Asa Briggs (1921-2016)

Asa Briggs was an extraordinary force of nature. The range and the significance of his contributions to twentieth century British history and to British historiography defy summary. He played a part in Bletchley Park code-breaking unit during the Second World War, before an academic career which saw him serve as Professor of History at Leeds, Vice-Chancellor of the new University of Sussex, and Provost of Worcester College Oxford, as well as Chancellor of the Open University. Along the way he was a member of the University Grants Committee, President of the Workers’ Educational Association, chaired a parliamentary inquiry into the training of nurses, and was influential in formulating the educational policy of the then European Economic Community. Briggs was an irrepressible builder and champion. His capacity for living a life stuffed to the seams was legendary; reviews rattled off in theatre intervals, tutorials in taxis, insatiable globetrotting, all became part of the myth.

As a historian Briggs had little time for narrow academic argument. He wanted to be read, and read he was. He made the past live through the testimony of its inhabitants, and the textures of its material cultures. He gave weight to the importance of the common experience and its organizing structures, not least class, but did so without dogmatism, exposing the connectedness of society as well as its conflicts. His The Age of Improvement sold over 100,000 copies; later works were reissued and reprinted as Pelican and Penguin paperbacks, with each iteration garnering fresh readers seeking both education and entertainment. In the 1950s he was a regular on BBC radio, although despite more than thirty years as the official historian of the BBC he never quite established himself on television. But his published output was enormous: innumerable reviews, countless chapters, lectures and essays, and more than fifty books, covering people and places, organisational histories, picture books and photography, biography and autobiography, hospitals and Haut Brion; and his global readership was immense.

Of this extraordinary output it was his nineteenth century social history that most endured. In fact, although it is easy to think of Briggs as the founder of Victorian Studies that honour rests elsewhere; but he was in effect the UK editorial office of Victorian Studies in its early years, and in this role, as much as through his writing, he helped to shape interdisciplinary nineteenth century studies in its early manifestations. Fifty years after its initial publication, Victorian Cities is still a formative point of reference for urban historians, and some of his conceptualisations of the century’s history, such as the gravitational shift from Manchester to Birmingham and its effects, have become simple orthodoxies. His works were treated by many literary historians with an almost religious reverence, although his own interdisciplinarity inclined more to economics and sociology. He was deeply suspicious of generalisation and periodization, and yet the cumulative effect of his writings on the nineteenth century was to establish the coherence of the Victorian period as a period.

Briggs was, as he once confessed, ‘a bit of a Victorian’, shaped by a smoke-shrouded childhood in an inter-war Keighley still essentially a Victorian community. His house in Leeds in the 1950s was described by A.J.P. Taylor as ‘like Asa himself, small, squat and full of Victorian bric a brac’. He permeated the landscape of Victorian Studies, helping to launch the Society for the Study of Labour History, and the Social History Society, serving as President of the Victorian Society, the William Morris Society and the Bronte Society. Without ever constructing a ‘school’, or fitting the model of a modern supervisor, he supervised many subsequently influential Victorian scholars. He was a generous, perceptive, and above all an enabling critic. And that ultimately was the Briggs essence – belief that success in historical writing was to be measured more by the questions raised and the approaches encouraged than by the answers provided.

Asa supervised my doctoral work in the 1980s on Victorian Manchester; I was one of his last group of graduate students. Looking back I regret that my awe at the range of his achievements and his extraordinary ability to grasp the heart of a historical question prevented me from making the most of the experience. I vividly remember the not infrequent telephone interruptions to our supervisions, and his extraordinary efficiency in transacting the necessary business, questions posed, considered and decided in the space of a few seconds. I remember his graceful and generous concession to my insistence that I would concentrate my researches on Manchester alone, and not try to do a comparative study with Birmingham. I remember the infectious enthusiasm with which he shared my research findings. And almost inevitably, I also remember the brief panic when it became apparent that I was unlikely to get any final pre-thesis submission comments or reassurances from him, not least because no-one, not even Lady Briggs, seemed to know exactly where he was, Oslo perhaps, or was it Ottawa? I was once advised not to use Asa as a referee because his praise of me had seemed damningly faint beside the gushing endorsements of more savvy referees. But to me, his recommendation, and the personal influence that it attested, always seemed worth more than mere words. At pivotal points in my career he offered his full support, not least during the establishment of the Journal of Victorian Culture when he was one of the first to agree to serve as an Editorial Consultant. Of course he recognised that the development of Victorian Studies into the twenty-first century would need to be shaped by younger and more actively engaged scholars than he, and his assistance was essentially symbolic, though none the less important; indeed, as the essays published in Miles Taylor’s The Age of Asa demonstrate, we are still a long way from exhausting the lines of investigation Briggs opened up in Victorian Studies and beyond.

Martin Hewitt

I offer a more extensive assessment of Briggs’ role in the evolution of  Victorian Studies in my ‘A Little Bit of a Victorian? Asa Briggs and Victorian Studies’, in Miles Taylor, ed., The Age of Asa. Lord Briggs, Public Life and History in Britain since 1945 (Palgrave-Macmillan, 2015), 46-78. http://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1057%2F9781137392596_3

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Victorian Generations

I’m starting to think about the Victorian ‘generations’ for my plenary lecture at the BAVS annual conference in Leeds this August. (I know, I’m starting rather late, but I was diverted by the invitation to give one of the inaugural BAVS talks; see here). I’m coming to think that the concept of the ‘generation’ has huge potential for probing not just Victorian historical sensibilities, but our own. I realise that at first sight this will seem bizarre if not perverse. Not because the word wasn’t a favourite of the Victorian lexicon. It was – increasingly so. Nor because it is a term that has fallen out of current favour. It hasn’t – indeed scholars seem blithely insistent on using it. If anything recent attention to family relationships in the nineteenth century, in the work for example of Joanne Bailey, Trev Broughton and Julie Marie Strange, has intensified use, although in safer contexts of kinship rather than as a description of wider temporal cohorts where the term offers most but often delivers least.[1] And of course Franco Moretti’s Graphs, Maps and Trees has pointed to the potential of the generation for explaining the apparent cycles of novelistic genres.

But bizarre because outside narrow familial or genealogical contexts, as Moretti’s discomfort registers, it’s just such a protean and problematic term.  The Victorians used it as a unit of time of uncertain duration, as a metaphorical marker of historical distance, as a metaphor for almost any constituency of opinion, and in a whole series of clichéd phrases. Recent usage has largely followed suit. Efforts to champion the generation as a credible analytical tool, for example T.G. Otte’s The Foreign Office Mind: The Making of British Foreign Policy, 1865-1914 (2011), have generally failed to convince. And that’s without addressing the grand narrative building of William Strauss and Neil Howe, who have in the context of American history attempted to trace a series of four stage generational cycles, each stage/generation of around 20 years, in which periods of confidence, prosperity and stability (a ‘high’) are succeeded in turn by periods of intellectual challenge (‘awakening’),  socio-political change (‘unravelling’), and then of ‘crisis’, a pattern that Strauss and Howe have mapped back through American and then British history to 1433.[2]

And yet, somehow the concept of the generation continues to fascinate. It’s even difficult to resist the temptation to play with Strauss and Howe’s model. After all a four-phase account of Victorian Britain in which the phase of ‘crisis’ of the 1830s and 1840s gives way to the ‘high’ of the 1850s to the 1870s, and thence to the ‘Awakening’ of the 1870s to 90s, and the Unravelling of the 1890s to the First World War, doesn’t do a bad job of mapping onto our understandings of the period.

Even if we set aside such provocative grand narrations, both contemporary and Victorian usage embodies in many respects precisely the sorts of limitations that have been at the heart of recent critiques of historicism:  over-confidence in characterising a single mood or zeitgeist for a period narrowly particularised to a specific nation or region, rhetorical construction of cleavages between distinct generations which vanish on closer inspection, unconvincing identification of historical turning points, deep-rooted whiggism, and an apparent insistence that thought and action are significant only as far as they align with the exigencies of their moment.

But what is beginning to become clear to me is that notwithstanding the promiscuity of their generational rhetoric, Victorian writers offered the ingredients of an unexpectedly fruitful and flexible approach. In the first place Victorian commentators were surprisingly reluctant to offer coherent characterised generational identities of the sort that became common in the later twentieth century (no ‘generation Xers’ or ‘children of the sixties’ here). Apart from scattered references to the generation of Thackeray or Dickens, or (slightly more frequently) of Byron and Wordsworth, generations seem to have been used overwhelmingly to offer historical shading, rather than to construct black and white distinctions . If we cannot look for precision, in the hands of more reflective commentators such as Walter Bagehot, Victorian deployments of ‘generation’ produced a frame for more delicately nuanced analysis, less a matter of rupture than of modulation. The dynamics of politics, or diplomacy or culture at any moment or period involved the interplay of multiple inheritances, formative experiences, reactions and dilutions. Above all, a figure like Bagehot was attentive to the ways in which generational shifts, however fuzzily defined under close scrutiny, lie across each other in constantly shifting imbrications of language, experience, memory, and historical record. As he observed, in terms strikingly resonant with one of Marx’s own most famous historicist axioms, ‘each generation describes what it sees, but it describes in words inherited from the last … every generation inherits a series of inapt words — of maxims once true, but of which the truth is ceasing or has ceased’.[3]

Context, from this perspective was distinct, but it was never discrete; the present was not just interlaced in the past and the future, but a layering of different collective pasts and various orientations to the future. As far back as the 1950s Asa Briggs reminded us that ‘The debate between age groups in any period is as important as the debate between rich and poor or between Liberals and Conservatives’.[4] It’s an insight that was overwhelmed by the class-based analysis of Thompsonian Marxism, and then the linguistic turn, as well as by the sheer complexity of delineating the constantly shifting composition of inter-generational engagements. In the context of an attack on historicism which insists on its inherent drive to compartmentalisation and reductionism, and in light of calls for an interdisciplinary approach to the nineteenth century which broadens the conversation (more sociology anyone?), and with the possibilities of new digital tools for analysis and presentation, this seems like an approach to which it is timely to return.

We’ll need a more stable and less tautological definition or definitions of the ‘generation’ than has sufficed to date; but that in itself would be no bad thing.

[1] Trev L Broughton, Men of Letters, Writing Lives: Masculinity and Literary Auto/biography in the Late Victorian Period (1999), Joanne Bailey’s Parenting in England, 1760-1830: emotion, identity and generation (2012), Julie Marie Strange’s Fatherhood and the British Working Class, 1865-1914 (2014).

[2] W. Strauss and N. Howe, Generations (1991).

[3] W. Bagehot, English Constitution (1867), 1-2.

[4] Asa Briggs, Victorian People (1954), 8.

Are we imprisoned by periodization?

Recent moves in History and Literary Studies are raising the issue of periodization once again. Jo Guldi and David Armitage’s The History Manifesto (2014) shares at least one important intent with the more recently issued Manifesto of the V21 group in Victorian Studies: a call to ‘transtemporal’ scholarship which cuts across conventional periodization.  Periods of 10, 25, even 50 years (into which we can presumably place the 60+ year span of the Victorian) are presented as the sites of squabbles over detail, lacking in perspective or analytic power.

Periodization has of course been a long-established target, Victorian periodization especially so. From across its constituent disciplines, even scholars who have invested in the field have questioned its identity.  One of the readiest criticisms, invoked indeed by Guldi and Armitage, is that periods are ‘arbitrary’, usually with the implication that this is inherently so, although it is never made clear what makes the ‘period’ as a phenomenon especially resistant to being moulded to our understandings of the historical record. Otherwise, much of the critical commentary has tended to align with the two concerns, the synchronic and the diachronic, identified by Fredric Jameson in his The Political Unconscious (1981). The synchronic points to the fact that periodization ‘tends in spite of itself to give the impression of a facile totalization, a seamless web of phenomena each of which, in its own way, “expresses” some unified inner truth – a world view or period style or a set of structural categories which marks the whole length and breadth of the “period” in question’ (27). The diachronic addresses the tendency of periods to be presented in linear sequence and so to construct master narratives to create ‘a vast interpretative allegory in which a sequence of historical events or texts and artifacts is rewritten in terms of some deeper, underlying, and more fundamental … master narrative’ (28).

It is noticeable, though, that recent considerations of periodization have enforced a further anxiety: an anxiety of containment, a sort of chronological claustrophobia, in which the period is a dangerously disciplinary construct which incarcerates scholarship and obstructs understanding. By far the boldest and most influential recent statement of this approach is Rita Felski’s widely noticed 2011 essay ‘Context Stinks!’. It’s hard not to be swept along by this brilliant, trenchant and impassioned warning against an over-contextualisation which ‘wreaks violence on the literary object’. And there is indeed much to be said for the rejection of ‘context’ as a dominant approach to literary and cultural history (though my rationale would be quite different to hers). Felski, though, wants to base her rejection of context in large part on a repudiation of periods, which, while deploying both of Jameson’s versions,  attacks in particular what she describes as the ‘context as container’ approach. Periods and periodizing categories are presented as sequences of sealed strongrooms, which leave texts ‘trapped in the conditions that preside over the moment of [their] birth’ (576), ‘lock[ed] up in a temporal container’ (580). Objects are ‘stamped’ to their period, subject to a ‘synchronic historicism’ in which phenomena are related only to phenomena in the same slice of time (578). This chimera of incarceration reflects an increasingly common denigratory lexicon in which periodization is always pre-emptive, and movement across boundaries never simply a matter of motion and relocation but always disruptive if not destructive; period characteristics are fixed or frozen, boundaries are not crossed, they must be ‘burst’.

The problem is that this ‘History-as-boxes’ construct just doesn’t bear scrutiny. It is little more than the scholarship of the phantasmagoria, a flickering and lurid projection of half-truths and exaggerations, light designed not for illumination but alienation. Tellingly, critiques of periodization of this sort rarely engage directly with the actual deployment of periodizing schemas and their effects, contenting themselves instead with the citation of other polemical dismissals. Borrowing the cheap and cheerful methodology of Mandler and Cohen’s recent critique of The History Manifesto, a quick look at the volumes reviewed by Victorian Studies for its 50th volume in 2006/7 would seem to give the lie to suggestions of incarceration. Even taking the generous and flexible terminal dates for the Victorian period of 1830-40 and 1900-1914, of the 137 titles reviewed 49 or 36% addressed a topic bounded within this period, 23% adopted the terminal dates or the broad label ‘Victorian’, and another 11% ‘the nineteenth century’. Yet even allowing for the inevitable period bias of the selection, nearly 30% either transgressed these boundaries (18%) or ranged across a broader timeframe in which the Victorian was embedded (11%). And this is to categorize the volumes by their primary rather than exclusive focus. Even a cursory investigation indicates that many of studies range much more broadly, drawing in material from before the Victorians and tracing influences into the twentieth century.

Perhaps the period prison is particularly an organizational rather than conceptual effect, and a function of the projection of tendencies in literary studies onto broader questions of historiography. Perhaps it is, as Felski notes, that ‘In English departments, especially, identification with period remains the defining marker of professional expertise, announced in the books that are footnoted, the conferences attended, the courses taught, the jobs advertised’. Yet how pervasive and controlling are these effects?  Scholars are not forced to choose either period or thematic interests. Editors of chronologically defined journals do not patrol the borders of their periods to repel incursions from beyond their territory, or act as gaolers keeping the inmates from escaping. How many scholars have actually been refused access to conference, journal or even post, because their work refused to conform to a specific periodizing schema?

Periods are not bars: they are frames. And, as Jameson readily conceded, we need them. They are essential heuristic and hermeneutic devices, providing perspective, panorama, depth and definition. If the conventional ones don’t fit the subjects we wish to portray, there is no constraint against resizing or reshaping, zooming in or panning out. If anything, we should probably spend more time addressing the utility of the period boundaries that we deploy. Our most productive approach is not to dismiss the Victorian or any other period tout court, but rather to test the bounds of its effectiveness, to keep asking at the very least the question ‘in what ways does the (Victorian) period make sense?’.

References

Rita Felski, ‘Context Stinks!’, New Literary History, 42 (2011): 573–591.

Fredric Jameson, The Political UnconsciousNarrative as a Socially Symbolic Act (1981).

Victorian Studies: some historical and historiographical ruminations

In a piece I wrote over a decade ago, I began with the observation that ‘As a scholarly enterprise, Victorian Studies has a deficient sense of its own history’ (Hewitt 2004). The manifesto of the V21 Collective and the response it has generated prompt me to return to this point of departure, not least because they raise fundamental questions about the identity of ‘Victorian Studies’ in which questions of history are implicated at more than one level.

A number of these questions are addressed in my recently published essay reflecting on the place Asa Briggs and his writings had in the evolution of Victorian Studies, ‘A little bit of a Victorian? Asa Briggs and Victorian Studies’, in Miles Taylor, ed., The Age of Asa: Asa Briggs and the shaping of History and Higher Education in Modern Britain (2014). Briggs’ scholarship, especially in the 1950s and early 1960s, not least Victorian People (1954) and Victorian Cities (1964), made him the leading British Victorianist of his generation – at least from the perspective of historical scholarship. The architectural historian Reyner Banham joked at the start of the 1970s that his ‘imaginary Oscar for Victorian Studies’ was an ‘Asa’.

Inevitably, it was to Briggs that Michael Wolff and his collaborators turned in 1956/57 when they were forming the wider editorial team for Victorian Studies.   Briggs served on board of Victorian Studies from its inception in 1957 until 1973. For the first decade he was probably the most important point of contact between the Bloomington editorial team and British scholars.

Briggs shared many of the instincts of the founders of Victorian Studies/Victorian Studies, including a powerful sense of Victorian persistence and relevance, a fundamental commitment to interdisciplinarity, and a belief in holistic approaches to questions of culture and society. For Briggs it was impossible to understand ideas without seeing the institutions and processes in which they were embedded, nor institutions without studying them within their operating contexts, and he aimed at what he saw in Bagehot, a ‘recognition of the significance of the social shell, of habits, institutions, ways of thinking, feeling and behaving’ (Briggs 1966). All of which contributed to the urban studies flavour of Victorian Studies in its early years, culminating in the publication of Dyos and Wollf’s The Victorian City: Images and Reality (1973).

The Victorian City remains one of the foundational texts of Victorian Studies as a field, even if its contemporary readers are probably few. It also marks the end of its first phase. The volume (and the Victorian Studies approach it was taken to exemplify) was subjected to trenchant criticism, even from potentially sympathetic commentators such as E.P. Thompson and Raymond Williams. Critics argued that a combination of narrow urban focus and a perspective confined almost entirely to middle class observers created large exclusions of gender, empire, science and technology, partial perceptions of agency and victimhood, and an attenuated capacity to deal with issues of process and dynamic. The contributors were accused of conservatism of theoretical and methodological approach, and of skirting critical questions about constructions and interrelationships of the ‘image’ and ‘reality’ of its sub-title. Williams in particular, was strongly critical of what he saw as the attempt to reconstruct the Victorian period through an accumulation of quotation and citation, (a particular characteristic of Briggs), which he dismissed as ‘a kind of editing’ (Williams 1973).

In the 1970s, under the editorship of Martha Vicinus, Victorian Studies moved away from urban history, and towards a history of popular culture which gave greater prominence to literature, music and the intellectual life, and in particular to the place of women, challenging the dominance of class as foundational category and form of Victorian self-definition; just as under the influence of Hillis Miller and others there was a pull away from historicism and a renewed attention to form, intertextualities and discursive relations, which looked to the effacing of generic boundaries rather than disciplinary ones. Later Said’s Orientalism also encouraged a shift to imperial preoccupations which also had little resonance in Briggs’ work. The ‘infection’, in George Levine’s phrase, of historicism with textualism exerted tension on the relationships established between literary and historical scholarship.  The critical response to Briggs’ work of the 1980s, and especially the final instalment of his trilogy, Victorian Things (1988), indicated how far approaches had moved on, and not just in literary studies. Even for an old-school historian like J. H. Plumb, there was only so far this ‘facts embedded in common sense’ approach could go (Plumb 1982).

Yet through these reorientations and refashionings, Victorian Studies never lost its fundamental commitment to creating spaces of interdisciplinary exchange. Gender, imperial and linguistic turns in History ensured that as a discipline it was never entirely detached from the evolving preoccupations of literary scholarship of the nineteenth century. In the 1990s and 2000s the reinvention of journals such as Victorian Literature and Culture and the appearance of new ones, including the Journal of Victorian Culture, along with the extension and reinvigoration of the spaces of scholarly exchange, which culminated in the establishment of NAVSA in 2002 ‘to provide a continental forum for the discussion of the Victorian period, [and] to encourage a wide variety of theoretical and disciplinary approaches to the field’, all maintained the field’s impulse to openness and dialogue.

And so, with the V21 Collective manifesto, here we are again. Far be it from me to impose any particular ‘version’ of Victorian Studies, any particular methodology or epistemology.  By all means let us consider what a critique of historicism can offer at this particular juncture. But let’s not pretend that this is not a discussion that has been ongoing in various guises for 40 years and more, or that historicism or positivism have ever been hegemonic in any exclusionary sense. And above all, let’s not use the debate as a pretext for abandoning the fundamental  premise of many scholars who have contributed to Victorian Studies throughout its nearly 60 years existence as a recognisable field: that it should aspire to be more than merely a fragment of Literary Studies.

References

A. Briggs, ‘Taylor’s Own Times’, review of A. J. P. Taylor, English History 1914-1945, Encounter, (February 1966), 65-6.

M. Hewitt, ‘Culture or Society? Victorian Studies 1951-1964’, in Miles Taylor and Michael Wolff, eds, The Victorians Since 1901 (2004), 90-106.

J.H. Plumb, review of Briggs, Social History of England (1983), The Times, 15 September 1983.

R. Williams, review , New York Times, 5 November 1973, 442.

V21 Manifesto: Ten Alternative Theses

The V21 collective (V21 for Victorian Studies in the 21st century) recently posted a ‘Manifesto‘, ten theses outlining their dissatisfaction with the current state of Victorian Studies, and programme for where it should go. They then ‘invited responses’ from scholars, some of which have already appeared on their site, http://v21collective.org/ and looked forward to the developing conversation.

What they didn’t make clear is that they have a particular sort of conversation in mind. When, prompted by their swingeing attack on historicism and other scholarly bogeymen, I offered an alternative set of ten theses by way of critique and commentary, I accepted that my reaction might be declined as too tame, too lame, or even too lengthy. But what I hadn’t considered was that it might be declined because it was by a historian.

In almost any context of scholarly debate this would be an indefensible exclusion. In respect of a debate about the future of an interdisciplinary field, in which the primary intervention was to challenge the place of historically-informed inquiry, it seems self-serving and self-destructive in equal measure. I hope that the collective may come to recognise their error of judgement. In the meantime, even though manifestos are perhaps best left to the young, I offer the following alternative theses.

  1. Victorian Studies has failed continually to establish itself as a genuinely interdisciplinary field. It continues either to mistake itself for a sub-field of literary studies (and/)or to resent the extent to which it isn’t.
  2. This disciplinary reductionism sustains a situation in which Victorian Studies scholars do not always even speak to other scholars who care about the Victorians as Victorians.
  3. Part of the weakness of the field has been its suspicion of cumulation. To elevate the breaking of frames into a sine qua non of scholarly practice is to mistake iconoclasm for interrogation. We need to continue to test. Where we aim to break our purpose should be explore the limits to which our understandings hold, not the means by which they can be obliterated.
  4. The discipline of History is not innocent in its own exclusion. At the same time, the pervasive resistance to theory is often rooted in the very approaches which begin by repudiating historicism; the laziest and most jejune of the otherings of theory is the evisceration of history into antiquarianism and of historical reconstruction into ‘an endless accumulation of mere information’.
  5. [9] The field can only renew its scholarly significance if it is prepared to grasp its extra-literaryness, to shed its infatuation with the accretion of readings, to realise that multi-disciplinary conversations are unlikely to be facilitated by premises which privilege one discipline and predicate the inadequacy of the protocols of others.
  6. [5] One of the constitutive forces of Victorian Studies has been the dissatisfaction with it, indeed the disavowals of it, as a scholarly identity. Efforts to render these anxieties explicit and to further their exploration are always welcome. The challenge is to constitute a discourse which helps to remedy embarrassment not merely to reposition it.
  7. Victorian Studies will always remain attenuated if it proceeds from the dismissal of historical periods as ‘artificially designated’. Of course we need to continue to investigate persistence as well as change over time. But in part we should do so precisely with the interrogation of periodisations in mind. All periods are contingent and always unsatisfactory, but the corollary is not that they are any the less amenable to delineation than other cultural-historical phenomena, nor that they have any greater power than other conceptual frames to impede rather than assist understandings.
  8. While we accept the presence of presentism in all efforts of comprehension and interpretation, and the powerful Victorian foundations of the contemporary world, we will do well to differentiate between perspective and purpose. As Simon Joyce has reminded us, we cannot understand the Victorians if we see them only through the rear view mirror.
  9. [6] A central challenge of digital scholarship is the extent to which it is expanding the availability of information exponentially, and calling into question our existing epistemologies. As well as new theories and concepts we need methods of synthesis and verification which address these transformations in the nature of our evidence and the means by which we are able to access it, and which create new standards of knowing.
  10. In order to truly animate and sustain the conversation of Victorian Studies our multiple modalities must be of pace, of place, of persons, but also of purposes and protocols. Argument, ambition and theoretical rigour are commendable; but without sufficient tolerance to create acceptance of a set of shared agendas, they will not sustain a broad Victorian collective.