Travel Literature

As a genre, travel literature is as diverse as the cultures, places, and peoples that span the globe. Since the genre is so broad, this research guide focuses on travel literature written by the British during the nineteenth-century. Although much of the world had been extensively traveled and explored prior to this time period, the nineteenth-century saw the rise of the British Empire and an explosion in world travel by British citizens. The travel narratives written during this century were so profuse that in the Encyclopedia of Exploration, 1800-1850: A Comprehensive Reference Guide to the History and Literature of Exploration, Travel, and Colonization between the years 1800 and 1850, author Raymond John Howgego suggests that more travel narratives were written during the first half of the nineteenth century than in all the preceding years.

For the purposes of this research guide, travel literature is defined as the narrative accounts written about an individual or group's encounter with another place. These writings, also referred to as travelogues, recount in detail the writer's experiences and perceptions of that place. Travel literature, however, should not be confused with travel guides, which provide readers with more pragmatic information about a specific place. Where travel guides are informative, travel literature is descriptive, and while the two overlap to some extent, this research guide is in no way intended to direct readers to the nineteenth-century equivalent of today's Fodor's and Lonely Planet travel guides. Rather, the travel literature this guide points to should let the reader experience a particular culture, place, or people through the eyes of the writer.

Unlike other branches of literature, travel literature lacks unity as is evidenced by its classification in diverse subject areas such as geography, history, and literature. Even within these areas individual travel literature titles are spread throughout each subject area to such a great extent that there is no, one place for which to browse travel literature titles. As such, the titles comprising this research guide are invaluable resources for identifying and locating travel literature. Also, even with the profusion of travel writing from this time period, fewer guides and bibliographies of nineteenth-century travel literature exist than do for earlier travel literatures from the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries.

The majority of materials included in this research guide were identified through subject and keyword searches in IUCAT and WorldCat. Additionally, print resources such as A Reference Guide for English Studies helped to identify several traditional print reference sources that, while broader in scope, often include bibliographic citations to little-known and hard-to-find primary sources from the nineteenth century. Primary sources had to be written by British authors during the nineteenth-century and needed to be travel literature rather than travel guides. To be included, the secondary sources needed to be reference materials rather than individual works of criticism. All works included in this research guide are either located at or available through Indiana University Bloomington Libraries.

Site Contents
  • Subject Headings
  • Bibliographies
  • Encyclopedias & Dictionaries
  • Indexes & Abstracts
  • Full-Text Databases
  • Anthologies

Subject Headings

Current Library of Congress subject headings do not unify all travel literature under one common subject heading. As such, users who are searching for travel literature will need to use a variety of subject headings, including the ones listed below.

  • British - travel - foreign countries - history - 19th century
  • English Literature - Bibliography
  • English prose literature - 19th century - history and criticism
  • Travel - Bibliography
  • Travelers' writings, English - history and criticism
  • Travelers' writings, English - 19th century
  • Women travelers - Great Britain - Bio-bibliography
back to top

Bibliographies are useful starting points for locating foundational texts and identifying important authors in specific area studies. The following bibliographies provide information specific to nineteenth-century British travel literature as well as broader areas of literary studies.

Bethell, Leslie. Brazil by British and Irish Authors. Oxford: Centre for Brazilian Studies, University of Oxford, 2003. [B-Wells - Research Collection - Stacks - F2511 .B48 2003]

Divided into three sections—1500-1800, 1808-1945, and 1945-c. 2000—this bibliography is an annotated guide to British and Irish encounters with Brazil. Works written during the nineteenth century can be located by browsing the appropriate time period. Additionally, the volume includes indexes to both authors and places.

Gunn, Drewey Wayne. Mexico in American and British Letters: A Bibliography of Fiction and Travel Books, Citing Original Editions. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1974. [B-Wells - Research Collection - Stacks - Z1225 .G976]

This bibliography serves as a guide to bibliographies, fiction, and travel books on Mexico by American and British individuals. The "Checklist of American and British Travel Books, Memoirs, and Other Personal Observations about Mexico (1569-1972)" takes up the second half of the book. Although the volume has a Short Title Index, it lacks any index to the origin and publication date of the included works. As such, users must browse through the bibliography to identify relevant titles.

Marcuse, Michael J., ed. A Reference Guide for English Studies. Berkeley; Los Angeles; Oxford: U of California P, 1990. [B-Wells - Research Collection - Reference - PR56 .M37 1990]

This guide contains annotations for reference resources in all areas of English studies. Organized into topical sections, this volume also includes an Index of Authors, Compilers, Contributors, and Editors; an Index of Titles, and an Index of Subjects and Authors-as-Subjects. Reference works on travel literature are indexed under "Travel, travelers, and travel literature" in the Index of Subjects and Authors-as-Subjects.

Pine-Coffin, R.S. Bibliography of British and American Travel in Italy to 1860. Firenze: L.S. Olschki, 1974. [B-Wells - Research Collection - Stacks - Z2356 .P649]

Organized chronologically, this bibliography first hand accounts of Italy by both British and American travelers. The book is divided into two sections, one covering British works and the other covering American works. Within each section, individual works arranged chronologically. To identify relevant works, browse through the British works written between 1800 and 1899.

Ritchie, John. List of the Books in the English Language on Travel, Exploration, and Mountaineering, Published within the Year Ending August Thirty-First, 1897. Boston: Boston Scientific Society, 1897. [B-Wells - Research Collection - Stacks - Q11 .B8 no.2]

This brief bibliography is a subsection of a larger bibliography that included 255 travel and guidebooks and 150 atlases and technical works. This selection includes the more "popular" titles with brief annotations. The countries of origin for the works' authors are not indicated.

Robinson, Jane. Wayward Women: A Guide to Women Travellers. Oxford; New York: Oxford UP, 2001. [B-Wells - Research Collection - Stacks - Z6011 .R65 2001]

Robinson's bibliography includes around 400 bio-bibliographic entries on women travelers throughout history. Each entry contains a brief biographical sketch as well as the bibliographic information for the first editions of travel literature. The bibliography is arranged alphabetically, and while most of the women included are British, users will need to browse through the entries to identify relevant citations. This volume is divided into thirteen sections and includes maps, a list of useful reference books, a geographical index, and an index of authors.

Sears, Minnie Earl, comp. Standard Catalog for Public Libraries; History and Travel Section; an Annotated List of 1900 Titles with a Full Analytical Index. New York: Wilson, 1929. [B-Wells - Research Collection - Stacks - Z6209 .W7]

Organized according to the Dewey Decimal Classification system, this bibliography is intended as a checklist for public libraries. The 1,900 annotated entries are divided into two main sections: History and Description & Travel. Since the origins of the included are not indicated, searching the index for specific authors or browsing the Description & Travel section will be the best ways to identify nineteenth-century British travel writing.

Schattock, Joanne, ed. The Cambridge Bibliography of English Literature. Vol. 3: 1800-1900. 3rd ed. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge UP, 1999. [B-Wells - Research Collection - Reference - Z2011 .N45 1999]

Superseding the New Cambridge Bibliography of English Literature, this bibliography indexes the literature of the British Isles, including both primary and secondary sources. Travel literature titles from the 19th century are listed under the Travel heading and are further divided into the following subcategories: General, Africa, America, Asia, Australasia and the Pacific, and Europe.

Watson, Lorna. The Errant Pen: Manuscript Journals from British Travellers to Italy. La Spezia: Agorà, 2000. [B-Wells - Research Collection - Stacks - DG421 ..W38 2000]

Watson's bibliography includes bibliographic references to over 700 manuscript journals written by 590 authors. Spanning the sixteenth through the twentieth centuries, these manuscripts provide accounts of British encounters with Italy. The volume is organized chronologically by century. As such, relevant manuscripts are listed in the "Nineteenth century manuscripts" section.

back to top
Encyclopedias & Dictionaries

The following encyclopedias and dictionaries provide a concise overview of travellers, travel literature, and travel related topics. While they do not provide the full-text of specific travel literature pieces, these resources can serve as research starting points by identifying existing texts.

Baker, Daniel B. Explorers and Discoverers of the World. Detroit, MI: Gale, 1993. [B-Wells - Research Collection - Reference - G200 .E88 1993]

This resource is a guide to explorers and discoverers around the world and includes a chronology of exploration, area maps, a list of explorers by area explored, and a list of explorers by place of birth. To identify nineteenth-century British explorers, consult the list of explorers by place of birth and then cross-check the entry against the table of contents, which lists birth and death dates along with each explorer's name.

Brothers, Barbara, and Julia Gergits, eds. British Travel Writers, 1837-1875. Detroit, MI: Gale, 1996. [B-Wells - Research Collection - Reference - PR788.T72 B74 1996]

This volume of the Dictionary of Literary Biography (DLB) comprises biographical entries on the lives and works of British travel writers from 1837 to 1875. Following each of the 38 entries on both major and minor figures is a short bibliography on works by the author and works about the author. Additionally, the editors have included a list of travel writers from 1837 to 1875 as well as a checklist of further readings.

Brothers, Barbara, and Julia Gergits, eds. British Travel Writers, 1876-1909. Detroit: Gale, 1997. [B-Wells - Research Collection - Reference - PR788.T72 B743 1997]

This volume of the DLB comprises biographical entries on the lives and works of British travel writers from 1876 to 1909. Following each of the 32 entries on both major and minor figures is a short bibliography on works by the author and works about the author. Additionally, the editors have included a list of travel writers from 1876 to 1909 as well as a checklist of further readings.

Brown, Christopher K. Encyclopedia of Travel Literature. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2000. [B-Wells - Research Collection - Reference - G465 .B765 2000]

Restricted in coverage to writings from Western Europe and the United States, this encyclopedia includes over 170 entries on famous travelers from the fifteenth century onward. For entries specific to nineteenth-century British writers, look in the index under Great Britain - 19th c., or under the name of a specific author such as William Makepeace Thackeray, Mary Shelley Wollstonecraft, or Anthony Trollope.

Delpar, Helen, ed. The Discoverers: An Encyclopedia of Explorers and Exploration. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1980. [B-Wells - Research Collection - Reference - G200 .D53]

This encyclopedia contains two main types of entries: biographical entries on explorers and entries on geographic regions and related topics. Due to available source material, this resource emphasizes primarily explorations conducted by West Europeans. For information search specific individuals, look under the name of the author/discoverer. The entry on "Literature and Exploration" provides a good overview of Europeans' exploration of the world.

Howgego, Raymond John. Encyclopedia of Exploration, 1800-1850: A Comprehensive Reference Guide to the History and Literature of Exploration, Travel, and Colonization between the years 1800 and 1850. Sydney: Hordern House, 2004. [B-Wells - Research Collection - Stacks - G80 .H68 2004]

The Encyclopedia of Exploration covers expeditions that began between 1800 and 1850. With over 10,000 bibliographic citations, this resource provides a thorough yet not comprehensive guide to exploration, travel, and colonization during the first half of the 19th century. The encyclopedia focuses specifically on travels to Asia, Australasia and the Pacific, the Americas, Africa, and the Polar Regions. The entries are arranged alphabetically by author and include birth and death dates, a list of places explored, a short biographical entry, a bibliography of works by the author, and cross-referencing to related entries. Additionally, the contents are indexed by persons and ships.

Netzley, Patricia D. The Encyclopedia of Women's Travel and Exploration. Westport, CT: Oryx Press, 2001. [B-Wells - Research Collection - Reference - G454 .N47 2001]

Covering women travelers and explorers, this encyclopedia includes entries on specific travelers, travel related topics, and geographic locations. Relevant entries can be located by searching for specific names. Additionally, the entry for "Great Britain" provides a good introduction to women travelers and explorers from the British Isles and cross references to numerous other entries on British women travel writers.

Speake, Jennifer. Literature of Travel and Exploration: An Encyclopedia. 3 vols. New York: Fitzroy Dearborn, 2003. [B-Wells - Research Collection - Reference - G465 .L565 2003]

In its 3 volumes, this encyclopedia comprises over 230 entries on travelers as well as travel-related topics. In addition to an alphabetic entry list, this resource contains a thematic list of entries, a book list index, and a general index. To locate entries on nineteenth-century British travel writers, search by a specific author's name or consult the thematic list of entries. The entry on "England, Nineteenth Century" serves as a good starting point.

back to top
Indexes & Abstracts

Both print and online indexes and abstracts provide access to current scholarly articles and books. The following sources are available either in print in the IUB Main Library or online through the IUB Libraries' website. Specific keywords or subject headings are provided for each indexing and abstracting source.

Annual Bibliography of English Language and Literature (ABELL). Cambridge: Bowes & Bowes, 1924-2003.
[B-Wells - Research Collection - Reference - Z2011 .M6].

ABELL indexes secondary source materials on English literature, English language, and bibliography. Although there no separate subject heading for travel literature in ABELL's print version exists, it may be located through browsing English Literature - 19th Century - Prose.

Indexing sources from 1920 to 2004, ABELL's electronic version has the same coverage as its print counterpart. To identify secondary texts on nineteenth-century British travel literature, search for travel as a keyword and English literature: nineteenth century as a subject.

Essay and General Literature Index. Ed. John Greenfieldt. New York; Dublin: H.W. Wilson, 1900-. [B-Wells - Research Collection - Reference - AI3 .S41]

The EGLI covers authors and subjects from essays published in collections in the arts, humanities, and social sciences. The following subject headings provide resources relevant to travel literature: travel in literature, travel writing, travelers' writings, and travels.

MLA International Bibliography. New York: Modern Languages Association, 1963-.
[Electronic Resource: Available through EBSCO].

Covering over 4,400 journals, this database indexes information sources on literature, languages, linguistics, and folklore. While it does not index primary source material, MLA includes secondary source materials. To find secondary texts on nineteenth-century British travel literature, limit Genre/Classification (GC) to travel literature, Literature Subject (LT) to English literature, and Period (TM) to 1800-1899.

Nineteenth Century Masterfile. Paratext.
[Electronic Resource: Available through Paratext]

Nineteenth Century Masterfile indexes over 60 subject indexes, serving as a guide to nineteenth-century periodic literature. To locate British travel literature, search for the term travel, limiting the time period to 1800-1899.

Nineteenth Century Short-Title Catalogue. Series I. Phase I: 1801-1815. 5 vols. Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England: Avero Publications, 1985. [B-Wells - Research Collection - Reference - Z2011 .N5]

Based on the holdings of the Bodleian Library, Cambridge University Library, Trinity College Library, the National Library of Scotland, the British Library, and Newcastle University Library, the first series of the NSTC provides an "increasingly complete" list of British books published between 1801 and 1815 regardless their publication location. In the first series, travel literature titles are classified in the Geography & History section under the following subject headings: Travels - General, Travels in Europe, Travels in Asia, Travels in Africa, Travels in North America, Travels in South America, Travels to Other Areas, and Word Wide Travels.

Nineteenth Century Short-Title Catalogue. Series II. Phase I: 1816-1870. 56 vols. Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England: Avero Publications, 1994. [B-Wells - Research Collection - Reference - Z2011 .N5]

Based on the same library holdings as Series I along with the holdings of the Library of Congress and the Harvard University Library, Series II of the NSTC uses a different classification system. In this series, travel literature titles are indexed under the following subject headings: travel, traveller, travelling, travels, voyage, and voyages. In addition to subject indexing, these volumes are indexed by author, places of imprint, titles, and date of publication.

Note: The complete Nineteenth Century Short-Title Catalogue is also available electronically

Peddie, Robert Alexander, ed. Subject Index of Books Published up to and including 1880. 4 vols. London: Grafton, 1933-1948. [B-Wells - Research Collection - Reference - AI3 .P3]

This four-volume set was compiled to enhance access to pre-1880 titles. Most of the entries were gleaned from the General Catalogue at the British Museum as well as the National Central Library, the Library of University College, and the Patent Office Library. Each volume contains approximately 50,000 references. To find travel literature, search under the subject headings travelling and voyages & travel.

Year's Work in English Studies (YWES). London: Oxford UP, 1921-. [B-Wells - Research Collection - Stacks - PE58 .E6] [Electronic Resource: Available through Oxford University Press Journals]

YWES provides a guide to critical works in all areas of English studies published within a specific year. To locate secondary sources on travel literature through the electronic version, search for travel and nineteenth in all words anywhere in the article

back to top

Full-Text Databases

The following resources can be searched to identify full-text, online documents. For each database, search strategies are given for locating nineteenth-century British travel literature.

British and Irish Women's Letters and Diaries. Alexander Street Press. [Electronic Resource: Available through Alexander Street Press].

This full-text database indexes letters and diaries written between 1400 and 1900 by women from both Great Britain and Ireland. To identify travel literature from the nineteenth-century, search for travel as a subject, limiting to 1800-1900 in the time period field.

Early Encounters in North America. Alexander Street Press.[Electronic Resource: Available through Alexander Street Press].

This database provides access to full-text letters, diaries, and memoirs that give an account of Europeans' early encounters with Native North Americans. To identify travel literature from the nineteenth-century, search for travel as a subject, limiting to 1800-1900 in the time period field.

back to top

Since travel literature is highly diverse and not found in a centralized location, anthologies can serve as a guide to travel writers and travel literature. The following list includes a sampling of the available travel literature anthologies. Each anthology includes but may not be limited to nineteenth-century British travel literature.

Lamb, Jonathan, ed. Exploration and Exchange: A South Seas Anthology, 1680-1900. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2000. [B-Wells - Research Collection - Stacks - DU19 .E95 2000]

Maclennan, Ben, comp. The Wind Makes Dust: Four Centuries of Travel in Southern Africa. 1st ed. Cape Town: Tafelberg, 2003. [B-Wells - Research Collection - Stacks - DT1030 .W56 2003]

McVeagh, John. Irish Travel Writing: A Bibliography. Dublin: Wolfhound Press, 1996. [B-Wells - Research Collection - Stacks - On Order]

Royal Geographical Society. The Country of the Turkomans: An Anthology of Exploration from the Royal Geographical Society. London: Oguz Press; the Royal Geographical Society, 1977. [B-Wells - Research Collection - Stacks - DK934 .C68]

Schiffer, Reinhold. Turkey Romanticized: Images of the Turks in Early 19th Century English Travel Literature. Bochum: Studienverlag N. Brockmeyer, 1982. [B-Wells - Research Collection - Stacks - DR425 .S34]

Wevers, Lydia. Travelling in New Zealand: An Oxford Anthology. Aukland, NZ; New York: Oxford UP, 2000. [B-Wells - Research Collection - Stacks - DU409 .T73 2000]

back to top
Melissa S. Van Vuuren
Last modified: June 27, 2007
last updated: 5/14/2010