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

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - WeChangEd (Agents of Change: Women Editors and Socio-Cultural Transformation in Europe (1710-1920))

Reporting period: 2018-06-01 to 2019-11-30


""Agents of Change: Women Editors and Socio-Cultural Transformation in Europe, 1710-1920"" examines 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 advances 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 has brought together a multilingual and multidisciplinary team of six researchers who combine 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 has two parts: 1) a database 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 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 aims not only to initiate a shift in our thinking about the participation of women in society and print culture but also to pave the way for pan-European research on the periodical press.

The PI and the postdoc have developed a data model for the database in collaboration with the Ghent Centre for Digital Humanities. Nodegoat was selected as database software because of its usability for network analysis, which will become important at a later stage of the project. All team members are participating in populating the database. So far, 1376 names of editor and 1406 titles of periodicals have been entered -- numbers that far exceed our expectations. The postdoc has also developed a community-sourcing platform to allow fellow scholars to suggest names and titles (e.g. of periodicals in languages not covered by the team members). The PI and the postdoc are currently working on an (open-access) article discussing the development of the data model, so that it can be used by other periodical scholars as well and facilitate further work on periodicals, and digital periodical research across language boundaries in particular.

All PhD students have been developing their own subprojects in individual project charters based on the broad thematic lines set out in the original project proposal, in particular fashion, domesticity and women's rights. One researcher is also focusing on the influence of women editors on international politics, a strand that was not in the proposal,but which has proved quite fruitful. The project has been presented at several international conferences and the first publications are expected to come out this year. All team members regularly contribute blog posts to the project website. The PI has also collaborated with several colleagues abroad to establish the new online open-access Journal for European Periodical Studies ( The journal was launched at the annual conference of the European Society for Periodical Research in July 2016; two issues have been published so far.
The project has been welcomed in the field of periodical studies as a leading example of the kind of collaborative, transnational and cross-language approach that is so often lacking at the moment. 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 (at the moment, all team members, including the PI, are women). The data model we have developed for this project will be made freely available to all scholars, to use and adapt to their own needs and aims. The project is also raising awareness of the ways in which commercial companies offering digitized periodical collections are currently hampering large-scale periodical research methods (such as data mining and network analysis), by hiding their collections behind expensive paywalls and not sharing their data models.