Eighteenth Century Collections Online (ECCO)

For those of you, like me, who remember libraries prior to the advent of digital resources, ECCO will serve as a revelation. In a world of hype and spin, this is the real deal. Even younger, Web-savvy researchers will be utterly amazed by ECCO. According to Thomson-Gale’s “About” page, ECCO is the “most ambitious single digitization project ever undertaken”. It is based on the English Short Title Catalog, and contains the full-text of 150,000 book titles published in Great Britain between 1701 and 1800. ECCO provides, “in essence, [easy access to] every significant English-language and foreign-language title printed in the United Kingdom, along with thousands of important works from the Americas” (ibid.). ECCO complements Early English Books Online (EEBO), another Temple database that contains the full-text of nearly 110,000 English-language titles published between 1475 and 1700. It has never before been possible to quickly and comprehensively search the corpus of printed works spanning the entire history of Early Modern Britain. This opens up possibilities for research virtually unimaginable before the creation of ECCO, EEBO, and other primary source databases. Scholars from every conceivable field of inquiry can potentially benefit from access to ECCO. Obvious examples are history (including the history of science & technology), literature, political science, and even music. Important Note: The undergraduate researcher, especially, should work closely with his or her professor and/or a librarian to identify reference works and other secondary titles that can provide some context for the primary sources discussed in this post. It is important to understand wider social, political, economic, and military contexts in order to make sense of primary documents preserved in the historical record. —David C.Murray

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