Nineteenth-century literature

This guide has been designed as a starting point for research involving the nineteenth century literature.

If you need help, please contact Ivana Niseteo, Liaison Librarian for English, French, French Programs (FASS), Humanities, Linguistics, and World Languages & Literatures at 778.782.6838 or or Ask a librarian.

Reference sources

19th century American literature [print]

Romanticism in the shadow of war: literary culture in the Napoleonic War years [print]

Oxford Reference Online
Online versions of 100 general reference works plus material in language, science and medicine, humanities and social sciences, business, and professional areas.

Encyclopedia Britannica 
An all-purpose online encyclopedia, including an online atlas, dictionary, and select journal articles.

 Reference sources are designed to help you find specific types of information quickly. For further tips and resources, see our Background reference sources page.

Encyclopedias and companions

A new companion to Victorian literature and culture [print or online]

Critical companion to Mary Shelley: a literary reference to her life and work [print]

Cambridge companion to Charles Dickens [print or online]

Cambridge companion to Keats [print or online]

Oscar Wilde in context [print]

Literary Encyclopedia
Provides authoritative profiles of authors, works and literary and historical topics.

 Search for more by including the words encyclopedia OR dictionary OR handbook OR companion OR manual in your KEYWORD search (e.g. Wordsworth AND companion)

Dictionaries and literary terms

Meaning in the history of English : words and texts in content

A companion to the history of the English language [print]

The story of English in 100 words [print]

Oxford English Dictionary
Covers words from across the English speaking world. It also gives etymological analysis, variant spellings, and pronunciation using IPA.

Dictionary of Old English: A to G
Contains some 1319 headwords, as well as revised versions of the seven previously published versions.

The Oxford dictionary of literary terms

Concise Oxford dictionary of literary terms [print or online]

The Penguin dictionary of literary terms and literary theory [print]

The Bedford glossary of critical and literary terms [print]

A glossary of contemporary literary theory [print]


State Papers Online
When you log in choose "Research Tools" and then click on the Chronologies link.

The Hutchinson chronology of world history [online]

BBC History Timelines
Interactive timelines for topics in archeology, British history and the World Wars.

The Oxford chronology of English literature [print]

Handbook of British chronology [print]

Many of the companion handbooks also include a Chronology section; check the catalogue record of each companion to confirm the inclusion of a chronology/timeline section.

Biographical information

American National Biography
Provides biographical portraits of more than 17,400 men and women -- from all eras and walks of life -- whose lives have shaped the United States as a nation.

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
An illustrated collection of 50,000 biographies of the men and women who impacted aspects of Britain's past, from the fourth century BC to the year 2000.

Dictionary of Literary Biography Complete Online
Biographical and critical essays on the world's most influential literary figures from all eras and genres.

Orlando: Women's Writing in the British Isles
Biographical and writing career entries on over a thousand writers, whose writing was an important, sometimes a shaping, element in a particular writing climate.


Oxford Dictionary of Quotations

Roget's thesaurus of the Bible [print]

Oxford essential quotations

Oxford treasury of sayings and quotations [print]

Literary criticism      

Fairy tales, natural history and Victorian culture 

MLA International Bibliography
Contains scholarly articles on English literature, linguistics, language and folklore.

Literature Online
Contains works of English and American poetry, drama and prose, full-text literature journals, and other key criticism and reference resources.

Oxford Bibliographies Online
Online index to bibliographies in Renaissance and Reformation with a bibliographical essay on sources.

Literature Criticism Online
Full text access to six major Gale literary criticism series, covering literature from 1400 to the present.

Project MUSE Search
Full text access to the back files of Humanities and Social Science Journals; Good English Literature content.

Full text access to the back files of Humanities and Social Science Journals; Good English Literature content. Note the most recent 2-5 years are excluded.

Primary sources

Gale NewsVault
Allows you to search several historical newspaper and periodical databases at one time.  19th century databases include: 19th Century British Library Newspapers, 19th Century UK Periodicals, Times (of London) Digital Archive 1785-1985.

British Periodicals traces the development and growth of the periodical press in Britain from its origins in the seventeenth century through to the Victorian 'age of periodicals' and beyond.

American Periodical Series (APS Online)
The more than 1,000 periodicals provide the materials necessary to study trends in the United States from 1741-1900.

19th Century U.S. Newspaper Digital Archive
Provides access to approximately 1.7 million pages of primary source newspaper content from the 19th century, featuring full-text content and images from numerous newspapers from a range of urban and rural regions throughout the U.S.

Historical Newspapers
Full page and article images of historical newspapers including:

  • The New York Times (1851 to 4 years ago)
  • The Wall Street Journal (1889 to 18 years ago)
  • The Washington Post (1877 to 7 years ago)

Globe & Mail Canada's Heritage from 1844
Includes major events in Canadian history, plus thousands of images, advertisements, and political cartoons dating back to the pre-confederation era.

British Colonist
This website contains all the issues of the British Colonist (also called The Daily British Colonist, the Daily Colonist, and other variants) from its first issue in 1858 to December 1920 (Victoria, BC).

ICON: International Coalition on Newspapers - Newspaper Digitization Projects
ICON gathers and provides data on physical and digital collections of newspapers from around the world.

Google News Archive
An extension of Google News that provides access to scanned archives of newspapers.

For additional primary sources, take a look at SFU Library’s Primary Sources guide.

Images & film

SFU Library has a comprehensive guide for finding images within SFU subscribed databases and online, including how to properly cite images in APA, MLA, and Chicago formats.

For sound recordings and performances available on video/DVD at the library, search the SFU Catalogue for the title of the work, and limit to the appropriate material type using the drop down menu to the right of the search box.

Related topics


Acting naturally: Victoria theatricality and authenticity [print]

Staging romantic chameleons and imposters

Database of Early English Playbooks (DEEP)
Contains early modern plays and playwrights with additional information such as genre, dates of first publication and production.

Records of Early English Drama (REED): Patrons and Performances
Designed to include a wide range of data about professional performers on tour in the provinces – their patrons, the performance venues they used and the routes they took across the kingdom.


America: History and Life
Indexes literature on all aspects of U.S. and Canadian history, culture and current affairs.

Bibliography of British & Irish History
An authoritative guide to what has been written from the Roman period to the present day.

Historical Abstracts
Indexes journal articles, book reviews, dissertations on the history of the world outside of Canada & the United States.

British History Online 
Contains some of the core printed primary and secondary sources for the medieval and modern history of the British Isles.


The Bible in English
A collection of 20 different versions of the English Bible from the tenth to the twentieth century, including 12 full Bibles, 5 New Testament texts, 2 versions of the Gospels only, and William Tyndale's translations of the Pentateuch, Jonah and the New Testament.

ATLA Religion Database
Indexes journal articles on all aspects of religion and theology, including church and religious history.

Further sources

Project Gutenberg
Provides access to over 33,000 downloadable e-books.

Oxford Text Archive
Develops, collects, catalogues and preserves electronic literary and linguistic resources for use in research, teaching and learning.

Representative Poetry Online
Includes English poems by 500 poets from Caedmon, in the Old English period, to the work of living poets today.

Centre for Early Modern Studies
From Oxford University, a central forum for research, conferences, and graduate study.