Skip to content

Toggle service links

You are here

  1. Home
  2. Innovation & engagement
  3. Impact
  4. Chronicling our long love affair with books

Chronicling our long love affair with books

Open University researchers have created the world's largest single resource capturing the choices, habits and opinions of readers across the British Isles over the past 500 years.

Key aspects of this research

  • Developed the world’s largest database about reading habits 
  • Significantly deepened our understanding of reading practices over five centuries
  • Inspired a high volume of public contributions

Shafquat Towheed in library

Researchers in The Open University Arts faculty have developed the world’s largest database about reading habits over the past 500 years.

The Reading Experience Database (RED) gathers evidence from across British history about the experiences of readers, famous and unknown – what they chose to read, where they read it and what they thought about it.

RED throws new light on aspects of our literature, history and culture. It is being used as a resource for research in a range of disciplines, and to support postgraduate teaching.

Understanding how people read in the past is of considerable relevance to us today.

It was funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council and developed by a team led by Dr Shafquat Towheed (pictured) in the Faculty of Arts and draws on material from memoirs, correspondence, private diaries, marginalia in books, surveillance records in prison, and many other sources.

"Research emerging from RED has significantly deepened our understanding of the history of reading practices in the British Isles over five centuries,” says Shafquat Towheed.

“Understanding how people read in the past is of considerable relevance to us today, when our own reading practices and preferences are changing rapidly." 

RED has also inspired a high volume of contributions from the public.

Dr Shafquat Towheed highlights the significance of past reading habits

Publications

Related links

People

News & articles

Mark Brandon

The polar oceans and global climate

As The Open University celebrates its 50th anniversary, Mark Brandon, Professor in Polar Oceanography, delivered his inaugural lecture on the polar oceans and global climate and looked ahead to what could happen during the next 50 years.

15th July 2019
See all

Upcoming Events

Sep 10

Cause-related marketing

Tuesday, September 10, 2019 - 15:00 to 16:00

Berrill Lecture Theatre, Walton Hall, Open University, MK6 7AA

See All