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Project Overview

The Society of Authors, 1884–1914: Professional Association and Literary Property

The Incorporated Society of Authors, founded in 1884 by the novelist Walter Besant (and continuing in existence to this day), occupied a prominent place in late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century literary culture, attracting widespread attention for its campaigns in defence of ‘literary property’. This is a collaborative, four-year project (20202024), funded by a Leverhulme Trust Research Project Grant, which examines the early history of the Society of Authors from its formation in the 1880s through to the beginning of WW1. The project has three main research questions:

  1. How did the Society of Authors operate, and in what ways was it conceived, as a professional association?
  2. How did the Society affect change within the literary profession through its campaigns to reform copyright legislation and contractual relationships between authors and publishers?
  3. How did the Society provide practical assistance to individual members, and in what ways did it shape the careers of late-Victorian and Edwardian authors?

Through extensive primary research on the Society’s archive and official publications, it offers the first comprehensive scholarly assessment of the Society’s work in support of professional association, literary property, and members’ careers.

Discover more about how to use this site here, and view details about our project team here. See also the University of Leeds project page.