Research Links
 

When I was researching my master's thesis in history, I was fortunate enough to do some work at the British Library, then housed in the British Museum. One day I saw a sign indicating a new service, a computer search, so I sent in a request on the Peninsular War. I then went off for a lovely drive around England with friends. When I returned two weeks later, the enchanted librarian handed me a parcel, beaming. It contained a print-out of sources, and it had been sent from Palo Alto, California.

Gone are the days. Much of what was then difficult to find is now posted on the Internet, or bibliographical information can be found there on the subject in question. What happens when research is too easy?

I'm an admirer of Wikipedia (en.wikipedia.com), a great starting place, though one should always cross-check information (that is also true of the Britannica or any other encyclopedia, by the way).

For Regencies, starting with Jane Austen (www.pemberley.com/janeinfo.html) and Georgette Heyer (http://www.georgette-heyer.com) is a good idea. Websites focus on the period, on historical personalities, and on issues I dealt with. They range from www.oldbaileyonline/html.org (the Proceedings of the Old Bailey, London 1674-1834 for the Cato Street Conspiracy) to http://www.victorianweb.org (for the Radical politicians and Reform of Parliament) to http://www.agnesscott.edu/Lriddle/women/herschel.htm (Biographies of Women Mathematicians for Caroline Herschel, the first woman to discover a comet). There are http://laura.chinet.com (Food and Drink in Regency England), http://www.classiclit.about.com (for literary figures of the period like John O'Keefe or Maria Edgeworth), http://www.stately-homes.com (for houses like Meriden Place and Brecon), http://britannia.com/history (British history in general) and http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk (aimed at high school students).

Mysteries led me much farther afield, so my personal library now contains weird stuff on plant poisons, sustainable agriculture, Irish archaeology, and the London Underground, among other subjects. Most mystery writers' organization websites (and many author sites) can lead you to material on police procedures and forensics. In Skylark I researched the explosive used in the Lockerbie disaster through newspaper and magazine articles, and had to do it before the Scottish judges reached their verdict. Readers can now find an enormous amount of material on the investigation (by the Galloway and Dumfries Constabulary) and trials (held in the Netherlands). Wikipedia is a good place to start because the bibliography is excellent. For Malarkey I relied on my own library and my longtime interest in both Irish Quakers and Irish archaeology. (I have visited Ireland a number of times, always with great pleasure.) Websites abound and the real problem is sorting through them. Examples are http://www.stonepages.com/ireland/carrowmore.html and http://knowth.com, which describe well-known megalithic sites. The newsletter Culture without Context deals with the problem of looting of archaeological sites, an issue in my current mystery, Buffalo Bill's Defunct (www.mcdonald.cam.ac.uk/projects/iarc/culturewithoutcontext/contents.htm).