Work-in-progress

My research of late has focused on representations of global commerce in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. I’m spending the 2011-12 academic year on sabbatical working on a book-length project, tentatively titled “Imagining New Worlds of Commerce.” In this piece, I examine the ways that Britons tried to conceive of a world of commercial possibilities for themselves at a time when their European rivals seemed to have monopolized the richest trades for themselves. The project of opening a way for Britain’s global commerce was, in part, an exercise of imagination, as authors sought first to envision the new worlds of lucrative trade that they hoped, in time, to realize.

A key figure for my current work is Daniel Defoe, whose extensive and generically promiscuous body of work cuts across matters of trade, finance, travel, and much more. My essay on Defoe’s representation of London as the center of Britain’s commerce in his nonfiction (with an emphasis on A Tour Thro’ the Whole Island of Great Britain) is just out in Positioning Daniel Defoe’s Nonfiction: Form, Function, Genre, edited by Aino Mäkikälli and Andreas Mueller (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2011). I also contributed a pedagogical piece on teaching texts by Defoe beyond the usual suspects of the "major" fiction to the first number of Digital Defoe: Studies in Defoe and His Contemporaries.

Digital Projects

My other ongoing project involves supplying solid bibliographical identifications for scans of hand-press era books at sites like Google Books and the Internet Archive. Those sites have a wealth of material that can be very useful to students and scholars without access to expensive proprietary databases like ProQuest’s EEBO or Gale-Cengage’s ECCO, but it’s frequently not identified with enough precision to be really useful for serious research.

In 2009, I launched the site Eighteenth-Century Book Tracker, which serves as a clearinghouse for identifying and indexing links to freely-available page-image scans of eighteenth-century books online. I’ve discussed the site at several conferences, and have written about it both at the Early Modern Online Bibliography blog (here and here) and in a piece for the Eighteenth-Century Intelligencer; the site also received favorable notice in the Spring 2011 number of SHARPNews.

Together with Brian Geiger, the Director of the Center for Bibliographical Studies and Research at the University of California-Riverside, I received one of the inaugural Google Digital Humanities Research Awards to improve bibliographical metadata for early modern books at Google Books by matching their scans against the records of the English Short Title Catalogue, the premier reference for books printed in the English-speaking world before 1800. Work on that project is ongoing, but Eighteenth-Century Book Tracker should soon be absorbed as a project of the ESTC.

At the 2011 meeting of the Defoe Society, the Board adopted a resolution to pursue the development of a Defoe Attributions Database, and I will begin work on the earliest phases of that project with several of my fellow board members soon. More to come...

Other work

I regularly attend and present work at the annual meeting of the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies and its affiliate societies. Several of those papers should make it, in some form, into my current book project, others may pop up somewhere else later.

My dissertation project is currently shelved, though I may come back to it some day. A version of one chapter of it (on William Godwin) appeared in Reactions to Revolutions: The 1790s and their Aftermath, edited by Ulrich Broich, Eckhart Hellmuth, H. T. Dickinson, and Martin Schmidt (LitVerlag, 2007), and is (probably) viewable in full at Google Books.