Friday, April 27, 2012

Research For My Senior Thesis Paper

Well it's over.  For those of you who don't know, I just finished my senior research paper!  The topic was New Rich Women and Women of the Nobility in Edwardian Era England.  I had to acquire quite a bit of resources, and because my topic is not wildly popular, there weren't too many scholarly articles out there (if you have stumbled upon any, please let me know because I'd actually like to think I missed something). There were however, a plethora of books, but you wouldn't believe how many books are in the Hatcher Graduate Library about the Edwardian Era, and how few there are about women specifically.  I found this to be the case across the board, though.  Maybe in a few years I'll publish something.  ;)  I did happen to find a few gems, which aided me quite a bit.  One of them, Juliet Nicolson's The Perfect Summer, I have on my book list already.  Others, such as The Edwardian Woman and Edwardian Promenade, are discoveries from when I started my research, some of them I found at the very end of my research, and a couple of them I just discovered that I want to read.  You know you picked the right research topic when you're not sick of your topic, you're just sick of writing!  

  • I'm beginning to think of Nicolson's The Perfect Summer as "old faithful" but a British "old faithful" because it aided me quite a bit in my research.  Nicolson is a journalist.  Sometimes it's debatable whether or not a book written by a journalist could be seen as academic, (which is not to say that jouralism is not academic), but in the eyes of many history professors, books written by journalists can either be solid or a complete toss-away.  The Perfect Summer is a keeper however because it's well researched, and let's face it: not too many Ph.D's out there are the great-grandaughter of the Hon. Vita Sackville-West, who herself came from the nobility, and a writer of one of the first books about the Edwardians.  As you can imagine, Nicolson has a lot of insider information about the Edwardian aristocrocy, ranging from such notable women as Lady Diana Manners, considered to be the most beautiful woman of her time (and a perfect example of how the upper class system worked), to Clementine Churchill, married to--well you know.  

  • This book took me by surprise.  I had flipped through it at the library thinking it would probably end up being of limited use to me. When I got it home, I couldn't stop reading it.  Jame's Laver's Edwardian Promenade is a pretty old book, but one of the best in terms of information it had about women in the Edwardian Era.  He gives a lot of examples through first hand accounts gathered from newspapers, magazines, journals and books written either during or not too long after the Edwardian Era.  If you're looking for solid information, don't let the fact that it has pictures fool you, it's a great source.

  • Duncan Crow's The Edwardian Woman was fantastic, if not solely for the fact that it's one of the few of its kind. It contains a wealth of information regarding everything concerning the era's social history in relationship to women. Topics ranged from the London "season", to the significance of the country house, to factory life and wage concerns. He also explains a bit about the influence Queen Alexandra had on women at the time. The only complaint I have is that I wish he covered more about the middle class-not that he never touched upon the subject, I just wish he had more pages devoted to it.

Lady Diana Manners was a popular subject throughout Juliet Nicolson's The Perfect Summer, and I found out she was both referenced and the inspiration for characters in Evelyn Waugh and F. Scott Fitzgerald's works. She wrote a biography that was pretty popular at her time called The Rainbow Comes and Goes.   

  •  Elizabeth and her German Garden is a novel, but I want to read it.  It was a best-seller at the time, and in my mind, reading popular novels from the past seems like a great way to get a good perception of what was going on in women's lives.  I want to read it.  Could be boring, it talks a lot about gardening, but I want to see what the hype was about.

 I found out about the book To Marry an English Lord just today from Evangeline Holland's fabulous website,, which is packed with GREAT resources.  I will definitely be reading it, along with her earlier suggestion to me, Twenty Shillings in the Pound, which is about the middle class.

And that's it!