Research into Victorian humour is making the historical hysterical

Kings of Comedy

Far from being the humourless, dour puritans of popular imagination, the Victorians were actually prolific jokers, according to pioneering research by Edge Hill History lecturer, Dr Bob Nicholson.

Since 2014, Bob has collaborated with the British Library on a project to resurrect the humour of the Victorians for a modern, twenty-first century audience. The Victorian Meme Machine aims to create a high quality, open access research database of one million Victorian jokes and share them with modern audiences in creative new ways, such as the use of images, memes, video performances and social media – giving these well-worn witticisms a new lease of life. As well as attracting significant media attention, the project won the British Library Labs Award in 2014, enabling the British Library to come up with new ways of curating and presenting historical material in the digital age.

“What we like about Bob’s project is that it has helped the Library understand how to utilise online communities to help us locate and catalogue culturally significant information that otherwise may have been forever lost.”

Mahendra Mahey, British Library Labs