Women’s Travel Writing in the Archives: Exploring Local and Regional History

Submitting Institution

Liverpool Hope University

Unit of Assessment

English Language and Literature

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Language, Communication and Culture: Cultural Studies, Literary Studies
History and Archaeology: Historical Studies

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Summary of the impact

Dr. Zoë Kinsley's research focuses on British home tour travel writing by women and a significant part of her work in that field has involved the study of manuscript travel journals held in libraries and county record offices, the majority of which had received little or no critical attention prior to her own research work. She has undertaken a series of public engagement activities within Greater Manchester and Yorkshire, focused on the manuscript writings of Dorothy Richardson and other women travelling in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, which encourage greater use of and interest in local archive services, enrich understanding of local history in the North of England, and assist in the preservation of regional literary heritage. These events, all of which took the form of workshops which encouraged discussion and debate between participants, have taken place in partnership with Wigan Archives Service, Scarborough Maritime Heritage Centre, and the John Rylands Library, Manchester.

Underpinning research

The underpinning research is Dr Kinsley's long-standing and ongoing research work into eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century British home tour travel writing by women, undertaken during her time within the English Department at Liverpool Hope University, which she joined in 2003, and where she is presently Senior Lecturer. She is particularly interested in manuscript travelogues and their contribution to scribal culture, and also explores in detail the ways in which ideas about regional or local identity and difference are articulated by travellers journeying their "home" nation. Much of her work has focused on travel writing produced at the turn of the nineteenth century, a significant period for travel in Britain, preceding the emergence of mass tourism, in which resort infrastructures become embedded and commercialised at coastal towns such as Scarborough, and industrial and manufacturing centres such as those in the North West of England become established stages of the tourist circuit.

Kinsley is the leading academic to have worked on the substantial body of manuscript travel writings by the Yorkshire-woman Dorothy Richardson. She has published two journal articles devoted to a consideration of Richardson's work: one, for Prose Studies (2003), explored Richardson's tour journals as significant examples of manuscript — as opposed to print — travel writing; the other, for The Review of English Studies (2005), identified the ways in which Richardson employs the aesthetics of the picturesque to give expression to the sites she visits in Yorkshire.

Kinsley has published a book-length study of women's travel writing: Women Writing the Home Tour, 1682-1812 (2008). This examined in detail the place of manuscript travel journals within the wider tradition of British travel writing by women, and included discussion of the work of Dorothy Richardson. The book also explored travel journals held in the collections of the Wigan Archives Service: Lucy Wright's `Note Book 1806', an anonymously authored travel journal dated 1802 narrating a tour in south Wales, and the writings of Ellen Weeton.

Kinsley's more recent research has examined the representation of coastal space by travellers at the turn of the nineteenth century. This work produced an essay on the coastal descriptions of Richardson's contemporary, Mary Morgan, for the 2011 volume The Home Tour: Travels in Britain and Ireland. It has also included consideration of the British coastline as a symbolic space for the exploration of female identity, as in the discussion of Charlotte's Smith's fictional travellers in her novel The Young Philosopher, in a forthcoming essay for the volume entitled Gender and Space in Britain, 1660-1820.

Kinsley has been invited to contribute an article to a special issue of the Bulletin of the John Rylands University Library of Manchester devoted to eighteenth-century women's life writing. Her contribution explores the relationship between travel writing and autobiographical narrative, focusing in on examples of manuscript travel journals and diaries in various archive collections, and this allows for further examination of the writings of Richardson, which are themselves held in the Rylands.

References to the research

Single-authored book:
Women Writing the Home Tour, 1682-1812 (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2008).
Reviewers said that "Kinsley makes a fine book out of an underwritten subject that is also overwritten elsewhere in criticism. Everyone will learn something from her: it offers fresh materials, intelligent orchestrations and an impressive connection of bigger pictures and fine details" (Women's Writing); and it was described as a "substantial contribution to current scholarly understandings of literary culture, aesthetic ideals, and the construction of feminine and British identities in the period" (Notes and Queries).


Journal articles:

`Considering the Manuscript Travelogue: The Journals of Dorothy Richardson (1761-1801)', Prose Studies, 26:3 (December 2003), 414-31.
`Dorothy Richardson's Manuscript Travel Journals (1761-1801) and the Possibilities of Picturesque Aesthetics', The Review of English Studies, New Series 56:226 (September 2005), 611-31.
The two journal articles above, published during Kinsley's time at Liverpool Hope, emerged directly from her AHRB-funded PhD entitled `The Organisation of Landscape and Travel: Descriptive Representation and the Journals of Dorothy Richardson (1748-1819)' (University of Manchester, 2002).


`Narrating Travel, Narrating the Self: Considering Women's Travel Writing as Life-Writing', Writ From the Heart?: Women's Life Writing in the Long Eighteenth Century, Special Issue of the Bulletin of the John Rylands Library, ed. by Jacqueline Pearson, forthcoming Autumn 2014.

Essays in edited volumes:
`Beside the Seaside: Mary Morgan's Tour to Milford Haven, in the Year 1791', in Travel Writing and Tourism in Britain and Ireland, ed. Benjamin Colbert (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), 31-49. http://www.palgrave.com/products/title.aspx?pid=408394
`"Ever restless waters": Female Identity and Coastal Space in Charlotte Smith's The Young Philosopher', in Gender and Space in Britain, 1660-1820, ed. Karen Gevirtz and Mona Narain (forthcoming February 2014, Ashgate).
The editors of this volume state that Kinsley's essay was singled out by the peer reviewers for its strength, for its use of "contemporary contextual material about spaces to rethink established modes of thinking about women's physical and intellectual mobility".

Details of the impact

Dr Kinsley's research into women's manuscript travel writing, through which she has endeavoured to draw attention to the rich and extensive body of manuscript travel accounts which are held in various archives and county record offices across Britain, has been disseminated through her collaborative work with individual archive and heritage centres. The aim of that work has been to increase public awareness and understanding of local archive collections, and to use the historical narratives of travellers to engage members of the public with their local literary and cultural heritage. Her activities work to broaden public understanding of travel and tourism by emphasising that it involves more than the history of leisure, being central to the cultural heritage of local communities, and to the ways in which individual and communal identities are negotiated and articulated both in a specific historical moment and by the generations who inherit the legacy of those cultural formations.

Kinsley participated, by invitation, in the Leigh and Wigan Words Together Festival, 1-13 April 2013, which has a strong community focus, and strives to enrich the cultural life of the Wigan area by coupling an exploration of local literary heritage with a celebration of the work of current writers (speakers at the festival included Will Self and Wigan-born Lemn Sissay). Kinsley participated in the one-day workshop entitled "Women of Words", held on 12 April, which examined the significance of women's journals and diaries for our understanding of the everyday lives of women. The workshop was attended by 30 people, and showcased the Edward Hall Diary Collection held by the Wigan Archives Service; like the rest of the Festival, it was aimed at a public audience, with tickets costing £5. The workshop was attended by participants with a range of interests in the areas of local, women's, and family history; also present were general book lovers interested in learning more about the Archive collections. In addition, the workshop attracted people who were themselves active diary and journal writers (some participants had been keeping a daily diary/journal for decades). Kinsley was one of three invited academic speakers and gave a talk entitled "Travellers' Tales: Reading Women's Travel Journals" which was followed by questions and discussion. Kinsley discussed manuscripts from the Edward Hall Collection — Lucy Wright's `Note Book 1806', an anonymously authored travel journal dated 1802 narrating a tour in South Wales, and the writings of Ellen Weeton — and also used examples from Dorothy Richardson's journals held at the John Rylands Library, University of Manchester. The aim of the day was to introduce members of the public to their local archives, and to demonstrate the ways in which its holdings can shed light on the history of women's lives in Britain. It also had a wider aim of encouraging local people to reflect on their own diary-writing practices, and to consider depositing diaries of their own, or of members of their family who have died, to archive collections in collaboration with the nationwide Great Diary Project. Questionnaire feedback confirmed that those attending the event feel strongly about the need for a better understanding of the history of women, and demonstrated that the workshop prompted them to pursue further opportunities for learning and participation: "[this workshop] will spur me on to visit John Rylands Library to view Dorothy Richardson[`s] journal"; "it has triggered the idea of looking in `the gaps' outside of published & public material"; "[I] wanted to contribute my grandmothers diaries to such a good cause as the Great Diary Project".

Kinsley has also worked with the Scarborough Maritime Heritage Centre (SMHC), the aim of which is to "educate the public about Scarborough's maritime heritage and to make it available to all and for future generations". Her collaboration with the Centre uses Dorothy Richardson's manuscript "Tour in the East Riding of Yorkshire &c 1801", which gives an extensive and detailed account of Scarborough and the surrounding coastline, to enrich local understanding of the town's history as a significant historic fishing centre, and one of the first English seaside resorts. Extracts from Richardson's account, transcribed by Kinsley (and never published in print), have been published on the SMHC website which is widely used by members of the public researching the local history of the area, or their family history (the website was voted "Best overall" for fishing family history research in BBC TV's Who Do You Think You Are magazine in 2011). She participated in the 2013 Scarborough Literature Festival, running two workshops on 14 April entitled "Scarborough at the Turn of the Nineteenth Century: The Travel Account of Dorothy Richardson". These were free events open to the public, but particularly targeted at local people who had been involved in the local area's fishing industry. Participants included retired local fishermen, and also women of fishing families (wives of fishermen, and one participant whose father and brothers had all worked fishing boats in Scarborough). The aim of the workshops was to enable local residents to reflect upon the ways in which historical narratives such as Richardson's inform their understanding of the Scarborough fishing industry (and its recent decline), and their own position in the story of fishing along the Yorkshire coastline. In their feedback questionnaires participants unanimously agreed that accounts such as Richardson's form an important part of their local literary and cultural heritage, and can change the way we think about Scarborough in the twenty-first century. Several respondents indicated that they would like to hear more about such literary and historical material, expressing a desire for greater access to discussions about local heritage, and for wider dissemination: "found this really interesting makes me want to know more"; "this talk was absolutely fascinating, and I am sure would have been found so by a much larger audience".

In addition to using her research on Dorothy Richardson to engage with the Scarborough community, Kinsley also participated in events which enabled those local to the archives in which Richardson's manuscripts are held to discover her writings. On 4 and 8 June 2013 she ran sessions on Richardson's travel journals in Manchester, as part of the John Rylands Library "One Hour One Object" series, which forms part of their public events programme. These one-hour sessions are small, informal, participatory sessions where members of the public can get very close to objects from the Rylands archives. The sessions were entitled "The Travel Diaries of a Georgian Lady" and focused upon Richardson's descriptions of the Manchester area, in order to further understanding of local cultural history. In particular, Kinsley discussed the role of North West manufacturing centres in Britain's historic tourist tradition — for example, Richardson visited Oldham's first cotton mill, Lees Hall, a year after it opened — and by doing so highlighted work and industry as part of the historical experience of travel and tourism in the North West of England. As with the other events, what was striking in the comments provided by questionnaire respondents was the desire for greater access to lively and informed discussion about local culture and heritage — the "good local basis" was praised by one participant — and for greater access to literary and historical material: "Zoe Kinsley has given a very interesting talk — she has put all sorts of questions in my mind — I would like to hear more"; "infectious enthusiasm of speaker so refreshing"; "I am sure [Richardson's journals] would be found fascinating if more people know about them"; "this was informative in history, geography, scientific, relationship to local areas was astonishing especially her [Richardson's] trips to industrial areas, also her attitude in those times". Two respondents directly expressed the desire for a print edition of Richardson's writings to be published, demonstrating a clear wish to engage with her writings beyond the time frame of the workshop, and for her work to be made available to a public readership.

Sources to corroborate the impact

Alex Miller, Achivist, Wigan Leisure & Culture Trust. Email: A.Miller@wlct.org. Can corroborate details regarding my contribution to the "Women of Words" workshop on 12th April.

Mark Vesey, Chairman of the Scarborough Maritime Heritage Centre (SMHC). Email: scarboroughmaritime@yahoo.com Can corroborate details regarding the presentations/workshops delivered at the SMHC on 14th April.

John Hodgson, Manuscripts and Archives Manager, The John Rylands Library, Manchester. Email: john.hodgson@manchester.ac.uk. Can corroborate details regarding the presentations/workshops delivered at the John Rylands Library on 4th and 8th June.

Scarborough Maritime Heritage Centre: http://www.scarboroughsmaritimeheritage.org.uk/indexintro.php

Wigan Words Together Festival: http://issuu.com/rachelloaf/docs/wordsfestivalprogramme2013/1

Wigan Archives and Local Studies: https://www.facebook.com/WiganArchivesService

The Great Diary Project: http://www.thegreatdiaryproject.co.uk/

J. Carmen Smith, blog post: