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Queen's University
  • History

History of the Disraeli Project

The Disraeli Project began in 1972 when two Queen's University faculty members, John Matthews (English) and D. M. Schurman (History) began work on Disraeli as a sabbatical project. Their success in tracking down previously undiscovered Disraeli letters in England led to the establishment in 1975 of the Project, in which they were joined by J. A. W. Gunn, Head of Political Science at Queen's. Professor Matthews was appointed Senior Editor, and copyright permission to publish the letters was granted by the Executors of the Beaconsfield Trust and by the National Trust. For five years the Project operated as a large research enterprise, conducting a systematic search for new letters and accumulating the requisite primary and secondary materials. During this period the Project published the Disraeli Newsletter, held an international Disraeli symposium, offered fellowships and special courses, sponsored the development of a word-processing system, and laid the groundwork for the edition by establishing an editorial board and a network of associated fellows.

In 1982, two years after the founding grant expired, the first two volumes appeared, to great critical acclaim, but the Project fell dormant. At this point,  Mel Wiebe (Professor of English at Queen's), who had joined the Project in 1979 and had taken the first two volumes through the agonies characteristic of the early days of electronic texts and computerized typesetting, was appointed Senior Editor (General Editor in 1986). In two years he reorganized the Project on a much smaller scale and obtained funding with a new team comprising J. B. Conacher (Emeritus Professor and former Head of History, University of Toronto), John Matthews (the former Senior Editor of the Project) and Mary S. Millar (Research Associate). With Peter T. Marsh (Professor of History, Syracuse University) standing by in case he should be needed, and with only a few lapses in funding, this team published the next three volumes of the edition.

By the 1990s, Professor Wiebe was able to renew funding for the Project by an innovative cooperative arrangement between the public and private sectors. Funded to this point entirely by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the Project was jointly funded by SSHRCC and a group of private individuals and corporations until 2000. From 1990 to 2005, Professor Wiebe was joined by Ellen Hawman, a research assistant and indexer, and in 1993, with the retirements of Professors Matthews and Conacher, by Mary S. Millar and Ann P. Robson (Professor of History, University of Toronto) as co-editors. Thanks to the efforts of Professor Wiebe, the Disraeli Project received, in 2007, a major grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. As of September 2007, the new Project team comprises Michel W. Pharand (Director) and Ginger Pharand (Research Assistant), with the addition in September 2008 of Ellen Hawman (Research Associate and co-editor). Although retired since 2004, Professor Wiebe remains actively involved in an advisory capacity and reviews all newly edited letters.

The most recent volume is Volume VIII (1860-64), published in 2009. Volume IX (1865-67) is due for publication in 2012.


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