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Agents of Change: Women Editors and Socio-Cultural Transformation in Europe (1710-1920)

Periodic Reporting for period 4 - WeChangEd (Agents of Change: Women Editors and Socio-Cultural Transformation in Europe (1710-1920))

Reporting period: 2019-12-01 to 2021-05-31

"Agents of Change: Women Editors and Socio-Cultural Transformation in Europe, 1710-1920" examined a neglected aspect of the social and cultural life in Europe in the modern period: the impact of women editors on public debate. This project advanced the hypothesis that periodical editorship enabled these women to take a prominent role in public life, to influence public opinion and to shape transnational processes of change. In order to test this hypothesis, the project brought together a multilingual and multidisciplinary team of six researchers who combined methodologies from literary studies, (women’s) history and the social sciences to map the transnational networks of intellectual exchange in which women editors participated, with particular attention to practices of textual transfer (including translation, adaptation, reprinting and reviewing) across language boundaries and historical periods. The project consisted of two parts: 1) a database that takes stock of women editors and their periodicals, makes available new material and provides a data source for socio-textual network analysis; 2) five thematic subprojects that study the impact of women editors on some of the most significant processes of socio-cultural transformation in modern European history: the beginnings of the periodical press, the rise of the novel, domestic ideology, consumer culture and women’s rights. By examining how these processes unfolded in the press through practices of textual transfer both among women and in the larger publishing landscape, the project not only initiated a shift in our thinking about the participation of women in society and print culture but also paved the way for pan-European research on the periodical press.
The PI and the postdoc developed a data model in accordance with Linked Open Data (LOD) principles that formed the backbone of the project database. All team members participated in populating the database; in total, 1,804 names of editors and 1,705 titles of periodicals in 26 European languages were entered. At the end of the project, all project data were transferred to the freely accessible collaboratively edited knowledge base Wikidata. In addition, the team collaborated with developers to build a Wikidata-powered digital storytelling app that plots the data on a map and timeline and presents the data as visually compelling narratives accessible to the wider public.

The PI and the PhD students developed their own subprojects based on the broad thematic lines set out in the original project proposal, focusing on the impact of women editors on particular aspects of modern European societies (including salon culture, deliberative democracy, fashion, and women’s rights). Together, they covered periodicals in Dutch, English, French, German, Greek, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and Swedish. An international conference on European women editors in 2019 brought together a wealth of additional perspectives on, for instance, Estonian, Finnish, Hungarian, Norwegian, Polish, Romanian, and Slovenian women editors. A special issue of the Journal of European Periodical Studies with 11 articles and an introduction by the team appeared in the summer of 2021. In addition, the team regularly published articles in scholarly journals, contributed blog posts to the project website, and spoke about the project on the radio. The four PhD students all successfully defended their doctoral dissertations in 2020; one PhD student secured a contract with an academic publisher for the pubication of her dissertation as a monograph.

The PI is the founding editor-in-chief of the peer-reviewed open-access Journal of European Periodical Studies, which was launched in 2016 as one of the objectives of the project, and is now an established voice in the field of periodical studies.
The project has become a leading example of collaborative, transnational and cross-language scholarship in the field of periodical studies. In addition, it has put the contribution of women high on the agenda, both in terms of the primary materials of the field (i.e. the importance of studying women editors) and in terms of the researchers involved (nearly all team members, including the PI, are women). The project's Linked Open Data approach is at the forefront of best practices in data management and dissemination.
A screenshot of the Wikidata-based Women Editors Stories app developed as part of WeChangEd.
A screenshot of the Wikidata-based Women Editors Stories app developed as part of WeChangEd.