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History of this Site

By Peter Millican

The “Leeds Hume Project” began in May 2000, when as Senior Lecturer in Computing and Philosophy at the University of Leeds, I was working on the Critical Survey of the Literature for my book Reading Hume on Human Understanding, which would appear in 2002. I had already produced the first accurate public-domain electronic edition of the Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, and was well aware of the poor quality of other editions. Now, searching through secondary literature for the Critical Survey (with several visits to the Oxford libraries and the British Library at Boston Spa for relatively obscure pieces), it became clear that some excellent material - for example in out-of-print books or defunct journals - was inaccessible to the vast majority of scholars. So I thought it would be a good idea to develop an online Hume archive combining high quality primary and secondary materials, with the crucial virtue of permanence so that academics could safely refer to these resources in scholarly works and student reading lists. This ambition is fully spelled out in the home page of the Leeds Hume Project from July 2001.

After the 2002 book was completed, pressure of other research and teaching obligations made progress slow, and although the Leeds Electronic Text Centre that I had founded was established as an independent unit in 2003 (having previously been part of the School of Computing), other funding-related projects took priority over the envisaged Hume Project. Then in 2005, I was appointed as Gilbert Ryle Fellow at Hertford College, Oxford, and accordingly moved the project from the Leeds webserver to a new site on the domain, purchased with a view to securing an appropriate permanent home. Then three years later, in July 2008 - by chance - a vacancy in the Leeds Electronic Text Centre became available, just when Henry Merivale, who had studied Hume as a postgraduate under my supervision, had completed his Oxford B.Phil. With a strong background in IT and a serious interest in electronic texts, Henry was appointed to fill the vacant position on a part-time basis, and at the same time commenced a part-time doctorate on Hume, while to facilitate this I agreed to play the role of informal supervisor on behalf of my old department (on an ex gratia basis). Since then we have worked together on the site, making relatively rapid progress on the texts while also (thanks mainly to Henry’s energy and quick learning) developing sophisticated techniques for web presentation. We are both fully committed to the original goal of permanence for, and I am delighted that Henry’s involvement looks set to ensure its continuation for at least another generation.