Dr Bob Nicholson

Reader in History and Digital Humanities

Department of English, History & Creative Writing


I’m a social and cultural historian who specialises in the history of nineteenth-century popular culture. My research focuses particularly closely on Victorian newspapers and magazines, and uses them to investigate topics such as popular humour, sport, entertainment, gender, and transatlantic relations. I’m also a keen exponent of the Digital Humanities and have published research on the use, construction, and creative remixing of online archives.

I am currently working with Dr Mark Hall (Open University) and the British Library on a digital humanities project that aims to create an online archive of one million Victorian jokes. The Old Joke Archive archive is still under construction, but we have already shared thousands of jokes on Facebook and Twitter. The project was awarded the British Library Competition prize in 2014 and has since received press coverage from Radio 4BBC HistoryThe Telegraph, and the Smithsonian Magazine. The project is described in detail in this article for the journal 19.

My research has been published in a range of academic books and journals, including the Journal of Victorian CultureMedia HistoryVictorian Periodicals Review, and 19: Interdisciplinary Studies in the Nineteenth Century. In addition to my scholarly publications, I regularly share archival discoveries and new research on twitter (@DigiVictorian).

I trained at the University of Manchester where I completed a BA in History (2007), MA in Victorian Studies (2008), and an AHRC-funded PhD exploring the role played by newspapers in shaping Victorian ideas about the United States (2012). While finishing my doctoral project I obtained a 6 month lectureship at Swansea University before joining Edge Hill in the summer of 2012.

I teach across the BA History degree programme at Edge Hill. In particular, I am responsible for leading modules on Victorian journalism and the history of crime in 18th and 19th century England. My teaching methods make particularly extensive use of digital tools and archives and my modules are all designed to encourage students to use these resources in the pursuit of original historical research. I supervise BA and MA dissertations on subjects relating to nineteenth-century social and cultural history. I am currently Director of Studies for two PhD students, both of whom are working on the history of nineteenth-century journalism. If you are interested in pursuing MA or PhD research linked to any of the topics outlined above, then please feel free to get in touch.


  • PhD History, University of Manchester, 2012.
  • MA Victorian Studies, University of Manchester, 2008.
  • BA History, University of Manchester, 2007.



  • HIS2032 Digital Detectives
  • HIS2035 Making History
  • HIS3038 Special Subject: The History of Journalism
  • HUM4046 Literature and Laughter
  • HUM4048 Print and the People


Academic Articles & Book Chapters

  • ‘Digital Research’, in Simon Gunn and Lucy Faire (eds.), Research Methods for History, 2nd ed, (Edinburgh University Press, 2016).
  • ‘Transatlantic Connections’, in in Andrew King, Alexis Easley and John Morton (eds.), The Routledge Handbook to Nineteenth-Century British Periodicals and Newspapers, (Routledge, 2016), [link]
  • ‘The Victorian Meme Machine: Remixing the Nineteenth-Century Archive’, 19: Interdisciplinary Studies in the Long Nineteenth Century, 2016. [link]
  • ‘Sport History and Digital Archives in Practice’, co-authored with Martin Johnes, in Gary Osmond & Murray G. Phillips (eds.), Sport History in the Digital Era, (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2015), pp. 53-74.
  • ‘Tweeting the Victorians’, Victorian Periodicals Review, 48:2, (2015), pp. 254-260. [link]
  • ‘The Old World and the New: Negotiating Past, Present, and Future in Anglo-American Humour, 1880-1900’, in Barbara Korte and Doris Lechner (eds.), History and Humour: British and American Perspectives, (Bielefeld: Transcript, 2013), pp. 151-170. [link]
  • ‘The Digital Turn: Exploring the Methodological Possibilities of Digital Newspaper Archives’, Media History, 19:1 (2013), pp. 59-73. [link]
  • ‘‘You Kick the Bucket; We Do the Rest!’ Jokes and the Culture of Reprinting in the Transatlantic Press’, Journal of Victorian Culture, 17:3, (2012), pp. 273-286. [link]
  • ‘Counting Culture; or, how to read Victorian newspapers from a distance, Journal of Victorian Culture,17:2, (2012), pp. 238-246. [link]
  • ‘Digital Detectives: bridging the gap between the archive and the classroom’. Victorian Periodicals Review, 45:2, (2012), pp. 215-223.
  • ‘Jonathan’s Jokes: American Humour in the late-Victorian Press,’ Media History, 18:1, (2012), pp. 33-49. [link]

Other Publications

    • ‘Goodnight, New Day. Yours was the true spirit of journalism: fail again, fail better’, The Guardian, 5 May 2016, [link]
    • ‘In Search of America: An Introduction to Digital Research Techniques’, Punch Historical Archive, 2015.
  • REVIEW: ‘Leah Price’s How To Do Things With Books in Victorian Britain’, European Review of History, 20:4, (2013). [link]
  • ‘Nineteenth Century’, Annual Bulletin of Historical Literature, 95 (2011). Co-authored with Lucinda Matthews-Jones. [link]
  • ‘Nineteenth Century’, Annual Bulletin of Historical Literature, 94 (2010). Co-authored with Lucinda Matthews-Jones and Vicky Morrisroe. [link]
  • ‘Racy Yankee slang has long invaded our language’, The Guardian, 8 October 2010. [link]
  • ‘American Humour’, in Laurel Brake & Marysa Demoor (eds.), Dictionary of Nineteenth-Century Journalism [online edition], 2010.
  • REVIEW: ‘Troy Bickham’s Making Headlines: The American Revolution as Seen Through the British Press’, European Review of History, 17:4, (2010), pp. 688-691. [link]
Last updated on Last updated on Was this page helpful? Yes No Thanks for your feedback! Please tell us more: