Database adds new dimension to studying 18th-century texts

A recently added database, available through the University of Mississippi J.D. Williams Library, offers students a new way to learn and teachers a new way to teach. The Eighteenth Century Collections Online (ECCO) database provides more than 32 million pages published in the United Kingdom between 1701 and 1800, many of which were previously only available in microfiche.


While these dates may create the impression that this source is solely for the history and English departments, ECCO covers a broad range of topics that can be useful for any major or subject of research.


“What’s exciting about having ECCO is that it enables students learning about the 18th century to view and study long-out-of-print and long-forgotten texts, which influenced the writers students typically access through anthologies and undergraduate editions,” said Jason D. Solinger, assistant professor of English. “ECCO turns undergraduate students into archival researchers. It really transforms the classroom.”


While many texts in ECCO are not well-known, some of the authors and works are surprisingly familiar. Voltaire’s Candide can be accessed in the original publication, as well as works from George Washington including Epistles domestic, confidential, and official, from General Washington.


“ECCO adds a large amount of accessible primary documents to research resources of the university,” said Christina Torbert, head of continuing resources and associate professor at the J.D. Williams Library. “These documents have only been available on microfiche in the past, and researchers had to know exactly what document they needed to find it. With ECCO, these documents are full-text searchable for a better research experience and for comparative research across multiple documents.”


ECCO contains search features that allow the user to easily maneuver through the documents it provides, such as narrowing the search to contain only certain subjects or by searching for publishers, author or keywords.


The database is more than just a typical search engine, Torbert said.


“[ECCO has] introductory essays to many topics to help focus research questions before you begin searching, and there is a timeline to help put the documents discovered into the historical context,” said Torbert. “It can be a broader tool than just a way to discover primary resources.”