The Bengal Annual: A Digital Exploration of Non-Canonical British Romantic Literature

About the Project


This Digital Humanities project is the result of a team collaboration among 5 graduate students in English 232, "#Bigger 6: Decolonizing British Romantic Literature (1775-1835) through Print Culture" for the MA graduate program, Department of English, San Jose State University. 

This project began with the following research questions: "How does The Bengal Annual, a nineteenth-century popular literary form, facilitate resistance to traditional scholarly narratives about British Romantic-era culture? Or does it simply perpetuate the forces that it aims to resist?" 

We studied a variety of literary texts, theoretical foundations, and print culture history (see Annotated Bibliography) in addition to identifying foundational concepts about British Romanticism while reading canonical and non-canonical texts in tandem. 


"The Bengal Annual: A Digital Exploration of Non-Canonical British Romantic Literature" allows users to navigate analyses that address those inquiries, as well as information about The Bengal Annual, its means of production, and what authors and genres its contents represent. Some of the contents invoke many of themes that are affiliated with major Romantic writers such as William Wordsworth and Samuel T. Coleridge, but editor D.L. Richardson also included supposedly "lower-brow" forms of literature such as short story and fiction. Not only that, but he also employed local native Indian engravers and writers. Why did he do this? What was he trying to do? Some of our exploration of Orientalism? The first essay, "The Literati of British India" in this 1830 annual may provide some answers to these questions.

We found a number of engaging topics to discover and research about The Bengal Annual within the context of print culture, as an emissary for the British Empire, as a representation of Calcutta colonial culture, as a form of resistance to the restrictions placed on London-based literary annuals, and as a study of British Romanticism's foundational concepts

Primary Text

You can read through the 49 literary texts yourself thanks to the efforts of Google Books, Hathi Trust, and Internet Archive. Because The Bengal Annual is very rare (only 20 rare book and archives have a copy with the closest at Claremont College and Pepperdine University) the project relied on this digital surrogate prepared by Google Books. (See full text.)

Tools Used for this Project

We used a variety of free, open source tools for the first time, including the below. Scalar became our primary platform with the added bonus that Scalar is hosting this project at no cost. 
  1. An annotation tool that allowed us to provide digital analysis for certain poems and excerpts from our source texts, while also making the text under question more accessible to the user. 
  2. Voyant Tools: to explore patterns and statistical features of the text.
  3. Google Books to access a digital surrogate for The Bengal Annual and Google Sheets to create graphs and display data.
  4. Scalar: a free, open source authoring and publishing platform to create this digital project site. 

Team Members

Learn about the members of our team.

This project would not be possible without the assistance of Dr. Katherine D. Harris with her knowledge and expertise in Digital Humanities. Thanks to her help and the English graduate program of San Jose State University, we were able to launch a series of interesting questions concerning The Bengal Annual that was published in Calcutta, India under the British Empire (1830).

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