There were giants in the earth in those days
[Cross-posted at Airminded.]
Recently, I followed Gavin Robinson's lead and tried out the British Library's EThOS beta. EThOS stands for Electronic Theses (dissertations) Online Service, and it's just what you'd expect from that -- an electronic thesis delivery service. There's not too much new about that, but EThOS does have some very impressive features.
First is the scope: nearly all British Universities are participating (with two very major exceptions, unfortunately: Cambridge and Oxford). What's more, any thesis ever accepted in Britain is eligible for inclusion in the database, possibly going back to the 1600s, according to the FAQ. This could become a rich vein of primary source material for intellectual historians. Second is the fact that the theses have been OCRed, not just scanned. This means that you can do keyword searches on the PDFs, for example. Third is the fact that they are free! Mostly, anyway. If you only want an electronic copy, it's free (hardcopy costs, obviously). If the thesis you want hasn't been scanned yet, then you may be asked to contribute towards the cost of that, but in most cases, not. And it doesn't appear to matter whether you are in the UK or not (which is good, because I'm not).
As for the cryptic title above, one of the theses I downloaded was one I've long wanted to read but have never seen until now: Howard Roy Moon, The Invasion of the United Kingdom: Public Controversy and Official Planning 1888-1918 (London University, 1968). It's quite widely cited and I wondered why it hadn't been published. Now I know why: it's 735 pages long! I am suddenly feeling rather inadequate. Clearly, historians back then possessed superhuman powers. Or at least very strong arms, and hands adapted for furious typing and scribbling.