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Researching Biography: Who is Douglas Sladen?

Module by: David Getman, Paula Sanders. E-mail the authors

Summary: "Researching Biography" explores strategies and resources for studying a person's life history, using as an example the author Douglas Sladen, whose works "Oriental Cairo" and "Queer Things about Egypt" are included in the online Travelers in the Middle East Archive (TIMEA). We discuss keeping track of your findings, using the library catalogs, research databases and periodical indexes, and finding out basic information about your subject. This is part two of a nine-part course that uses Sladen's work for a case study on performing historical research.

Figure 1: Douglas Sladen Drawn by Yoshio Markino
Figure 1 (sladen.bmp)

Author as Subject

In the course of a research project, you come across an interesting book from the time period you are studying, but you know nothing about the author and thus do not understand what perspective he or she has adopted. How do you study people's lives and glean significant details about them? In this module we will explore how to conduct research into biography by doing a case study on how to research the background of Douglas Sladen, author of Oriental Cairo: City of the Arabian Nights. (Oriental Cairo is one of many historical texts collected in the Travelers in the Middle East Archive (TIMEA). ) We will be using a variety of resources, from the title page of his book to online catalogs. This module is designed to aid you in studying biography by suggesting research methods, providing examples and applying the information you find in a productive way that furthers your project as a whole.

We will begin by looking for books about our author, such as a biography or autobiography. Then we will move on to articles written about him or his work contained in periodicals. Finally we will mine the daily newspaper archives for any mention of Douglas Sladen, including book reviews, his obituary or articles by the author himself. But first we should make sure we know exactly who we are looking for.

Identifying Your Author

Basic Information

In order to avoid accidentally researching the wrong author, it is important to gather some very basic information about our Douglas Sladen, such as his full name, birth and death dates. If there are any copies of "Oriental Cairo" in the library, then the catalog should provide that information for us. If you would like to take a brief tutorial on how to access and use WebCat (the online catalog used by Fondren Library, our example library), visit our WebCat module. Let's do a quick Title Search on the catalog to see if it is in the stacks. Enter the title "oriental cairo" into the text box, and select the title search option.

Figure 2
Figure 2 (ooc1.bmp)

A glance at the results list tells us that our book is not in the stacks.

Figure 3
Figure 3 (ooc2.jpg)
Which brings up an interesting question...

What if the work you are looking for is not at your library?

Our research is certainly not limited to what can be found at our library, in this case Fondren. However, we are not yet left to the mercy of distant archives and dusty diaries. Fondren, like most other libraries, is part of a network of sister institutions that make their collections available through interlibrary loan. Books from other collections can be located and accessed through interlibrary loan by visiting Open WorldCat.

Open WorldCat is the free version of a catalog that collects records from libraries around the world. Your library probably has a subscription to the full version of WorldCat, which includes additional features. The examples given below reflect the interface and tools provided by the full version of WorldCat available through OCLC's First Search.

For our purposes here we will do a basic title search on WorldCat, just to pick up the necessary information to identify our author. If you would like a brief tutorial on how to access and use WorldCat, you may visit our WorldCat module.

From the Basic Search page on WorldCat, enter our title, "Oriental Cairo", into the text box marked Title, as you see below. Then select Search.

Figure 4
Figure 4 (oc3.bmp)

Scroll down through the selections and you will find what looks like our book and our author.

Figure 5
Figure 5 (oc4.bmp)

Select the title link in blue, scroll down a bit and you will find Douglas Sladen's full name, birth and death dates.

Figure 6
Figure 6 (oc5.bmp)
Now we can successfully avoid any confusion with multiple Douglas Sladen's in our search for information about him.

Looking for Biographical Information in the Stacks at Fondren

Now that we are able to identify one Douglas Sladen from another we can begin to locate more extensive biographical information in the form of a biography or autobiography. For this we will return to the WebCat home page and search for Douglas Sladen again, only this time we will search everything even remotely related to that name by using the Search Everything option.

Figure 7
Figure 7 (ssearchsladen.bmp)
This list will be, no doubt, longer than any of the more specific search options. But you never know where you may find valuable information on your target subject and this gives you everything. It also lets you know quickly if you should move on to the next stage or continue looking on the shelves at Fondren.

Our list includes several works authored by Sladen, a few others edited and some which he is listed as having arranged. Fondren lists no actual biographies; however, we do have a valuable entry at the bottom of the list under the title "Who's Who."

Who's Who

Who's Who is an annual Biographical Dictionary published in London since 1849. Each volume also presents a wealth of information pertaining to the United Kingdom in the particular year in which it was published. The biographies are indexed and list the subject's genealogy, relevant achievements, published works and even noted recreations. As we can see by selecting the view option, Douglas Sladen can be found in Who's Who 1900, which Fondren has a copy of in the reference section. We find Sladen, Douglas listed alphabetically by last name on page 921.

Figure 8: Douglas Sladen in Who's Who 1900, p. 921
Figure 8 (whowhobio.jpg)
As you can see we have everything from his home address to his hobbies as of 1900. Significant details include: "author and reviewer; b. London, 5 Feb. 1856.... 1st in History at Oxford, and was first to hold the chair of History in University of Sydney, N.S.W.; has travelled extensively in Japan, China, Australia, Canada, the United States, and Southern Europe." We also note that he has written many books, including A Japanese Marriage, Brittany for Britons, and In Cornwall and Across the Sea. To find out more, let's move on to the next resource.

Looking for Biographical Information at Other Libraries

Looking for books available at other libraries that we return to the WorldCat homepage. We will perform a Basic Search for the words "sladen douglas biography," making sure to enter the text in the keyword text box. For further advice on how to word your requests for the best results in the future, click on the black question mark to the right of the Keyword text box.

We see Who's Who, which should be expected, as well as what appears to be an autobiography.

Figure 9: Search result: Douglas Sladen, "Twenty Years of My Life"
Figure 9 (sladenbio.bmp)

By clicking on the title of the work we are presented with a all of the information we would need to locate the book in other libraries ourselves, if we had to. Fortunately we are also granted the option to have this book delivered directly to us via interlibrary loan department, just under the Get This Item heading.

Figure 10
Figure 10 (loanoption.bmp)

For more on how to complete an interlibrary loan request, please see Borrowing Resources through Interlibrary Loan: Illiad . Now that a proper autobiography is on the way, there are a few other resources at the library to explore before we move on.

Looking in Journals and Newspapers for Articles about your Author

Articles published in journals or newspapers (or "periodicals") can be a valuable resource for any research project. If you are doing historical research, periodicals from the period you are examining can be invaluable primary source materials, since they reveal how people during the time were thinking and furnish detailed accounts of events. You will also find periodicals to be useful secondary source materials, as scholars often will published focused analyses of a particular issue or event in academic journals.

Articles are not listed separately in the library catalog like books. Instead, you must search a specialized periodical index, such as Nineteenth Century Masterfile for primary source materials or Historical Abstracts for secondary source materials. If we find the title or abstract of an article in the databases, but not the full text, we may then look in the library catalog to see if that particular journal title is available. Considering the number of journals and newspapers in the world, there's a good possibility that your author or his or her work has been discussed in print. The indexes for many journals and newspapers are available online. You can also access some materials through full-text online archives, which make available not only bibliographic information but also the complete text of the article.

The typical research library (such as one found at a university) provides access to a wide variety of online journals and databases. Each database is unique in terms of content and search options and you will have to explore each one by one. However, as you become acquainted with the different styles you will find that learning one will invariably benefit you in learning others. We will explore several of these databases in this section as an introduction to accessing and productively searching their contents as well as procuring the material we need from them.

How to Access the Online Journals, Newspapers and Databases

Typically libraries provide links to journal indexes and full text collections from their home pages. For instance, from the Fondren home page, select the Collections option and then Journals, Indexes and Databases from the list to the right. This will bring us to the initial list of journals from which we will begin our search. The number of databases available is daunting, but we can identify those that are relevant to our field by skimming the descriptions or just looking within a particular discipline.

Figure 11: Collections at Fondren Library
Figure 11 (journalhelp.bmp)
What can we find in these different collections, and which are most appropriate to our project?


In the catalog we will find all of the full-length works--books, films, CDs, etc.--that might be related to our subject, as well as the titles of the journals (but not of individual articles.)

Full Text Online Journals

This provides a list of thousands of journals that have digitized their articles for online access. Should we locate only the title or abstract of an article in our search we may return to this page and look for the full text online.

Reference Sources

This provides access to dictionaries, encyclopedias, almanacs and manuals of style and usage. It is an invaluable resource for nearly every stage of our project from the initial digging to the finishing touches of the writing process.

Guide to Subject Resources

This highlights the subject listings of the online journals and databases for us. In a very general way we can narrow down the number of journals we must choose from by selecting one of the subject options provided.

If you become really lost you can always ask for help via e-mail by selecting Request Assistance. Your message will be sent to a staff member and you will receive a reply within a few hours, but usually sooner. Be as specific as you can in your message; the clearer your inquiry, the easier it will be to assist you.

How to Determine Which Databases to Search

We will begin by limiting the pool of databases by subject. We will use databases with full text articles, abstracts of articles or only titles of articles. We will then take our findings and search for all of the available resources on our subject, Douglas Sladen

Keep a Research Diary

As you collect your list of journals, databases, microfilm, etc. you should carefully note what you find and where you find it. Opening a word document with the title of a journal database, Historical Abstracts for example, will provide you with a place to cut and paste. Alternatively, you can use a bibliographic tool such as EndNote or the free, web-based Zotero.

Narrowing the Pool of Databases

Select the Guide to Subject Resources option from the list to the right of the text box. You will find a list of subject categories that the online journals have been filed under; there are several that may provide useful journals for our subject. Humanities lists English Literature, History of the British Empire and World History.

We know that Douglas Sladen was publishing from London, that Cairo was occupied by the British Empire in 1911 and that both of these cities would fall into the category of World History as subjects of study. We could begin with any one of these subjects. In the next category, Interdisciplinary Studies, we have Middle Eastern Studies listed as a separate category within which Cairo would certainly fall. The History of the British Empire seems to be the category most inclusive for our purposes, so we will begin there.

Subject Resources

A glance at the suggested resources for this subject lists two journal databases, two newspaper databases, several text collections in the stacks, microfilms, cd-roms, reference works and websites. Microfilm and Microfiche are valuable resources that will be explored later, but for now we will stay with collecting a list of suggested online databases. The short descriptions beneath the database titles will guide us in making our decisions about which to include in our list.

Figure 12: Historical Abstracts
Figure 12 (historicalabstracts.bmp)
The most promising databases for our project seem to be Historical Abstracts, Nineteenth Century Master File and Times (London).

By searching the remaining two subject categories we have chosen, World History and Middle Eastern Studies we find some additional databases to add to our list, including JSTOR (the Scholarly Journal Archive), Academic Universe and Contemporary Authors. We will explore a few of these databases as an introduction to how they work and what they can yield. (Note that in order to access these resources your institution must subscribe to the database and you must be logged into its network.)

How to Search the Online Databases for articles in Journals or Newspapers

In this section we will be searching Historical Abstracts, JSTOR and The Times of London as an introduction to this kind of online resource. In this section we will only be collecting information (applications of that information will be explored in the section following this one).

Historical Abstracts

The title of this database is a very accurate one; it provides resources related to history. We will find a few full text articles here, but mostly only abstracts of articles we will locate elsewhere. This database is capable of searching every word of every abstract contained within it, so finding Douglas Sladen should be easy. All we have to do is enter the name into the text box last name first with no commas, as you see below, and click on search.

Figure 13: Searching Historical Abstracts for Douglas Sladen
Figure 13 (hisabssladen1.bmp)
We find only one entry:
Figure 14: Search result: "The Sunny Side of New Grub Street: The Writing of Douglas Sladen's Autobiography"
Figure 14 (hisabssladen2.bmp)
By selecting the Display Full Entry option at the top of the box we find a more complete description of the work, its author and fortunately for us, its subject.
Figure 15: Full search result
Figure 15 (hisabssladen3.bmp)
There are several things about this entry that we should take note of here.

First, let's take a look at the way the article is listed. Type, Author and Title are clear enough headings; just remember that we are looking at an article in a periodical and not a book. This title would probably not show up in a title search on an online catalog. Citation, however, offers us a title that will; that of the periodical in which the article was published. "Publishing History" is that title; the brackets around Great Britain indicate where it was published. We have the date of this particular edition (1988), its volume number in parentheses and even the page numbers of the article following the colon (95-100). Locating a copy of this article will require all of this information, so let's make note of it now in the research diary--or print, or save a copy of this entry in a folder on your computer.

Secondly, beside the heading Documentation we find that an archive of Douglas Sladen's personal papers exists in the Richmond Public Library. There is always the possibility that they have been digitized. Even if we have difficulty finding them online, the library can always be contacted and the copies of papers possibly obtained. You should always make note of such a cache of archival information on your subject. You never know, you may wind up turning this project into a doctoral thesis one day.

Finally we see the biography we found in WorldCat, "20 years of my life", listed under the heading Subject. Selecting that option will bring us to Historical Abstracts' listings on that particular title. Since that link returned us to the first listing, we can be assured that there is little else on Douglas Sladen here. Always try a few subject searches, such as "egypt travel writer" or "oriental cairo," just to make sure we have exhausted the resource for this particular subject.


Figure 16: JSTOR
Figure 16 (jstor.bmp)
JSTOR is a database that collects the full-text of hundreds of scholarly journals. It is a bit more complicated to use than Historical Abstracts, but full of information. Close attention to the search options can bring you articles written by your author, about your author, reviews of his books or essays that place your author in the context of a literary genre.

First, we need to fill in the text boxes. Note that you can limit your results to the exact phrase by surrounding it with quotation marks. For instance, "Douglas Sladen" would search just for that name, not results in which just Douglas or just Sladen appear.

Figure 17: Entering search terms into JSTOR
Figure 17 (jstor2.bmp)
Note that we have the option to search by author, title and full text. We will be casting our net as wide as possible by selecting full text.

Next we must select the journals we wish to search according to their academic discipline.

Figure 18: Select journals
Figure 18 (jstor3.bmp)
The list is longer than what you see here. We will check the boxes beside the subjects that correspond to our author. As we have seen, Douglas Sladen seems to turn up under a number of categories including Asia, Middle East, British Empire, Travel, etc., so we will be best off selecting even remote possibilities.

If we had located specific journals in which Douglas Sladen had published articles, or in which articles had been published about him, we could select the Expand Journal List option here, or Browse in the topmost tool bar, to choose those journals. For our present stage of research the full text search will be the most productive.

Finally we will open our search to include every category, including book reviews and bibliographies, by selecting the appropriate boxes in the area below the journal listings.

Figure 19: Limit by type
Figure 19 (jstor4.bmp)
Select the Begin Search option at the bottom or top of the page to begin the search.

We find 14 results for our search. Note that JSTOR weights results, so that the result judged most appropriate (based on how many times it appears or whether the term appears in the title) will come first. A brief look at a few of the results shows that JSTOR produces articles, citations (here, meaning the appearance of Sladen's name in a foot or end note), book reviews, bibliographies--anything in the catalog that contains the words douglas and sladen in that order within 14 words of each other. Let's begin with the first result.

Figure 20: JSTOR Result 1: "Sir Walter Besant: Novelist, Part Two"
Figure 20 (jstor5.bmp)
If we click on the Page of First Match option we will be taken directly to the first appearance of our key words in the article at hand. You must scan the page for them; on this page they in the footnotes.
Figure 21: Sladen in results page
Figure 21 (jstor6.bmp)
If we had not already found Douglas Sladen's autobiography in our search of the catalog, we would now have the title of one here.

Browsing through the titles of the articles listed will give us an idea of their possible content and help us refine our search. The title Recently Published Articles suggests that The American Historical Review (the title of the periodical is usually in italics) may have published a list of articles by title and author. Even if the entire article does not appear, any reference to it would be valuable information for digging it up. Select the Page of First Match option.

Figure 22: JSTOR Result 2: "Recently Published Articles"
Figure 22 (jstor7.bmp)

Scanning the page we find the following listing.

Figure 23: Jaine, T. W. M. "Douglas Sladen (1856-1947), An Anatomy." Book Collector. 22 (Spring 1973): 35-43 (950).
Figure 23 (jstor8.bmp)
Let's break down what each part of this entry means:
Figure 24: How to read a bibliographic entry
Figure 24 (dgm.bmp)
All of this information will be important in locating the periodical we need. From this listing we may be able to locate an article dedicated to Douglas Sladen. We will explore this option a little further down. Here are a few more of the search results.

In browsing the appearance of Douglas Sladen's name in the search results, we find references to other works that he has authored, including books on Italy, Japan, Germany, and Sladen himself. Each of these options and those left unexplored here can lead to productive resources.

The Times of London

Figure 25: Catalog for the Times of London
Figure 25 (lt1.bmp)
The Times of London has been the daily newspaper of record in England for hundreds of years. Douglas Sladen was born in England and published most of his books in London. Of all the newspapers we could search for Douglas Sladen, the London Times seems the most promising. It would have been the newspaper he would have been most interested in as a figure in the London literary scene and the newspaper most interested in him as an Englishman.

Notice that the catalog record indicates under "Online Coverage" that we can access the "full-image" Times Digital Archive, which means that even though every page has not been transcribed we can still search the archive and see page images. By selecting that option we will be taken to the main search page for this extensive digital archive.

Figure 26: Search page for Times Digital Archive
Figure 26 (times2.bmp)
A basic search produces four articles for us to choose from.
Figure 27: Search results: Times Digital Archive
Figure 27 (lt3.bmp)
Selecting the first article we find a bit of commentary on Douglas Sladen's second biography, "My Long Life." Note that our search times are highlighted in the article.
Figure 28: Review of Sladen's autobiography in Times Digital Archive
Figure 28 (lt4.bmp)
Selecting the second article we find Douglas Sladen's obituary. We can find a number of biographical details in obituaries. For instance, Sladen's obituary tells us that he wrote over 60 books, was a devoted traveller, and belonged to several social organizations.
Figure 29: Sladen's obituary in Times Digital Archive
Figure 29 (lt5.bmp)

How to Use What You Find in the Online Journals

What we have found in the Journals so far can be put into two categories: information about Douglas Sladen and resources in which more information can be found. We will briefly explore in this section how to use what we have found to further our research.

Locating the Texts Found in the Online Journals

Our list of findings so far should look something like this:

Figure 30: Research findings
Figure 30 (use1.bmp)
These are, of course, just a few examples to show what sort of information we should be keeping track of. Let's begin with the articles.

JSTOR is a very good resource for articles online, as we have seen. We can quickly browse their index to see if JSTOR contains the full-text for any of the articles that we have found by selecting the Browse option at the top of the home page. Select the Alphabetical List of Journals option in the middle of the page at the top and we will find a complete list of the journals JSTOR has digitized. We do not, however, find the titles we seek in this list. .

Since we can't find the journal online, we'll try to get the print version. Let's search the library catalog; we'll look at the catalog for Fondren Library, but this process should work at other libraries. From the basic search page, enter the periodical's title and select the keyword option and periodical titles category.

Figure 31: Catalog record for Publishing History
Figure 31 (uuse2.bmp)
A quick trip to the basement of Fondren and we have our periodical.
Figure 32: Publishing History
Figure 32 (use44.bmp)
The recovery of this article brings us several leads. First of all, the author's interest in Sladen could mean that he has written more about him than just this piece. Also, by looking at his end notes we find other resources. For example, the author lists a review of "Twenty Years of My Life" in his end notes.
Figure 33: End notes to article on Sladen in Publishing History
Figure 33 (use55.bmp)
The importance of these bits of information may not be revealed until later on. However, for now it suffices to demonstrate how one discovery may lead to others in unexpected ways and in places we thought we had exhausted. As each new piece of information leads to a new source, the resources we thought we had exhausted become open to us again.

Using the Information Found in the Online Journals

We have quite a list of references and information about Douglas Sladen by now. Apart from the biographies on their way through interlibrary loan, we still have enough to put together a biographical essay including travels, achievements, club membership, acquaintances, interests and hobbies.

Each bit of information has its own value to our research and so must be investigated differently. The important thing to remember is that you never know what discoveries may change your view of the subject. We will take a look at the newspaper articles we found in the London Times as an example.

Sladen's obituary and the review of his second autobiography both indicate his involvement with the Victorian bohemian literary club scene. He is, in fact, the founder of a number of clubs. We find out that he was the literary editor of a periodical called "To-day" as well as "Who's Who." With a quick visit to the library catalog, our search continues with yet another new source: To-day. This title is listed being in Storage.

Figure 34: Catalog record for To-day
Figure 34 (uuse7.bmp)
Notice the Linking title note tells us that To-day was absorbed by London Opinion. Just above this information we see that the last date of publication for To-day was in July 1905. This suggests that To-day began to be published as London Opinion after July 1905. Douglas Sladen is referred to as the editor of To-day, not the London Opinion. No date is given for his appointment, but it is after 1891 in the list of his achievements. We know that To-day was absorbed by London Opinion long before Sladen's death and so we might assume that the writer of Sladen's obituary deliberately referred to the periodical by its name at the time of Sladen's appointment as literary editor. Volume 1 of To-day is listed beside the Dates/vols published heading as Nov. 11, 1893. From this we might gather that he was appointed after 1893, but before 1905.

Retrieving Items from Storage

Many libraries store materials such as old journals off-site, since they don't have room in the library building for vast collections. Typically retrieving an item from storage is quick and easy. For instance, at Fondren Library, select the user services link in the library catalog, then click on the "Retrieve item from storage" link. TAfter you have filled in the bibliographic fields you must designate which issue of the journal you want to order.

Figure 35
Figure 35 (use11.bmp)
We already determined that Sladen was probably appointed after 1893 and before 1905. Let's order up the first four and take a look.

The Next Step

We have collected a variety of sources and information in reference to Douglas Sladen. This store of knowledge can be applied in any number of ways, depending on your research needs. We will continue with an exploration of Sladen's other writings, the writings of his contemporary travel writers, and a number of other topics listed in the Oriental Cairo module.

From this point, you could move in any number of directions with the information you have. Douglas Sladen's story is interconnected with other travel writers, the bohemian literary scene and even a few political figures. If your initial interests have not yet been satisfied, then it is time to move on to another aspect of Sladen and his work. If your research topic has been narrowed down to a manageable size, then organizing your writing project is next on the agenda. Either way, the research methods explored here can be used to develop as well as discover your topic. We hope to have shown that each new source that you find can lead you to many potential sources and that each new discovery is actually a choice to be made about the direction of your research.

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