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Reading Experience Database

The UK Reading Experience Database (RED) is an open access database and research project housed in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) at the Open University. It is the largest resource recording the experiences of readers of its kind anywhere. 'Reading Communities' is an AHRC follow-on project from RED.

UK RED has amassed over 34,000 records of reading experiences of British subjects, both at home and abroad, and of visitors to the British Isles, between 1450 and 1945. These include both famous and anonymous readers. It is both an open access resource and open to unsolicited public contributions. Some 100 volunteers have contributed nearly a fifth of all entries. Volunteers have been inspired to contribute entries based on their own personal interests, such as the reading habits of their favourite writer, or the discovery of the reading diaries of an ancestor in their own family papers. They receive guidance and training from RED project members, and often develop considerable expertise in handling and interpreting documentary sources. The database attracts over 1,800 visitors a month from more than 100 countries. These contributions have generated further research questions and a number of new publications. 

Find out more from the RED website, and please take a look at the database itself.

You can also find a video about the database below:

Reading Communities: Connecting the Past and the Present, an Arts and Humanities Research Council funded project

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UK RED captures the reading tastes and habits of the famous and the ordinary, the young and the old, men and women. The texts range from books and newspapers to ephemera such as playbills and tickets, and from illuminated manuscripts, novels and poetry to tombstone inscriptions and graffiti. 

Search or browse the database to find out more.


Contact us

If you are interested in the project, have any questions, or would like to get involved with our events and/or oral history collections, please do not hesitate to contact us at We'll be in touch as soon as we can.

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