Recently, I happened upon a web site which I suspect many Regency authors will find both useful and convenient, particularly when researching places or locations in Britain. It is called A Vision of Britain Through Time, and is the work of a large group of scholars who specialize in a wide range of subject areas with regard to the history of the British Isles. The materials available at this site cover a period of two centuries, which includes the decade of the Regency. According to the home page of the web site, it is "A vision of Britain between 1801 and 2001. Including maps, statistical trends and historical descriptions."
What I like best about A Vision of Britain Through Time . . .
The intent of the scholars who developed this web site is to enable anyone who might be interested to better understand how any area in Great Britain changed over the course of the previous two centuries. Here one can find historical and modern maps, old photographs, census reports, election results and a selection of historical travel guides about the British Isles for the past two centuries. Using this site, a researcher can study the history an area using maps, photos, statistical reports and a selection of travel writings about the area.
From the Home page of A Vision of Britain Through Time, one can enter a place name or a postal code to find a page devoted to just about any place in Great Britain. On this same page can be found links to historical maps, travel writings, census reports and election results, as well as a link to a related site which has gathered together hundreds of historical maps of the world, including the British Isles. There is also a link on the home page to an "Expert Search" page for use by those seeking very specific and refined search results.
Most Regency authors will probably find the Places page of most interest. On this page, one can also search for a specific place within the British Isles. For those wanting maps of all of Great Britain from the twentieth century, the nineteenth century, land utilization and an open street map, it is a simple matter to click the map image that appears on this page. Beneath the map of the British Isles on the Places page is a historical description of Britain. Below that is an explanation that refining a search will produce more detailed information, and provides links to pages on England, Scotland and Wales.
Once a search has been made on a place name, the page for that place provides links to all of the available information about that place, in a navigation column on the left side of the page. In this column can be found links to pages for Historical places and writing, Historical photographs, Units and Statistics, Related websites and Place Names. The Historical places and writing page for each place has two tabs, one for links to information about the specific place for which the search was run, the second tab provided links to information about the wider area around this place. The next link launches a gallery of old photographs of the searched place. Since photography was not available until the mid-nineteenth century, there are, of course, no photographs on this site from the Regency period. However, some of these old photos are of structures and landscapes which did exist during the Regency, even if they are decades later and only in black and white.
The Units and Statistics page also has two tabs, one for statistical information for the specific place, another for statistical information for the wider area in which it is located. The Related Websites page has two tabs as well, one for links to sites about the specific location and one with links to sites about locations nearby. The Place names page may be of particular value to Regency authors, since it lists all of the names which have been given to that place over its history, accompanied by the sources of those names, with dates, and links to those sources.
The right side of the Place page displays an historical map of the place, beneath which appears an entry from a gazetteer about the place. The map itself is a link to a page on which can be found a list of maps which include this place, and a larger area in which to view the map selected, through history. There are four tabs on this page, Topographic maps, Boundary maps, Land use maps, and a tab with information on how to use the map library.
The Statistical Atlas page brings together links to statistics by various subjects. Though this is a rich source of information, most of it dates from the mid-nineteenth century into the twentieth century. There is very little statistical information for the years of the Regency, since that was not a time when such information was collected and archived. Though it is always possible that just a tidbit of information might suggest an interesting plot line to a creative Regency author.
There is also an Historical Maps page, for those who are primarily interested in maps of places in the British Isles. This page is well-designed, making it easy to browse through all of the many maps which are available here. Fair warning, however, there are so many maps available for the two centuries covered at this site that it is easy to get lost looking through them.
The Census Reports page provides links to published census reports from 1801 to 1961. These are aggregated census reports, which include the numbers of births, deaths and marriages in a given area. The specific details of individuals are not included in the census information which is posted here. Nevertheless, the information provided may be of value to many researchers. There is a time line on this page, which is also a set of links to the census reports for each year. There is also a link on this page to "The Guide to Census Reports: Great Britain 1801-1966." This guide explains the practice of census-taking over the period noted, which may be of interest to any author who might be planning to include a census as part of their story.
Another section of this site, the Travel Writing page, will be of particular interest to Regency authors. The Travellers tab on this page offers links to several important books on travel across the British Isles which were written over several centuries. These travel books are all in the public domain, and digital copies can be found in several places online. However, there are a couple of important advantages with the copies of these writing available on the A Vision of Britain site. Most importantly, every mention of a place in the text is a link to the Place page for that location. Nearly as important, in my opinion, these versions of the books are not scanned copies, they are all clean digital transcriptions, which ensure clarity and readability.
On the Artisans and Agitators tab, the second on the Travel writing page, one can find links to a selection of travel writings by authors who were politically active in Great Britain. Unfortunately, there is very little on this tab for a Regency researcher, since most of these writings were published in the later decades of the nineteenth century, after the reign of George IV. However, there are a couple of texts which were published in the 1830s, and may contain information which is relevant to the Regency period. The last tab on this page provides information on how to get the best results when searching through this vast array of travel writings.
Anyone who visits this site for the first time will want to take advantage of the documentation available on the Learning Zone page. Here are to be found several links to tutorials on various aspects of using the Vision of Britain site to its fullest potential based on broad topics which may be of interested to scholars and researchers. There is also a link on this page to download a .PDF version of a guide to executing detailed searches of the site. Serious students of the history of the British Isles will find this information invaluable in honing their searches.
The last page on the site, Data Access, provides information on how users can download some of the data used at the site. Some of this data is freely available to all, under licensing through Creative Commons. However, other data is only available to those who are registered members of academic institutions in the United Kingdom. Nevertheless, even if you cannot download the data from this site, the citations provided should enable you to get access to copies held in other collections. There are multiple tabs on this page, each of which provides links to various types of data.
The A Vision of Britain Through Time web site is a rich source of information on the history of Great Britain, primarily through its places. The information is well-organized and the site it easy to browse, even for users with only a casual interest. However, the tutorials and other documentation provided also enable serious scholars to drill down to the specific facts which they require for their research. This site would be of value just for the many maps it offers, but combined with the travel writings, historical photographs, census reports and election records, it provides a detailed picture of the British Isles over a period of more than two centuries. I think most Regency authors will want to bookmark this site as a valuable addition to their research sources.