes a large collection of Penguin books from 1935 to date.

Reading Experience Database (RED) 1450-1945

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 RED is drawn from published and unpublished sources as diverse as diaries, commonplace books, memoirs, sociological surveys, and criminal court and prison records. There are also RED databases in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the Netherlands, which can be accessed via the link above.

Richmal Crompton Collection

The Richmal Crompton (1890 – 1969) Collection comprises books, archives, artefacts and ephemera accumulated during and after the author’s lifetime. It holds various editions of the William stories, a full set of Crompton’s adult fiction, and her personal library. Archives comprise over 70 boxes and range from biographical accounts of the author’s life, including correspondence and photographs, to a very comprehensive account of Crompton’s career as a writer, including jottings and draft scripts, publishers’ correspondence and fan letters.

Sybil Campbell Library

The Sybil Campbell Library, held at the University of Winchester, is an esoteric collection of around 8,000 items. The earliest part of the collection was intended to provide young graduates of the 1920s and 1930s with an overview of their world in order to foster international peace and understanding, following the aims of the British Federation of University Women (BFUW), the International Federation of University Women (IFUW). Benefactors include Leonard and Virginia Woolf and members of the Bloomsbury group, Beatrice and Sidney Webb, Harold Laski, Alys and Bertrand Russell, and academics and writers of the their day.

Victorian Women Writers Project

The Victorian Women Writers Project makes available transcriptions of works by British women writers of the 19th century. The works include anthologies, novels, political pamphlets, religious tracts, children's books, and volumes of poetry and verse drama.

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Societies and Networks

Academy for British and Irish Studies

Based at the University of Huddersfield, the Academy promotes interdisciplinary study about identity in the UK and beyond.

AHRC Research Centre for the History and Analysis of Recorded Music

As well as details of events and publications, this site offers access to a major online discography of early recordings and a library of ex-copyright recordings.

Arnold Bennett Society

The society aims to promote the study and appreciation of Arnold Bennett and related provincial writers, and holds an annual conference.

Association for Research in Popular Fictions

Established by John Moores University and the University of Liverpool to offer a forum for research into popular fictions and to support the teaching and understanding of popular fiction in an interdisciplinary context.

Centre for the History of the Book, Edinburgh

The Centre at Edinburgh University was established in 1995 as an international and interdisciplinary centre for advanced research into all aspects of the material culture of the text - its production, circulation, and reception from manuscript to the electronic text.

Cultures of the Suburbs International Research Network

The Leverhulme Trust funded Network is a partnership between the Universities of Exeter and Kingston (UK), Witwatersrand (South Africa), Hofstra (USA), Griffith (Australia) and the National University of Ireland, Maynooth, and its purpose is to support scholarly activities relating to the cultural life of the suburbs.

Domestic Space

An interdisciplinary site on houses, homes and gardens, addressing how different disciplines conceive, represent, and analyse domestic space, and how different methodologies approach attitudes to and constructions of domestic space. The site includes a bibliography, events listing and related web links.

H G Wells Society

The H G Wells Society was founded in 1960. It has an international membership, and aims to promote a widespread interest in the life, work and thought of Herbert George Wells. It publishes an annual journal, and issues a biannual newsletter.

Modernist Network Cymru (MoNC)

Modernist Network Cymru (MoNC) brings together scholars and professionals working on modernism in Wales to encourage better communication and collaboration.

Modernist Studies Association (MSA)

The MSA, an international association founded in the US, is devoted to the study of the arts in their social, political, cultural, and intellectual contexts from the later nineteenth- through the mid-twentieth century.  MSA conferences have included several panels and seminars on middlebrow in recent years. Those at the 2009 conference were organised by the Middlebrow Network.

Reception Study Society

The Reception Study Society (RSS) promotes exchanges between scholars in reader-response criticism and pedagogy, reception study, history of reading and the book, audience, communication, and media studies. They produce an annual journal and organise a conference every two years.

Scottish Network for Modernist Studies

This is a forum for discussion and exchange between those working on modernism in any discipline. The Network embraces Modernism in its broadest senses. This includes modernity, the avant-garde, the fin-de-siècle, modern and contemporary legacies and historical anticipations.

Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing (SHARP)

A global network for book historians, SHARP is concerned with the creation, dissemination, and reception of script and print, including newspapers, periodicals, and ephemera.

Tailored Trades: Clothes, Labour and Professional Communities (1880-1939)

Organised by researchers at the University of Essex and Northumbria University, this AHRC-funded research network investigates how clothes and labour influenced and assisted in the development of professional communities at the turn of the twentieth century. 

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Belphégor: Volume on Middlebrow

This volume of Belphégor proposes a European perspective on middlebrow. Its aim is to open up the concept beyond the Anglophone experience and to the reality of transnational culture.

Modernist Cultures

An e-journal addressing the interdisciplinary and international contexts of modernism

The Smart Set

“The Magazine of Cleverness…The Aristocrat Among Magazines…The Only Magazine with an European Air,” was edited from 1914 to 1923 by George Jean Nathan and H.L. Mencken and published the early work of such talents as F. Scott Fitzgerald, Dorothy Parker, and Theodore Dreiser. It has now been resurrected as a modern online magazine.

The Space Between Society

The Space Between Society and journal are devoted to interdisciplinary scholarship on the period bracketed by the two World Wars. They are interested in approaches to texts of all kinds, emphasizing research on lesser-known writers and artists and understudied issues of the period, including literary and cultural responses to the First and Second World Wars.

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Persephone Books

With a rather different approach from Virago, Persephone Books reprints forgotten classics by twentieth-century (mostly women) writers. The titles "are chosen to appeal to busy women who rarely have time to spend in ever-larger bookshops and who would like to have access to a list of books designed to be neither too literary nor too commercial."

Pickering and Chatto: Literary Texts and the Popular Marketplace

This interdisciplinary series, launched in 2010, will offer monographs and edited collections of essays that 'examine the extents and effects of writing that resists the uncritical embrace of the highbrow'.

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Research Projects

Magazines, Travel, and Middlebrow Culture in Canada, 1925-1960

An AHRC-funded project which developed directly out of the Middlebrow Network. The site offers information on mainstream Canadian magazines, sample content, bibliographies and visualisations.

MEDIATE: Understanding the Real Bestsellers of the 18th Century

MEDIATE is an ERC-funded digital humanities project, based at Radboud University in the Netherlands, which seeks to study the circulation of books and ideas in eighteenth-century Europe by drawing on a unique database of eighteenth-century library auction catalogues.

Middlebrow Cinema

This AHRC and Leverhulme-funded project, developed from Sally Faulkner's AHRC Fellowship, 'A New History of Spanish Cinema: Middlebrow Films and Mainstream Audiences', explores the concept of the middlebrow in Spanish film. It considers how this often derogatory English term, first coined in 1924, translates across cultures (including European, Latin-American and Asian cinemas) and time (from the 1940s to the present day).

Modern Magazines Project Canada

This middlebrow magazine project led by Hannah McGregor focuses on one of the major Canadian household magazines of the early twenieth century, Western Home Monthly, printed in Winnipeg between 1899 and 1932.

Music and the Middlebrow

This interdisciplinary, transnational research project explores the relationship between musical culture and the middlebrow. Over a three-year period, it will bring together scholars from a range of disciplinary backgrounds in a series of discussion-focused events, with a view to fostering dialogues and facilitating the exchange of ideas.

Noël Coward, Print Culture, and Popularity

A British Academy-funded project (2015-) by Faye Hammill, based on research emerging from the Network.

Reading Sheffield

A linked group of projects gathering and connecting experiences of reading in Sheffield over the past 300 years. Led by Dr Mary Grover, one of the founders of the Middlebrow Network.

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