Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

History 230: The Roots of English Society & Politics: EEBO Practice

This course guide is intended for students enrolled in Prof. Katherine Allen Smith's course. It provides links to relevant resources and suggests assignment-specific research strategies.

Early Modern English: Speaking, Reading, Writing

The dates of the texts included in EEBO (1473-1700) are roughly the same as those of the transition from late Middle English to Early Modern English.  The OED provides a nice overview of this linguistic transition.


1.  Look at the opening speech in Shakespeare's Richard III (from the 1597 edition, the earliest that is available in EEBO).

  • Identify any letters that you don't recognize.
  • Identify any words that you don't recognize.

2.  Read the first several lines aloud.  Now listen to the opening speech in Original Pronunciation (OP).  What is your reaction?

3.  Look up "discontent" in the OED.  About when did it begin to be used in written English? 

4.  Compare the opening line of the 1597 edition with that of the 1603 edition.  What happened?  Why?


  • For the historian, what are the advantages of using digital facsimiles such as those provided by EEBO?  How is using a digital facsimile of Shakespeare's play different from studying a scholarly edition or a modernized edition?
  • What can a digital facsimile not provide to the historian?

Historical Investigation

1.  How many of editions of Shakespeare's Richard III are in EEBO?  When were they printed?

2.  Is there anything else written about Richard III (the person, not the character in the play) from this general time period? [Hint:  English Short Title Catalogue]

3.  Who is printing the plays?  Where are the plays being printed and sold?

Putting it together:  What does all of this mean?


EEBO Basic Searches

The examples below illustrate the kinds of searches you can build using operators and fields.  Try them out in EEBO!


1) Find the Canterbury Tales written by Geoffrey Chaucer.

  • Type Canterbury tales in the Keyword box.
  • Type Chaucer in the Author Keyword box (or use the Select from a List link).
  • Click Search.

2) Find works about herbal remedies.

  • Type herb* and remed* in the Keyword box.
  • Use truncation to find herb, herbs, herbal, herbalist, etc.
  • Click Search.

3) Find various Subject Keywords relating to the Brain.

  • Click on Select from a List next to the Subject Keyword box.
  • Type brain and click Look For.
  • Click on Brain--Anatomy--Early works to 1800. Then click OK.
  • Click Search.
  • View the Illustrations within your results list to see early medical diagrams.

Key Tools