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Readers in the Empire of Print

12 July 2022

Beautifully crafted study into the history of reading in the age of the Victorian empire scoops multiple awards

Professor of Bibliography Bill Bell has won prestigious prizes with his book about readers on the move in the long 19th century.

Crusoe’s Books: Readers in the Empire of Print has scooped this year’s Australian Historical Association Kay Daniels Award and the British Association for Victorian Studies Rosemary Mitchell Award in swift succession.

Uncovering a vast range of sources including diaries, periodicals, and literary culture, Professor Bell reveals remarkable and unanticipated insights into the way that reading operated within and upon the British Empire for over a century.

This compelling book delves into the reading of Australian convicts, polar explorers, shipboard emigrants, Scottish settlers and First World War troops, painting a fascinating picture through rarely seen archives and previously unpublished sources.

In their citation, Australian Historical Association judges recognised the author’s exceptional scholarship and gift for language and narrative style, acknowledging this unique and refreshing take on convict history in their award.

“Using the lens of literacy and observing its impact on the development of culture for those incarcerated or displaced, [Crusoe’s Books] presents the convict not only as the recipient of text, but as a reading subject. Bell traces the multifarious and embodied relationships of convicts to the printed word, placing this story firmly within an international context during a period of significant change in imperial history.”

A revelatory accompanying blog adds further in-depth insight into original materials for those with a scholarly interest in this expanding new arena of the humanities.

Author of Travels into Print: Exploration, Writing and Publishing 1760-1860, Professor of Bibliography Bill Bell specializes in nineteenth-century literature and culture and has written on the sociology of the text, the history of the book, and theories of cultural production. Marking 300 years of Robinson Crusoe, his co-edited collection of essays hits bookshelves later this year.

Crusoe's Books: Readers in the Empire of Print, 1800-1918 is published by Oxford University Press.

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