"In a recent work on eighteenth-century literature, philosophy, and science, Wolfram Schmidgen states, simply, 'This study would not have been possible without the electronic databases that have transformed research in the humanities and social sciences over the past twenty years or so.' I know exactly what he means. My life as a scholar has been transformed by access to a number of electronic databases including, but not limited to, Early English Books Online, Eighteenth Century Collections Online, and British Periodicals Online. Without these databases, I could not even have envisioned, much less completed, my manuscript on the intersections between the medical and literary representations of transfusion in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Searching these databases allowed me to discover a mine of primary sources (such as newspaper and journal articles, novels, and short stories) that had remained 'buried' since the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Because of them, I am able to make new claims about the ways in which scientific and medical knowledge was disseminated in the nineteenth century, and to shed new light on the relationship between medical science and popular culture.
"In my classes, I also introduce my students to the wonders of electronic databases: showing them, for example, in a discussion of fashion in eighteenth-century England, what happens when we do a title search for the word 'petticoat.' How else would we find, and have immediate access to, the pamphlet, 'The Enormous Abomination of the Hoop-Petticoat'? Such minor works add so much to our understanding of the time period, and they also enter into dialogue with major works, such as Alexander Pope's The Rape of the Lock, which also has a lot to say about petticoats! With such electronic databases, all of my students can have the experiencing of conducting research in primary materials that they would not have had access to without traveling to the Houghton Library (at best) or, more likely, the British Library. There is nothing like this experience of discovery."