Friendship at a Distance: Technologies of Friendship, 1880-1920’: Friendship at a Distance

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Using technology to stay connected at a distance is something we are all too familiar with, having relied on social media to stay safely connected during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the use of technology to maintain friendships and communities at a distance is not a modern phenomenon. In the late nineteenth century, technological innovations from the printing press to more local developments allowed for friendship and community networks to be created and maintained in ways which we can now trace in archival holdings from the period. Friendship Books and Guild records can be found in the Edge Hill University Archive, providing insight into the friendships and community spirit of the earliest Edge Hill cohorts from 1880s-1900s. A community which began in-person was later maintained at a distance through the college magazine, Guild network, and autograph albums, leaving a physical trace of historical community and long-distance connection within the archive. Beyond personal publications, the popular press was also a vehicle of connection and communication at a distance. Newspapers like Ally Sloper’s Half Holiday used technology as well as marketing techniques like newspaper competitions to attract a mass, loyal audience. The ‘Friend of Man’ branding was particularly prominent, and readers often signed themselves as friends of Sloper when writing into the paper. Official and unofficial merchandise was produced, and readers were keen to demonstrate their loyalty to the paper. Built, maintained, and connected to one another entirely at a distance. The social impact of technology upon friendship and community - terms which often conjure images of physical intimacy and proximity - has archival precedent. By examining the Victorians’ private and public use of technology, friendship and connection, can be expanded to acknowledge that long-distance communities not only have
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2023
EventBritish Association for Victorian Studies: BAVS - University of Surrey, Stag Hill Campus, Guildford, United Kingdom
Duration: 31 Aug 20232 Sept 2023


ConferenceBritish Association for Victorian Studies
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


  • Ally Sloper
  • Ally Sloper's Half-Holiday
  • friendships
  • long-distance friendships
  • Periodicals
  • Archives
  • Edge Hill archive
  • nineteenth century

Research Centres

  • Research Centre for Nineteenth-Century Studies

Research Groups

  • Research Catalyst


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