Scrambled Messages: The Telegraphic Imaginary 1857-1900

The Depths of the Sea Edward Burne-Jones

Between 1857 and 1866 the public's attention was caught by the drama of the repeated attempts to lay a submarine cable across the Atlantic for the transmission of telegraphic messages. Over subsequent decades, a range of technical constraints led to concerted scientific endeavour to overcome obstacles in the sending of messages electronically. This project draws on discussions of twenty-first century digital culture and its limit points to establish why it is that the scrambling of messages was as significant for Victorian culture at large as the sending of flawless messages. It is our hypothesis that pleasures and excitements produced by the new technology were productive of new cultural forms in literary writing and fine art... More

The project team

We are an interdisciplinary group from fields as diverse as engineering, art history, English and archaeology

Meet the Scrambled Messages team

What we do

We meet fortnightly to explore and discuss telegraphic imaginings in Victorian literature, engineering, and the arts (1857-1900). 

Explore our project bibliography

Read our most recent thoughts on our blog. We hold frequent events to disseminate and share our work and are producing a selection of teaching resources for use in schools. Scrambled Messages has also funded the cataloguing and digitization of the Wheatstone collection, which is searchable here.

Groups we work with

We have links with a number of related projects

Shows of London

Diseases of Modern Life: Nineteenth-Century Perspectives 

Constructing Scientific Communities: Citizen Science in the 19th and 21st Centuries

Music in London

Random International

Making Waves: Oliver Lodge and the culture of Science, 1875-1940

Media History Seminar

Related Institutions

Guildhall Art Gallery

Porthcurno Telegraph Museum

The Information Age Gallery @ The Science Museum

The Institution of Engineering and Technology