About Our Project

This project focuses on the relationship between langauge and characters in Agnes Strickland's children's novel, Historical Tales of Illustrious British Children. Originally published in 1833, Illustrious Childen is a collection of short stories, each featuring a prominent figure and event throughout British History. The novel aims to merge history and fiction, creating a new, entertaining examination of the past to make history more accessible and relatable to children.

One of seven siblings, Agnes Strickland was born in 1796 and educated by her father as if she were a boy. Along with her five sisters, and especially her older sister, Elizabeth, Strickland did much historical research and writing for children and adults. Unlike most historians of the time, Strickland focused mainly on females and social issues, including dress, manners, and diet. Strickland wrote several biographies on important female figures, as well as a great number of children's books, the most notable of which is The Rival Crusoes, published in 1826, which borrows the plot from Robinson Crusoe in an attempt to compile classic literature into a single cheap, easy to read volume meant for a younger audience. It is in this vein that Strickland wrote Illustrious Children, in an attempt to fictionalize history in a familar form for young readers who could engage in the past outside of a traditional classroom setting.

Historical Tales of Illustrious British Children has an interesting publishing history. While it was originally published in 1833 in London, Strickland’s book enjoyed many reprints spanning over the second half of the nineteenth century, both in England and in the United States. Jarrold and Sons, the first publisher of the book, also put out other notable works from children's fiction, such as Black Beauty (1877). Illustrious Children, as well as many of Strickland's other works, were well-circulated throughout the UK, with a number of editions put out each year. What is surprising, however, is the fact that it was also published several times in the United States, despite the content being rooted in British figures and events. The publishing history of Illustrious Children indicates that this book was not only well-received, but that it was considered a valuable method of teaching history in a global context. Circulation of Historical Tales of Illustrious British Children unfortunately faded out in the twentieth century, perhaps to make way for new teaching methods and practices. The work on this project is one small effort to bring an unusual and intriguing work out of the mist and back into the canon.

Our project concentrates in particular on five different tales ranging between different time periods, ages of characters, and male- and female-oriented stories. Our research seeks to unearth what the analysis of language and speech can reveal about the relationship betwen male and female characters. Do stories featuring a female main character rely more heavily on traditionallly "feminine" adjectives such as "dear" or "sweet"? Do male-focused stories use "stronger" wordchoice such as "great" and "royal"? Our markup and data aim to classify and highlight these differences.

About Our Team

Katherine Mentecki

Kat is a senior double major in English Literature and Fiction Writing at the University of Pittsburgh. She also minors in German and has completed the West European Certificate. Kat's future plans include attending law school. She loves Pittsburgh summers and Buffalo winters.

Emily Weiss

Emily is a junior at the University of Pittsburgh pursuing an English Literature degree as well as a certificate in Children's Literature. She hopes to one day become a children's librarian and can be found on weekends among the stacks at the Carnegie Library with her nose in a book.