First conceived in 1995, while the current Director was part of the Voltaire Foundation, the Electronic Enlightenment Project developed a dual strategy under six Mellon Foundation grants: a digital humanities research project built on a self-sustaining business model (a strategy unusual in the humanities). Oxford University Press was contracted to provide world-wide marketing and sales support from launch of the subscription resource, Electronic Enlightenment, in the summer of 2008.
EE's collection of letters, ranging from the early-17th to the early-20th century, provides the largest and most wide-ranging collection of interlinked, correspondences ever published. Over this extraordinary period, the exchange of letters grew into the first global social network as correspondents spread ideas and opinions, created nations and conducted business across Europe, Asia and the Americas.
The Project began with the publication of best critical editions of correspondence drawn from an international group of leading academic publishers — and we proudly continue to develop publications of this kind. But it was always part of the Project's plan to create "born digital" publications edited directly from archives by academic experts, making and remaking EE as the sole location for the most complete view of the period: topics range from religious tolerance to animal rights, from vulcanology to classical archaeology, and from economic modelling to celebrity culture.
The result is an integrative resource of nearly 60,000 full-text letters to/from over 7,000 correspondents, recreating one of the world's great historical "conversations". Using the best digital scholarship and practice, correspondents and their correspondences are interlinked in a unique model for publishing and research, constantly enriched and corrected, and augmented by increasing numbers of historical maps, high-resolution images of manuscripts, modern lesson plans and more.