This post was written by Jenny Lelkes-Rarugal, Editor for the Bibliography of British and Irish History (BBIH).
July 2022 marks the 20th anniversary of the Bibliography of British and Irish History (BBIH) being published as an online database. This article will talk about some of the key moments in the Bibliography’s history during this time, building upon the articles already written by former BBIH editors (Archer, 2008 and Salt, 2017) about the twentieth-century history of the Bibliography.
Originally called the Royal Historical Society Bibliography of British and Irish History online (RHS Bibliography), the new online Bibliography was launched by its general editor, Dr Ian Archer, at the 71st Anglo-American Conference of Historians held on 3-5 July 2002. It contained around 300,000 records from the:
- Royal Historical Society Bibliography on CD-ROM: The History of Britain, Ireland, and the British Overseas. This was the outcome of a six year project, involving a large team of scholars directed by Professor John Morrill and largely funded by the Leverhulme Trust, which was published by Oxford University Press in 1998
- Annual Bibliographies of British and Irish History for 1993-2000.
Planning for the online bibliography was begun by the Institute of Historical Research (IHR) and Royal Historical Society (RHS) in 1997, on completion of the CD-ROM, under the general editorship of Professor Julian Hoppit and with generous support from the Andrew W Mellon Foundation and the Esmée Fairbairn Charitable Trust. The further development and maintenance of the online database was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. Moving online enabled the RHS Bibliography to:
- Make information about new publications more quickly available than had been possible with the printed Annual Bibliographies
- Expand its coverage of relevant electronic journals, books and reviews, including direct links where possible
- Allow historians to search the Bibliography more effectively by using the bespoke hierarchical scheme of subject indexing and place name terms
- Improve the Bibliography’s interoperability with other research tools by linking to the Consortium of Online Public Access Catalogues (now Jisc Library Hub Discover, from c. 2002), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, British National Register of Archives (now part of the National Archives) and British History Online (from 2005), and Who was Who and Archaeology Data Service (from 2008). From 2005 the Bibliography began to offer connections to OpenURL link resolvers in order to direct users to online text tailored to the resources available in their institutions.
Moving online also facilitated greater collaboration with other projects so that the histories of London, Ireland and Scotland could be more fully represented and made more accessible to historians:
- At the start of 2003, the RHS Bibliography began to add records from London’s Past Online. Running between 2002 and 2004, this project (along with a supplementary one in 2005 and 2006) was led by the Centre for Metropolitan History (now the Centre for the History of People, Place and Community) at the IHR, and created an online bibliography relating to the history of Greater London. By the end of the project, c. 31,000 records were added to the database.
- In October 2003, the RHS Bibliography began working collaboratively with Irish History Online (IHO) based at the National University of Ireland Maynooth. Between 2004 and 2009, IHO supplied the RHS Bibliography with c. 50,000 fully searchable bibliographical records for Irish history covering 55 BCE to the present day. Since 2009, IHO has been based at the Royal Irish Academy.
- From late 2006 to 2022, funding by the Scottish Historical Review Trust has enabled the RHS Bibliography and BBIH editors to work with historians at the University of Stirling (2006-2008) and University of St Andrews (2008-2022) to edit all Scottish materials contained in the Bibliography.
Between 2002 and 2009 the Bibliography grew to over 460,000 records. At the end of 2009, the RHS and the IHR entered into a partnership with Brepols Publishers to continue the Bibliography. In 2010, the Bibliography was launched as a subscription service under a new title: Bibliography of British and Irish History
With the support of Brepols, since 2010 BBIH has also acquired:
- A new-look and faster search interface, shared with other bibliographies published by Brepols, such as the International Medieval Bibliography
- New features that better support those studying, researching or teaching history such as auto-complete lists and enhanced export facilities to reference management software such as Zotero.
- A new editorial platform called Brepols Bibliographical Input platform (from 2019).
Over the next decade, BBIH’s editorial team continued to evolve:
- The Editor is responsible for the collection, selection, editing and preparation of all bibliographic data published in the Bibliography. During this time, this role was undertaken by Simon Baker (2010-2021) and Peter Salt (2010-2015). Since 2021, Jenny Lelkes-Rarugal has been BBIH’s editor.
- The editor was also supported by an assistant editor, Sara Charles (2015-2021), as well as a publishing and technical editor. This latter role was initially undertaken by Professor Jane Winters (up to 2016) and then Dr Philip Carter (2016-2021).
Throughout its time as an online resource, BBIH has also been supported by:
- The academic director who represents the RHS and advises on BBIH management. Since 2002, this role has been undertaken by: Dr Ian Archer (until 2010), Professor Stephen Taylor (2011-2018) and Professor Roey Sweet (2018-present).
- 14 section editors, who provide specialist advice on new content, by chronology and region. A number of section editors have been involved in BBIH for many years and also worked on the RHS Bibliography: Dr Ian Archer, Professor Trevor Burnard, the late Professor Antoine Capet, Dr Elisabeth Van Houts, Dr Stanley Ireland, Dr Christine McGladdery, Dr Alex May, Dr David Pratt, Dr Kathryn Rix, Dr Karen Stöber and Professor Roey Sweet
- An editorial board who provide expert advice in the fields of historical research, university teaching, local history, libraries and archives.
Today BBIH stands at over 637,000 records.
Since 2020, BBIH and Brepols have worked together to produce themed online reading lists to show how the Bibliography can be used to facilitate the study, research or teaching of history within interdisciplinary fields:
- Researching Infectious Diseases
- Researching Black British History
- Researching LGBTQIA+ History
- Researching Environmental History
- Researching Women’s History
The Bibliography’s editors have also created a set of online tutorial videos aimed at undergraduate and postgraduate history students, PhD researchers, history lecturers and librarians. These tutorial videos introduce the Bibliography and show how to use it for teaching preparation, study and historical research.
Archer, Ian W. (2008) ‘Bibliographies of British history’, Making history: the changing face of profession in Britain [online]. Source: https://archives.history.ac.uk/makinghistory/resources/articles/RHSB.html (accessed 17 June 2022).
Salt, Peter (2017) ‘John Morrill and the Bibliography of British and Irish History’, On History [online]. Source: https://blog.history.ac.uk/2017/01/john-morrill-and-the-bibliography-of-british-and-irish-history/ (accessed 17 June 2022).