Olive Schreiner Letters Project

Complete transcriptions of approximately 7,000 letters of Olive Schreiner, the feminist, socialist writer and social theorist Olive Schreiner (1855-1920).

The Olive Schreiner Letters Project was funded by the ESRC. It transcribed, analysed and published the complete extant Olive Schreiner letters presently in archival locations world-wide. Through this, it also contributed theoretically and methodologically to the use of letters and other epistolary materials in social science and humanities research.oliveschreiner

The feminist and socialist writer and social theorist Olive Schreiner (1855-1920) was one of the most important – and radical – social commentators of her day. Her published writings include novels (The Story of An African Farm, Undine, From Man to Man), allegories (Dreams, Dream Life and Real Life, Trooper Peter Halket of Mashonaland), social theory (The Political Situation, Closer Union, Woman and Labour).

Around 7000 Schreiner letters are extant, with most never having been previously published or discussed. They are an unparalleled source for exploring the unfolding thinking of one of the great feminist theorists and key New Woman writers. They are also a rich resource around which to formulate methodological and theoretical means of analysing a large-scale epistolary dataset.

Schreiner’s developing analysis and social theorising in her letters includes such topics as colonialism under transition, metropolitan feminism & socialism, prostitution & its analysis, changing understandings of ‘race’ & capital, imperialism ‘on the ground’ in southern Africa, the South African War & its concentration camps & women’s relief organisations, international perspectives on women’s franchise campaigns, labour issues, international feminist networks, pacifism & war economies, and political and economic changes in South Africa post WW1.


Duration: 1st October 2008 – 31st December 2011

Project Team

  • Prof. Liz Stanley (PI – Sociology, University of Edinburgh)
  • Dr Helen Dampier (Co-I – Cultural History, Leeds Metropolitan University)
  • Prof. David Shepherd (Co-I – Keele University)
  • Dr Andrea Salter (Research Associate – Sociology, University of Edinburgh)
  • Ms Sarah Poustie (Project PhD Studentship-Holder – Sociology, University of Edinburgh)
  • Dr Michael Meredith (Developer – The Digital Humanities Institute)
  • Matthew Groves (Developer – The Digital Humanities Institute)