“Ever Yours”: The Florence Nightingale Papers and Handwritten Text Recognition Technology

13 October 2017

Gender and Sexuality | History

Medical Services and Warfare: 1850-1927
 is a major new resource that examines the history of injury, disease, treatment and medical development within and around conflicts of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Collecting more than 4,000 documents from archives and libraries from the UK and North America, this resource includes the outstanding Florence Nightingale Papers from the British Library, comprising correspondence, notes and reports written between 1847-1889.

Exciting new Handwritten Text Recognition technology means that the manuscript writings of Florence Nightingale and her correspondents digitised in this resource are now fully text searchable - easier to discover and navigate than ever before.



Click on the image to see the document in the collection.

A personal highlight in the collection is the letter to Douglas Strutt Galton from 23 June 1866 that hails from a fascinating time in Nightingale’s life and work. This short piece of correspondence evinces how far beyond professional nursing her work and influence went, as well as her engaging and indomitable attitude.

In the summer of 1866 Nightingale was at a high point in her renown; famous for her work in Scutari and publications including Notes on Nursing (1859), she had attended audiences with Queen Victoria and successfully lobbied for the creation of the Royal Commission. After moving to London, she focused her efforts on using this renown to instigate change, including improving sanitary conditions for soldiers and civilians in India under the British Raj.

In this letter, Nightingale discusses writings on water analysis by Dr Angus Smith (Scottish chemist Robert Angus Smith who discovered pollution that came to be known as acid rain) and enquires about future ministerial prospects.

Nightingale’s drive for change, however, often led to frustration. After having lobbied for Lord de Grey to become the Secretary of State for India, hoping this connection would enable her to influence reform, he was replaced after only five months in office as Lord Russell's Liberal government fell and a Conservative appointment was made in his stead. Nightingale expresses this frustration in her letter to Galton: 

“I am furious to that degree at having lost Lord de Grey’s 5 months’ Ministry at the India Off[ice]”.

Click on the image to see the document in the collection.


The letter concludes with a rhetorical flourish characteristic of her candid letters and one small part of what makes this collection so fascinating: “I am fit to blow you all to pieces with an infernal machine of my own invention, which does me credit. Ever yours, F. Nightingale”.

As well as the searching possible with Handwritten Text Recognition technology, Medical Services and Warfare: 1850-1927 features an interactive browsing tool, that includes a visualisation of Nightingale’s correspondents and the themes of her writing, as well as each of the more than 5,000 items tagged with individual catalogue data.

Medical Services and Warfare: 1850-1927 is available now. For more information, including free trial access and price enquiries, please email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

All images © British Library. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.

About the Author

Hannah Phillips

Hannah Phillips

I am an Editor and have been with Adam Matthew Digital since October 2012. I have worked on a range of fascinating projects including American Indian Histories and Cultures, World's Fairs and Medical Services and Warfare.