The Editor's Choice

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About The Blog

The Editor's Choice is the blog of the editorial team at Adam Matthew. Here we hope to bring you snippets from the fascinating collections that we have the privilege of handling on a daily basis, as well as posts about our own interests, conference news, new collection information, travel news and 'Object of the Week' posts when we share the best items from the week in the archives. Please follow and share!


Censoring the Stage

Censoring the Stage

Adam Matthew Digital’s newest resource Eighteenth Century Drama: Censorship, Society and the Stage makes available the Larpent plays from the Huntington Library, California – as well as material from several other archives. The Licensing Act of 1737 was introduced by Walpole as a retaliation against the politically satirical nature of theatrical performances in the 1730s. This meant that new works of ‘serious drama’ performed at the patent theatres – designated by the crown – were required to apply for a licence in order to be performed. John Larpent was responsible for this practice, as the Examiner of plays 1778-1824.

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Thomas Cook and Touring the Middle East

Thomas Cook and Touring the Middle East

This week sees the anniversary of the Sykes-Picot agreement. A secret agreement between the Triple Entente signed on the 16th May 1916, it would divide the Middle East and the surrounding areas that were currently controlled by the Ottoman Empire. The plan was exposed by the new Bolshevik government of Russia in 1917 and printed in the UK newspaper the Guardian the same year.

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The Hunt for the Hidden Persuader: A Special Guest Blog by Regina Lee Blaszczyk

The Hunt for the Hidden Persuader: A Special Guest Blog by Regina Lee Blaszczyk

Back in 2006, I was hot on the trail of Ernest Dichter’s report on “The Peacock Revolution.” The phrase, which fittingly described the flamboyant turn in men’s apparel preference, has become part of the fashion lexicon even though its origins with Ernest Dichter are largely unacknowledged. Dichter’s consulting business, the Institute for Motivational Research, wrote the report as part of the marketing effort for postwar chemical giant E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company.

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Sowing the Seeds of a Settlement on the American Frontier

Sowing the Seeds of a Settlement on the American Frontier

I’m going to be honest: there are no bear attacks or Leonardo DiCaprios in this frontier- related blog post. There is, however, the story of a modest Quaker husband and wife, Thomas and Hannah Symons, who, following their marriage in 1811, decided to migrate from their homes in North Carolina to settle in Indiana which at the time was still a largely unsettled territory. Initially, this doesn’t sound like a particularly exceptional story in keeping with the notion of American exceptionalism, but all ideologies aside, Hannah Symons’ recollections provide a fascinating and personal insight into the hardship, bravery and perseverance involved in sowing the seeds of a settlement on the American frontier.

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Town Topics: The Journal of Society

Town Topics: The Journal of Society

Everyday Life & Women in America c.1800-1920 features a full run of the rare periodical Town Topics: The Journal of Society (1887-1923) from the New York Public Library. Town Topics was a weekly periodical offering literature reviews, short fictional stories, sporting news and financial advice. The periodical actually began as The American Queen but the name was changed to Town Topics when Colonel E.D. Mann assumed the editorship in 1891. As well as the name the success and the tone of the magazine were also set to change.

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Another scene in the life of Harriet Tubman

Another scene in the life of Harriet Tubman

Recently, the U.S. Treasury Secretary, Jack Lew, announced that some changes were being made to America’s paper currency. Chief among them was the replacement of Andrew Jackson on the front of the $20 bill, to make way for the inclusion of Harriet Tubman, the former slave turned abolitionist who was dubbed “Moses” due to her work in guiding slave families away from their owners using the infamous Underground Railroad. Tubman will be joined on the bill by a slew of activists and reformers who will soon grace the $5 and $10 notes, including Susan B. Anthony, Martin Luther King Jr., Sojourner Truth, and Eleanor Roosevelt.

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Pomp, circumstance and a crystal palace: The Great Exhibition of 1851

Pomp, circumstance and a crystal palace: The Great Exhibition of 1851

165 years ago this weekend, the doors of the Crystal Palace were opened to the public for the first time. This architectural wonder of glass and steel housed an array of exotic artefacts from across the globe and would welcome over six million visitors during the Great Exhibition of 1851; Queen Victoria, an unlikely fan of heavy machinery, would visit three times and had her own private boudoir installed inside. For many, the exhibition represents the pomp and circumstance of the Victorian Age.

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Niagara Falls: A Tourist’s View

Niagara Falls: A Tourist’s View

On a recent trip, I was lucky enough to take a detour and visit Niagara Falls, a tourist hotspot since the mid-nineteenth century. This stunning, natural phenomenon is one of the world’s most popular attractions, with more than 12 million visitors each year – and it’s not hard to see why.

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Easter 1916: The Irish Rebellion in an International Context

Easter 1916: The Irish Rebellion in an International Context

2016 marks the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising in Dublin, a rebellion which started on Monday April 24, 1916 and lasted until the following Saturday. The Irish Volunteers, the main nationalist military organization, and the Irish Citizen Army, a socialist militia, captured key points throughout the city and proclaimed the establishment of the Irish Republic for the duration of Easter week in an attempt to rid the island of British rule.

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The Race Relations Department: A 1940s Interracial Think Tank. A Special Guest Blog by Chianta Dorsey

The Race Relations Department: A 1940s Interracial Think Tank. A Special Guest Blog by Chianta Dorsey

The Race Relations Department of the United Church Board for Homeland Ministries was created by the American Missionary Association Division in 1942 and was based at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. The formal program of the department began in 1943 as a forum to engage in a national discussion regarding numerous topics including racial and ethnic relationships, economics, education, government policy, housing and employment.

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Emma Abbott the pre-Madonna prima donna: extraordinary everyday lives of women in 19th century America

Emma Abbott the pre-Madonna prima donna: extraordinary everyday lives of women in 19th century America

Singing about California while wearing a cupcake bra, running a business, racing yachts around the world, writing and producing a TV show, telling jokes to millions of people, leading a political party, writing Nobel prize-winning fiction, looking for cures, performing surgery … the list of fun, incredible and important work that women do these days goes on and on. Ok, so we don’t all own a cupcake bra like Katy Perry, but we do have the ability to choose a career that we want and for most women work is a part of our everyday lives.

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Three Go Camping in Yosemite

Three Go Camping in Yosemite

Summer 2016 will see the release of Adam Matthew’s History of Mass Tourism, a highly visual and searchable collection celebrating the growth of tourism from the mid-1800s to 1960s. One of the treasures found in this resource is a photograph album belonging to a young Alfred Ghirardelli, heir to the Ghirardelli chocolate empire, depicting a trip to Yosemite in the summer of 1903.

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Available now - World’s Fairs: a Global History of Expositions

Available now - World’s Fairs: a Global History of Expositions

The latest online resource from Adam Matthew Digital is now available. World’s Fairs: a Global History of Expositions digitises thousands of pages of primary source material relating to the inception, planning, organisation, exhibits and experience of over 200 international exhibitions. These enormous global events brought together the leading lights in technology, architecture, design and entertainment throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and continue to this day.

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In need of some advice?

In need of some advice?

I think it’s fair to say we probably all need a little advice from time-to-time and in this modern world there seems to be no shortage of professionals, books, websites and television shows to turn to when we need a little guidance. But this is by no means a modern phenomenon; guides offering advice have been circulating for centuries.

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St. Louis: the

St. Louis: the 'Northern City, with Southern Exposure': A special guest blog by Priscilla A. Dowden-White

Newly arrived African-American migrants to St. Louis during the opening of the Great Migration became part of an already established cosmopolitan community with deep roots dating back to the city’s early beginnings. A major center of social welfare progressivism, St. Louis was also particularly weeded to residential segregation.

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A Peep Into The Great Exhibition of 1851

A Peep Into The Great Exhibition of 1851

An item I assessed back in 2014 provided a challenge in terms of how to digitise it; Spooner’s Perspective View of the Great Exhibition is a folding concertina peepshow. It is made of ten pieces of card, each with a different layer of a scene from inside Crystal Palace, where the 1851 Great Exhibition was held (widely regarded as the most influential single event in the history of design and industry). Folded out and viewed through the peephole, these pieces make up a three-dimensional perspective of a long architectural gallery.

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The Australian ‘Colonial Experiment’

The Australian ‘Colonial Experiment’

A little over a year ago I was lucky enough to visit Australia for the first time and spent some time in the city of Sydney. While wandering around the Central Business District and down to Circular Quay, it was hard to think that this major cultural and economic centre had only been settled by European colonisers a little over two hundred years ago. For it was on the afternoon of 26 January 1788 when a fleet of eleven vessels under the command of Captain Arthur Phillip entered what today is known as Sydney Harbour and started what was described by Robert Hughes in his book The Fatal Shore as ‘a new colonial experiment, never tried before, not repeated since’.

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Atlanta and the American Historical Association

Atlanta and the American Historical Association

Last month I travelled out to Atlanta, Georgia to attend the four-day 130th American Historical Association (AHA) conference. This was a chance to get some real insight into the hot topics currently being discussed within the field of migration studies and was attended not just by movers and shakers from American Universities, but by academics from the UK, South Africa, Japan, Germany and many other countries across the globe.

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Dealing with Distance from the Archives through Digitization: A special guest blog by Craig Gallagher

Dealing with Distance from the Archives through Digitization: A special guest blog by Craig Gallagher

To access and make use of manuscript documents in the archives, historians have to deploy a variety of skills they have acquired in their training. Chief among these are the ability to navigate manuscript catalogues that are often labyrinthine, decipher the frequently challenging handwriting of historical figures, and read these materials critically in the political, social, and even curatorial context in which they were produced and catalogued.

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Sweet Liberty: World’s Fairs’ love affair with the Liberty Bell

Sweet Liberty: World’s Fairs’ love affair with the Liberty Bell

The Liberty Bell, which has long been the symbol of American independence, is now a very familiar object to everyone in the office who’s been working on our upcoming World’s Fairs resource. Many of America’s expositions proudly hosted the bell on the fair site as a central attraction, with millions of visitors flocking to catch a glimpse of this famous national symbol.

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Gentlemen, You Can

Gentlemen, You Can't Fight In Here! This is the War Room

Today marks the 52nd anniversary of the release Dr Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, Stanley Kubrick’s black comedy satirising Cold War anxieties of an all-out thermonuclear holocaust as a result of nuclear tensions between two countries. The film on its release predictably caused a good deal of controversy. This is hardly surprising of a film in which a crazed American General (Jack D. Ripper) manages to call for a nuclear strike against the USSR, in defence of the “precious bodily fluids” of the American people, without consulting the President.

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Skin for skin: Taking a closer look at Hugh Glass and the grim and grizzly nature of the American Frontier

Skin for skin: Taking a closer look at Hugh Glass and the grim and grizzly nature of the American Frontier

Earlier this week a few intrepid members of the team currently creating the up and coming Frontier Life collection made an expedition of their own to watch new film The Revenant. Exploring the thrilling tale of fur-trader Hugh Glass, The Revenant touches upon many themes covered in the Frontier Life collection, such as relations with indigenous peoples, trade and commerce, and of course expeditions and exploration.

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REMEMBERING A MUSIC LEGEND

REMEMBERING A MUSIC LEGEND

Here at Adam Matthew we are extremely sad to learn of the death of the legendary, inspirational and unforgettable David Bowie. Bowie was a creative genius who irrevocably changed the course of music in the early 1970’s with the album ‘The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars’.

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Electrifying Your Target Audience: Advertising Medicines in the Nineteenth Century

Electrifying Your Target Audience: Advertising Medicines in the Nineteenth Century

Whilst I attempt to accept that “’tis no longer the season to be jolly” and I begin to tackle the pile of leftover Christmas chocolates on my desk, I’ve been looking back at some of my favourite documents from the projects I worked on in 2015. One that vividly stands out is a pamphlet titled ‘The Best Known Curative Agent: Pulvermacher's Electric Belts and Bands for Self-Application’ from our Popular Medicine in America, 1800-1900 resource.

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In the Heart of the Sea: stories of the whaling ship

In the Heart of the Sea: stories of the whaling ship 'Essex'

Ron Howard’s new blockbuster, In the Heart of the Sea, is the latest retelling of the ill-fated final voyage of the Essex. Two years ago I wrote a blog to coincide with a BBC adaptation of the story, in which I summarised the account of Thomas Nickerson, a teenage boy who partook in that harrowing journey. Howard has used Nickerson as the narrator of his film, and this prompted me to look again at the memoir, which can be found in China, America and the Pacific.

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The Rector of Stiffkey: Life as a sideshow

The Rector of Stiffkey: Life as a sideshow

In 1960 the anthropologist Tom Harrisson returned from Borneo to Blackpool, where 23 years earlier he had directed survey work for Mass Observation. His stay was recorded in the MO book Britain Revisited, which took a shapshot of contemporary British life and compared it to what the ‘mass observers’ had seen and heard in 1937. Much in post-war Blackpool, Harrisson found, was as it had been, but the entertainments on the seafront had changed.

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Robert E. Lee’s condolence letter to his son Rooney, 1864: A Special Guest Blog by Sandra Trenholm

Robert E. Lee’s condolence letter to his son Rooney, 1864: A Special Guest Blog by Sandra Trenholm

In this beautifully written letter, Confederate general Robert E. Lee attempts to console his son William Fitzhugh “Rooney” Lee on the loss of his wife. The letter demonstrates the emotion that Lee felt for his family and offers a glimpse of the strength that carried Lee through the war. His faith in God, his empathy for others’ misfortunes, and his belief in the Confederate cause, all granted Lee the fortitude he needed to endure the war. One can see all of these attributes in this single, short missive.

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Mother Goose – The Evolution of a Classic Christmas Pantomime

Mother Goose – The Evolution of a Classic Christmas Pantomime

This winter season, many of us will head off to the theatre to find some festive cheer at a Christmas pantomime. Looking for some Christmas cheer myself, I was delighted to come across a copy of, ‘Harlequin and Mother Goose; or, The Golden Egg, Airs, Chorusses, &c., in’ whilst working on our upcoming project Eighteenth Century Drama: Censorship, Society and the Stage. This pantomime by Thomas Dibdin and Charles Farley was first performed at Covent Garden Theatre on Boxing Day, 26th December, 1806. It was a huge success, running for ninety two nights and has long since become a quintessential Christmas classic.

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‘My Dear Old Basil’: Letters from a Shell-Shocked Soldier

‘My Dear Old Basil’: Letters from a Shell-Shocked Soldier

The 4th December marks the anniversary of the publication of a paper entitled ‘The Repression of War Experience’, presented to the Royal School of Medicine in 1917 by W. H. Rivers. Rivers was a psychiatrist and neurologist, mostly known for his work with soldiers suffering from shell-shock, both during and following World War I. His paper advocated the best course of treatment for sufferers of shell-shock was for them to face their painful memories, rather than adopting an ‘ostrich-like policy of attempting to banish them from the mind.’

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The perils of ‘Christmas Cookery’

The perils of ‘Christmas Cookery’

With the Christmas tree arriving later this week and Secret Santa getting well under way in the Adam Matthew office it seems a fitting time to share a little a snippet of festive fun that I stumbled across recently exploring our London Low Life collection. Whilst Paul Pry’s 1838 text, Oddities of London Life may be considered in many ways archetypal of the satirical social commentaries of the 19th century lower classes that run throughout this collection, William Heath’s highly amusing account of a “Christmas Cookery” is a personal highlight that I felt both too amusing and aptly named to not share.

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Mark Twain

Mark Twain's Benevolence

With the 180th anniversary of his birth approaching, it might be an apt time to present a different side to the acerbic wit we associate with one of America’s best-loved writers through a letter that can be found in American History, 1493-1945: From the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. It is also a letter which alludes to the United States’ post-American Civil War racial settlement and the legacy of that conflict.

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An Alternative View of Thanksgiving

An Alternative View of Thanksgiving

Alongside turkey lies other Thanksgiving traditions that many Americans hold dear which are distinctly products of the “New World,” such as cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, and our brand of football, each of which have impressively old historical roots in their own rights. It is a day in which we are all meant to reflect on the bountiful supplies of food and material wealth of our nation.

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Seventy Years Since Nuremberg

Seventy Years Since Nuremberg

Before the close of the Nuremberg trials in October 1946, the Mass Observation team sent out a number of directives asking the public’s opinion on the trials of the Nazi war criminals. The primary response was that they were a waste of time, a waste of tax payer’s money and the verdict a foregone conclusion. The thought process was that these men were guilty, and would be found so, and that the simplest, and cheapest option, would have been to shoot them on the spot (though some had some more brutal ideas).

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Walt and the world

Walt and the world's fair: dreaming up a Disney delight

Walt Disney Parks and Resorts are known the world over for exciting children and adults alike, providing a backdrop for new technology, unparalleled entertainment and constant innovation. Sounds familiar? Ever since the Great Exhibition in 1851, world’s fairs have inspired others, and in the twentieth century the marriage of Walt Disney’s mind to the splendor of the fairs was to prove a winning combination.

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Armistice Day 1937: a special Guest Blog by Fiona Courage

Armistice Day 1937: a special Guest Blog by Fiona Courage

I cannot buy a poppy, for I have not got a penny. Not so rich. 11 o’clock, what an unearthly silence. My thoughts are upon my little children in school, their heads will be bowed in reverence to our beloved dead. It is all very sad for the relatives of the fallen, for it seems a pity to keep on reopening an old wound, causing a heartache. I don’t think any body really wishes to remember the war and its horrors. I am thinking about my child’s wet feet, hoping that her leaking shoe will not soak her foot. Wet feet mean bronchitis for her, unless I can stop it with my favourite medicine.

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AJEX: British Jewry and Wartime Commemoration

AJEX: British Jewry and Wartime Commemoration

At the stroke of 11am this Sunday, individuals across Britain, including present day soldiers, veterans and their families, will observe a minute silence to remember the sacrifices of members of the British armed forces and of civilians in times of war. Among them will be members of AJEX, The Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen and Women, which, as its name suggests, is made up of British-Jewish men and women who once served in the British Armed Forces. With a current membership of approximately 4,000 people, AJEX has a long and interesting history spanning over ninety years.

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Secrets, Spies and the Spectre of Scandal

Secrets, Spies and the Spectre of Scandal

New details emerged last week of Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean, two civil servants who acted as Soviet spies from the 1930s up until their defection to Moscow in 1951. The reaction to their flight behind the Iron Curtain can be traced in documents from the National Archives in Adam Matthew’s Confidential Print: North America resource.

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The Haunted Swing: something wicked this way rotates...

The Haunted Swing: something wicked this way rotates...

With Halloween only days away it’s once again time to dust off the face paints, shine-up the vampire fangs and artistically destroy a pumpkin. To get into the “horror” of things, I began delving through some of our resources to find something suitably ghoulish from the vestiges of history. My search lead me unexpectedly to a photogravure of an amusement ride called the 'The Haunted Swing' within a souvenir album from San Francisco’s California Midwinter International Exposition in 1894.

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The Kill or the Cure: how trade and science changed perceptions of medicinal drugs

The Kill or the Cure: how trade and science changed perceptions of medicinal drugs

Before the advances in science and trade networks during the nineteenth century, our ancestors, in their isolated communities, had to make sense of the natural world through trial and error. Popular Medicine in America, 1800-1900 documents how physicians used their traditional knowledge of plants and human anatomy to treat ailments, and how they gradually incorporated new ideas and techniques into their cures as science and increased global interaction expanded their understanding.

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ATALM and the Revitalisation of Indigenous Languages

ATALM and the Revitalisation of Indigenous Languages

On a recent research trip I was lucky enough to attend the International Conference of Indigenous Archives, Libraries, and Museums held by the Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries, and Museums (ATALM). Situated in Washington DC this year and hosted by the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI), the conference was an opportunity for library, museum and archival staff, together with individuals and groups from a number of different fields, to discuss and share experiences in an important effort to develop and refine goals for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous organisations and communities.

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A Very Victorian Illusion: Ghoulies, Ghosties and Halloween Nasties

A Very Victorian Illusion: Ghoulies, Ghosties and Halloween Nasties

As Halloween draws near and our lives are once more filled with Vincent Price Hammer Horrors, greasy face paint and gaggles of small children with chocolate-plastered faces, I thought we would do something fun and attempt to summon a spirit. Now, I don’t mean the Ouija Board type of spiritual shenanigans the Victorians were so fond of attending, no. I mean a real summoning … the creation of a real spiritual image.

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Welsh Patagonia: 150 years of

Welsh Patagonia: 150 years of 'Y Wladfa Gymreig'

Having grown up in a Welsh-speaking community in Cardiff, I have long been familiar and fascinated with the history and concept of 'Y Wladfa Gymreig', a Welsh-speaking settlement in Patagonia, Argentina. Founded in 1865, 2015 marks the 150th anniversary of the establishment of Y Wladfa with celebrations taking place throughout the year in both Wales and Argentina.

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Fun, Sun and Summer Flings

Fun, Sun and Summer Flings

Summer in the northern hemisphere is drawing to a close and with it comes the end of peak holiday season. ‘Back to School’ advertisements and darker evenings remind us that the summer holiday is over, but it won’t be long until travel agents are persuading us to book next year’s dream getaway. To cheer myself up in the meantime I’ve been browsing holiday and tourism paraphernalia from the 1960s and dreaming of vacationing in a more glamourous age.

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A ROYAL AFFAIR

A ROYAL AFFAIR

Whilst browsing through a collection of material from our up-coming World’s Fairs resource, a familiar face appeared to me amidst a stream of photographs of jubilant crowds, exotic pavilions and iconic industrial feats. It was none other than Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II attending Expo 67, Montreal’s international exposition.

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TO ‘GLADDEN THE HEARTS OF THE MOST FASTIDIOUS’

TO ‘GLADDEN THE HEARTS OF THE MOST FASTIDIOUS’

While I accept that for many, September signals the start of crisper mornings and the new school year, most of us can agree that autumn is also all about watching a host of celebrities fumble their way through the foxtrot and wrangle with the rumba, leading us up to Christmas with a feast of spangles, silliness, glitter and glamour along the way.

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SERVICE NOT SERVITUDE

SERVICE NOT SERVITUDE

Today marks the US federal holiday Labor Day; a day dedicated to honouring the American labour movement and recognizing the contributions and social and economic achievements of American workers. It is a day to celebrate strength and prosperity and to have one last hurrah for summer.

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The Utter Ruin of Mary Musgrove Bosomworth

The Utter Ruin of Mary Musgrove Bosomworth

Documents included in Colonial America cover daring feats of piracy, bloody wars, rugged expeditions through frontiers infested with ‘vigorous rattlesnakes’ and reams of legislation that ultimately shaped a nation. However, after hours spent tilting my head this way and that in an attempt to decipher the handwriting of various clerks, it has become clear that the lives of women within the Thirteen Colonies were of less interest to record keepers than politics and trade. A queen may have sat on the throne when English explorers first landed on the coast of Virginia, but the age of empire was, primarily, an age of withered, wigged, white men.

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Rough dust gold in a purple bagg: Pirate treasure in colonial America

Rough dust gold in a purple bagg: Pirate treasure in colonial America

Over the past couple of months I’ve been spending most of my time indexing documents for our forthcoming Colonial America resource, which consists of British Colonial Office files from The National Archives, Kew. This material covers all aspects of life in the Thirteen Colonies and beyond, from the everyday administrative grind of council meetings and petitions about land rights to the more evocative subjects (from the comfortable vantage point of twenty-first-century Britain) of battles with the French, parlays with Indians, and pirates – or ‘pyrates’, as most writers of the time rather pleasingly spelled it.

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Escape from Spandau Prison

Escape from Spandau Prison

Migration to New Worlds: A Century of Immigration reminds me of a photo-mosaic. The resource sweeps across several cultures, tens of decades and thousands of miles to explore the mass migration of peoples in the nineteenth and early twentieth century, but this rich narrative is actually comprised of a multitude of stories of the individuals, families and communities that decided to up sticks and ship themselves off to a whole new life.

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NEW ONLINE THIS FALL: ‘AFRICAN AMERICAN COMMUNITIES’

NEW ONLINE THIS FALL: ‘AFRICAN AMERICAN COMMUNITIES’

One of my personal highlights from the forthcoming African American Communities resource has been working with the oral history collections that will be featured within the project. The oral histories (sourced from the Atlanta History Center, Washington University in St. Louis and the Weeksville Heritage Center) contain personal accounts of the Atlanta Civil Rights Movement, African American art and culture and the African American community of Weeksville, Brooklyn.

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A Cure for All Ills – Even Death by Lightning

A Cure for All Ills – Even Death by Lightning

This week sees the publication of Popular Medicine in America, 1800-1900, documenting the rise of self-help healthcare for the general public during the nineteenth century. To celebrate, I wanted to share one of my favourite quotes from one of many printed books within the resource, most of which were written with the intent of educating the ordinary person about medical matters in order to save them a few cents on their doctor’s bill.

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The Marquis de Lafayette, a

The Marquis de Lafayette, a 'Citizen of Two Worlds'

Earlier in the year I stumbled upon an article about a successful effort to build and sail a replica of the French frigate l’Hermione. Further reading revealed that one of the key reasons this ship is sailing again is the voyage it made in 1780 from Rochefort, France, to Boston, USA. On this particular trip across the Atlantic was the man known as the Marquis de Lafayette (full name Marie-Joseph Paul Roch Yves Gilbert du Motier – try saying that fast three times!) on his return the North American continent.

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The inhumanity of brutality is colourless: African Americans and police relations

The inhumanity of brutality is colourless: African Americans and police relations

One of the most interesting things about working with so many varied primary source documents on a daily basis is how often the material makes me think of current issues. Items that appear in the news, questions that are still being considered, and consequences from past events still being felt always bring home the importance of history. I’ve had the privilege of working on African American Communities which covers various themes and issues of importance, and notably that of police and community relations.

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Brawls, Duels and Marsupials. A Voyage to Tasmania

Brawls, Duels and Marsupials. A Voyage to Tasmania

On 12 March 1838, a young surgeon by the name of Dr John Hanchett joined the ship Henry at St Katherine Dock, bound for Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania). His journal survives in the archives of the Maritime Museum of Tasmania and paints a vivid account of the trials and tribulations encountered during four months at sea, the relations between crew and passengers and the leisure activities on board an early Victorian emigrant ship. What follows is a potted account of his trip.

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From Sea to Shining Sea

From Sea to Shining Sea

On the eve of the Fourth of July and as the smell of fireworks and hot-dogs creeps across the United States, those of us lucky enough to have worked on American History 1493-1945 are swept along with the Independence Day spirit. The federal holiday is one of the most significant in the US calendar, competing only with Thanksgiving for the top-spot of cultural significance. Traditionally celebrated with parades, fireworks and parties the essence has not changed since the first anniversary celebration in 1777.

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World

World's Fairs: An International Obsession

As my interest in World’s Fairs creeps ever closer to obsession, my expectations were sky high when, last month, I was lucky enough to attend EXPO 2015 in Milan, the current incarnation of the centuries-old tradition of World’s Fairs. In light of our forth-coming resource, World’s Fairs: A Global History of Expositions, I was fascinated to see how modern expos compared to the Crystal Palace exhibition of 1851, or the futuristic fair of New York in 1964, and experience something comparable to these phenomenally influential historical events.

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The Freed Slaves of the South

The Freed Slaves of the South

While indexing the documents in our American History, 1493-1945 collection I found a curious printed book from 1915, entitled ‘Aunt Phebe, Uncle Tom and others’ by Mrs Essie Collins Matthews. This is a collection of character studies and photographs of freed slaves living in the South fifty years after abolition came into effect.

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The Ride of a Lifetime

The Ride of a Lifetime

Having several ancestors on both sides of my family who survived Waterloo, I thought it only fitting that Adam Matthew should mark the 200th anniversary with a tribute to heroism and the British stiff upper lip. In July 1815, the English court painter Sir Thomas Lawrence wrote enthusiastically to Mrs Isabella Wolff about the courage and heroism of Lord Wellington and, in particular, of Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Alexander Gordon; the Duke’s Aide de Camp.

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“You already know enough. So do I. It is not knowledge we lack.”

“You already know enough. So do I. It is not knowledge we lack.”

…”What is missing is the courage to understand what we know and to draw conclusions.” – Sven Lindqvist, Exterminate all the Brutes. The twentieth century will be forever scarred by a succession of wars, revolutions and unprecedented violence, in which empires fell and totalitarian regimes rose. This conflict conjuncture is often cited as the watershed moment for those attempting to define and source the origins of European-specific violence. But surely we should look further back still?

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Jurassic World

Jurassic World's Fairs: When Dinosaurs Ruled the Expos

There are several avid fans of the Jurassic Park film series here at Adam Matthew. Listening to colleagues’ tales of being young and watching the movie for the first time and the awe they felt at the sight of the dinosaurs brought to life reminded me of the fairs of not so long ago and the dinosaurs that captured imaginations even then.

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Musicians of the American Civil War

While working with the documents of American History, 1493-1945: From the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History my eye was drawn to some of the American Civil War-era military manuals due to some interesting appendices. As a part-time trumpet player I took an interest in some music charts entitled “General Calls” for the army buglers. There were two different sets that I came across, one for Confederate Infantry (Rifle and Infantry Tactics, Revised and Improved GLC03071) and one for Union Cavalry (Cavalry Tactics in Three Parts GLC07566.01).

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Stand Up For Your Rights

Stand Up For Your Rights

It was on the 11th of this month in 1963 that John F. Kennedy gave his civil rights speech in which he asked for legislation which would give ‘greater protection for the right to vote’. In November, the bill was referred to the Rules Committee where it was quickly dismissed.

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Eleanor Roosevelt

Eleanor Roosevelt's Universal Rights

In the year that we celebrate the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the United Nations, and the UK government questions Britain’s part in the European Convention on Human Rights, it is a poignant time to reflect on the formation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Central to this was Eleanor Roosevelt who was already heavily involved in social justice and human rights by the time she became First Lady in the White House in 1933.

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A Right Royal Welcome: Liverpool Celebrates with Cunard

A Right Royal Welcome: Liverpool Celebrates with Cunard's Three Queens

Liverpool has a lot to be proud of. A vibrant city with a rich heritage, Liverpool has brought us The Beatles, world class football, and striking architecture such as the Liver Building and Metropolitan Cathedral. Liverpool’s docks also carry the city’s legacy as a world famous port. With over 50 ports built along 7 miles over the last 300 years, Liverpool became a hub for commercial shipping and a key location for those wishing to migrate to and from the UK.

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World

World's Fairs: a more personal perspective

It’s 100 years since one of the greatest success stories of the world’s fair movement took place in San Francisco: the Panama Pacific International Exposition (PPIE) in 1915 was originally planned to celebrate the completion of the Panama Canal – a huge feat of engineering and human endeavour – but it also showcased the city’s impressive recovery from the devastating earthquake and fire of 1906.

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Paying Tribute to the Past at Historic Stagville, NC

Paying Tribute to the Past at Historic Stagville, NC

Shortly after joining Adam Matthew this year I set off to North Carolina for an archive research trip. Whilst there I had the opportunity to visit Historic Stagville, the site of one of the largest plantations in North Carolina and the pre-Civil War South at its peak during the 1850s and early 1860s. The site and buildings seemed peaceful on a beautiful April morning in the leafy, green North Carolina countryside, but there were stark reminders as we toured the buildings, of the injustices that took place and the difference in quality of life for the plantation owners and the slave community who lived here.

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Robert E. Lee Caught Between Nation and State

Robert E. Lee Caught Between Nation and State

Robert E. Lee, commander of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, remains a person who inspires great interest and debate to this day, not least due to the complexity of his character and loyalties. This is demonstrated by a letter in which Lee reports for military duty in Washington and says he awaits his orders from Union command. Twenty three days later, he had resigned his post and taken a commission from newly seceded Virginia.

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Beauty Expectations: The Practice of Foot-Binding

Beauty Expectations: The Practice of Foot-Binding

“Are you beach-body ready?”. Recently an advert posing this question was pulled from the London underground after provoking outrage from people who felt it promoted an unhealthy expectation of beauty. Advertising diet pills, it featured a slim model in a bikini. The general consensus from those who protested was that it is irresponsible and cruel to advertise a body-ideal, particularly one which many people would argue they cannot, and do not need, to achieve.

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“An invention without a future”? The re-opening of the Regent Street Cinema

“An invention without a future”? The re-opening of the Regent Street Cinema

Regent Street Cinema, the venue for the first public screening of Louis and Auguste Lumière’s Cinématographe in Britain on the 20th February 1896, has re-opened this week after being restored to its former glory. The small, single-screen cinema, originally part of the Royal Polytechnic Institution at what is now the Regent Street campus of the University of Westminster, was closed to the public in 1980 and has since served as a lecture theatre for the university.

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Dreams in Treasure Island

Dreams in Treasure Island

At the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley in 1925 the Canadian Pacific Railway Company, aiming to promote their railway to a British audience, showcased their wildly popular ‘Treasure Island’ installation. The island was a magical world created for children and big children alike where they could clamber aboard miniature trains Peter Pan and Alice to explore the Canadian Rockies.

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The thunderbolt has fallen: Memorialising Lincoln

The thunderbolt has fallen: Memorialising Lincoln

On April 14th 1865, America’s ruinous Civil War seemed finally to be drawing to a close. Five days earlier, General Lee had surrendered his army and to those walking Washington’s corridors of power, the war seemed all but won. However many in the South were still desperate to revive the Confederate cause, including John Wilkes Booth and his three co-conspirators.

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Abraham Lincoln: Heartbreaker

Abraham Lincoln: Heartbreaker

This month, April 2015, sees the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination at the hands of the enraged renegade actor John Wilkes Booth in 1865. Disgusted by the Lincoln’s part in the Confederate States’ defeat after four years of civil war, Booth sneaked into Lincoln’s box as the President was watching a play at Ford’s Theatre in Washington D.C. and shot him in the back of the head. Days after the end of the Civil War Lincoln was killed at the very moment of his great triumph.

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Milan 2015 and the Legacy of World

Milan 2015 and the Legacy of World's Fairs

If ever there was a way to twist my arm and persuade me to visit romantic, historic Milan this summer, the prospect of a huge, international celebration of food is a pretty convincing one. Expo Milan 2015 is just such an event, but my primary interest is not in pizza (honest), but in Expo 2015’s place in the legacy of World’s Fairs.

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Immersed in the Big Apple

Immersed in the Big Apple

Arriving in a bitterly cold and increasingly snowy New York City we were worried that everything might come to a standstill but unlike the British panic when snow arrives NYC continued to speed along and there were plenty of opportunities to explore the city in unique ways.

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I wonder which is father...

I wonder which is father...

The guidelines for creating the archetypal ‘advertisement’, be it on television or in written form, seemed to me to be relatively straightforward; ensure clear product placement, create an element of desirability and use clear, bold branding.

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Britain

Britain's Banished Men

BBC Two’s newest period drama Banished sheds light on the lives of the first penal colony established in Australia. The likes of Russell Tovey, Julian Rhind-Tutt, and MyAnna Buring portray the lives of convicts and soldiers trying to serve their time and get by in the wilds of New South Wales. Life seems incredibly brutal in this environment and one would imagine the real lives of the first convicts and soldiers would have been terribly difficult.

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Warrior Sportsmen: Rugby Football & the Great War

Warrior Sportsmen: Rugby Football & the Great War

If, like me, you have been avidly watching the rugby of both the men’s and women’s Six Nations tournaments over the last few weeks, you will no doubt be feeling the tension rise as we approach the grand finales tomorrow. Whether you have been supporting the English, Welsh, Irish, Scottish, French or Italians, I think you will agree that it has been a cracking spectacle with the players taking centre stage.

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Anyone for a Guinness?

Anyone for a Guinness?

A global phenomenon, few patron saints are as enthusiastically celebrated as St. Patrick. Credited for bringing Christianity to Ireland’s pagans in the fourth century, he has since become a symbol of Irish patriotism. And it doesn’t seem to matter much where you are in the world on 17 March ¬– chances are you’ll be encouraged to wear green, don your fanciest shamrock brooch and gulp down gallons of Guinness.

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Sweet Home Weeksville

Sweet Home Weeksville

I think the majority of us will agree that our most treasured possession is the home in which we live. It is filled with objects that define us and, in some cases, legacies that outlive us. It is within these walls that we create a sense of belonging, an identity.

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The Jews of British Colonial America

The Jews of British Colonial America

With an academic background in British-Jewish studies, I am naturally drawn to archival material on Jewish life and culture. Whilst examining documents sourced from the Colonial Office for Adam Matthew’s forthcoming resource Colonial America (first instalment publishing in autumn 2015), I found some intriguing material relating to early Jewish settlers in the New World.

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Equal Pay for Equal Work

Equal Pay for Equal Work

Through all the glitz and glam of the Oscars one part of the ceremony that has got everyone talking is Patricia Arquette’s acceptance speech for her Best Supporting Actress award. She received huge support in the theatre audience (as can be seen in the reactions of the likes of Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lopez) and created a stir on social media as she demanded equal rights for women.

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I take charge of Fate and wade

I take charge of Fate and wade

If you find yourself feeling miserable about the rain this dreary February, just be thankful you’re not Mary Kingsley (1862-1900), armed with only an umbrella against the Cameroonian monsoons during her travels in West Africa in the late 19th Century.

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“The Girl I Left Behind Me”

“The Girl I Left Behind Me”

Recent years have seen a growth in cynical attitudes around Valentine’s Day. Declarations of love, therefore, are viewed by the modern general public as being a bit too saccharine for our tastes. Consequently, reading through the Civil War letters from soldiers to their wives and sweethearts in the American History collection has been for me an interesting descent into old fashioned love and romance, as well as paranoia and broken hearts.

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Norton I, Emperor of the United States

Norton I, Emperor of the United States

Did you know that there was an Englishman ruling over America in 1859? No, me neither. That was until whilst indexing for the second part of our American History resource I came across the colourful character of Joshua Abraham Norton, Emperor of the United States.

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Close-up, fade-out clinch; the world’s greatest kiss!

Close-up, fade-out clinch; the world’s greatest kiss!

When American innovator, Thomas Alva Edison, and his British predecessor, Eadweard Muybridge, set themselves the grand task of inventing a device that could capture movement on film, they surely could not have predicted the social, ethical and moral repercussions that would surface and surround moving pictures from that point onwards.

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China fights in Britain

China fights in Britain

In the British popular memory of the Second World War, China is largely absent. Japan had invaded and annexed Chinese Manchuria eight years before Nazi Germany marched into Poland, so in one sense the war began on Chinese soil. But perhaps it is because of this that we forget about them – they only became our allies because their war with Japan happened, after 1941, to coincide with ours.

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War Donkeys

War Donkeys

You may have seen the smash hit play Warhorse or even read the book or seen the film. Thankfully Joey the extraordinarily heroic horse lives happily ever after and we are treated to a glorious reunion of man and beast. Conversely, donkeys often seem to be the poor relations of the equidae family: slower, less graceful, more stubborn and with a non-waterproof skin.

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Elephants on Milsom Street, Bath

Elephants on Milsom Street, Bath

Whilst exploring the visual collections of Victorian Popular Culture, a photograph caught my eye. It showed a group of elephants processing down Milsom Street in Bath – not a sight you see every day! The caption was simply “Barnum’s procession through Bath” and I was intrigued to find out more.

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A Pioneer, I Presume: The life of W. Barbrooke Grubb

A Pioneer, I Presume: The life of W. Barbrooke Grubb

At the tender age of 19, Wilfrid Barbrooke Grubb had an interview with the South American Missionary Society (SAMS) to be considered for missionary work abroad. In 1989, after a stint in Tierra del Fuego, he was sent to northern Paraguay to establish the first mission station in Chaco. South America was still a largely unexplored continent that held many unknown dangers, and Chaco was a particularly notorious region. Previously uncontacted tribes are still being discovered there, and in the late 19th-century stories of ritual mutilation and cannibalism were rife.

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Festive Spice and All Things Nice

Festive Spice and All Things Nice

If (unlike me!) you’ve been an industrious Christmas fairy this year, your Christmas cake should now be very happily steeping in its brandy, whiskey or sherry-induced haze, but have you ever wondered what the humble fruit cake looked like before the Victorian’s got their hands on it?

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It’s Beginning to Feel a Lot Like Christmas

It’s Beginning to Feel a Lot Like Christmas

Intense debate has broken out among sections of the Adam Matthew staff this week following the decision to open our box of Christmas decorations. A number of employees have steadfastly refused to go near the festive items before December 1st. Others have insisted that the extra cheer they bring justifies their appearance in November, though suspicions remain that this is a ruse in order to get first call on the choicest tinsel.

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We will remember them

We will remember them

On 11 November the nation, and many others around the world, will observe the annual memorial day for all those who lost their lives through war. This year, and surely for the next four years, particular thought is given to those who fought in the First World War, as we mark 100 years since the conflict began.

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Flying the Flag for Freedom: The Star Spangled Banner and the American Abolitionist Movement

Flying the Flag for Freedom: The Star Spangled Banner and the American Abolitionist Movement

Betsy Ross sewing, the battle of Iwo Jima, the Apollo 11 moon landing…These images often spring to mind when one thinks of the national flag of the United States of America. But how about the Abolitionist movement in the United States? I have to admit, I wasn’t aware of this connection until I came across a slightly unorthodox ‘Star Spangled Banner’ in our newly published collection ‘American History, 1493-1945’.

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Nelson Mandela the ‘Champion of African Nationalism’ and a Changed South Africa

Nelson Mandela the ‘Champion of African Nationalism’ and a Changed South Africa

As many of us have been gripped in recent months by the ongoing trial of Oscar Pistorius, a little over fifty years ago the eyes of the world were again trained on a high profile South African court case. At the height of the Apartheid era, in 1964, ten leaders of the African National Congress (ANC) stood accused of a number of charges, including acts of sabotage, which was, in extreme cases, punishable by death. In what was known as the Rivonia Trial, one of the accused was a man called Nelson Mandela.

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A Rose By Any Other Name...

A Rose By Any Other Name...

In recent years the world has seen a rise in unusual and controversial names for children. The success of Game of Thrones has resulted in a number of Khaleesis being born, whilst governments have sometimes had to step in to stop parents from bestowing on their children names such as “.” (pronounced ‘full stop’) and “Hashtag”.

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A Vote for Freedom or Better Together? Scotland’s Independence Referendum and Cultural Identity

A Vote for Freedom or Better Together? Scotland’s Independence Referendum and Cultural Identity

Being one of the frustrated Scots unable to vote in the forthcoming historic Scottish independence referendum I got to thinking about cultural identity and just what it means to part of the United Kingdom. Personally, I have always thought of myself as being both Scottish and British and this is something that is really being called into question as the Yes and No campaigns make their final bids for votes.

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Signed by a Soldier: A Nurse's Souvenir

Personal writings can often provide a fascinating insight into experiences, thoughts, opinions and emotions; they are a window into the mind, where a reader can view a thought-provoking narrative through varying forms of expression. The First World War period witnessed an incredible outpouring of creativity from many soldiers whose experiences may have otherwise remained untold and forever forgotten.

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‘All people shall continue free Denizons’: New Amsterdam becomes New York

‘All people shall continue free Denizons’: New Amsterdam becomes New York

Visiting New York a few years ago, I decided I wanted to see what remained of the very beginnings of the city: New Amsterdam, the Dutch settlement which was taken over by the English and rechristened after King Charles II’s brother, the Duke of York, in 1664. Sadly for my niche historical interest, the plain truth is that there is nothing to see. New Amsterdam was no more than a large village on the site of what is now Manhattan’s financial district; fires and rebuilding and time have erased it.

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Thou shalt not tell any false tales about good diggings in the mountains

Thou shalt not tell any false tales about good diggings in the mountains

Correspondence and diaries are often the first objects that spring to mind when wanting to better understand the experiences of others, but ephemeral items can also offer surprising insights into the past. Whilst working on material from the Gilder Lehrman Collection for the American History resource, I came across an interesting re-working of the Ten Commandments in an article sent home by a miner. They had been adapted for those employed by companies during the gold rush of the 1850s

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Marketing to women: why Shakespeare was wrong

Marketing to women: why Shakespeare was wrong

So many contemporary idioms are based on lines from Shakespeare that it can be hard to avoid using them. One of the best known (and most often raked out for unimaginative newspaper headlines and blog titles) is from Romeo and Juliet, Act II Scene II, where the eponymous star-cross’d lover asks, sighing on her balcony, “What’s in a name?”

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'With less competition, we win more medals': The politics of hosting the Commonwealth Games

Alex Salmond has offered repeated public assurances in the months leading up to the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, which opened on Wednesday evening, that the sporting spectacle will not be turned into a political battlefield over Scotland’s continued membership of the United Kingdom, with the decisive referendum looming in just under eight weeks’ time. Correspondence from the 1970s, however, shows that British diplomats have long considered the act of hosting the Games in Britain to be inherently politicised, as organisers strive to maintain delicate balances within the Commonwealth.

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We Think It

We Think It's All Over

Summer 2014 may have already given us some glorious sunshine, but spirits have definitely been dampened by dismal sporting performances. We've all experienced the uplifting effect that a successful campaign can have on the nation and, more relevantly in recent weeks, the opposite.

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The Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand

The Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand

Tomorrow marks the one hundredth anniversary of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, an incident that stunned Europe and set in motion a series of events leading to the outbreak of World War I. Adam Matthew’s First World War resource contains documents, images and video footage that help to tell the story of the shooting and its aftermath.

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'Having a Bath with a Coat on': Contraceptive Habits in 1960s Britain

In September 1961 Ernest Dichter Associates, the London office of The Institute for Motivational Research, Inc., submitted a report to the London Rubber Company concerning their Durex brand of condoms. Entitled ‘A Motivational Research Study on Rubber Contraceptives’, the study’s main aim was to: ‘discover the factors which motivate and inhibit people in their use of various types of contraceptives, particularly the condom’.

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Felines: Friend or Foe?

Felines: Friend or Foe?

Cats: love them or hate them, they’re here to stay. In fact, cats in Britain seem to be more popular than ever, as a survey by one of the mobile phone networks recently revealed; apparently we post 3.8 million photos or videos a day onto the internet. Indeed, over 350,000 cat owners have even set up social network accounts on behalf of their beloved furry friends.

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Complaining: A Very British Art

Complaining: A Very British Art

Did you vote in the elections two weeks ago? Horror, apathy, fatalism and despair are all emotions I’ve come across since the results were published, from many different people from various walks of life. Everybody sees politics slightly differently, but nobody ever seems to be particularly happy about the outcome.

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A Stage for the Brave

A Stage for the Brave

I, for one, adore the theatre; the bright lights, the energy, the set, the somewhat mystical quality that envelops you when confronted with the stage, upon which unfurls anything from a deeply moving fictitious work to light-hearted and humorous banter. After all, we all seek a sense of escapism and a yearning for pure entertainment.

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A Very Regal Rejection of Tobacco

A Very Regal Rejection of Tobacco

It’s not exactly a common occurrence these days that the mere mention of tobacco is met with an audible gasp of wonder. But this was precisely the reaction I encountered recently whilst delivering a webinar showcasing our resource Global Commodities: Trade, Exploration & Cultural Exchange

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Annoy the enemy upon all quarters!

Annoy the enemy upon all quarters!

Long experience has shown the human race that the surest way to provoke technological innovation is to fight a war. This being so, I shouldn’t have been surprised to find in the papers of Henry Knox, general in the Continental Army and artillery specialist during the American War of Independence, a design from about 1775 for an improved, and rather intriguing, type of naval vessel.

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Dance with the Devil: William Ellis, missionary, and Hawaiian hula

Dance with the Devil: William Ellis, missionary, and Hawaiian hula

To the mind of the twenty-first-century tourist, Hawaiian hula dancing is symbolic of Pacific island paradise. Against a backdrop of golden sands and blue waters, we envision dancers bedecked in grass skirts, moving effortlessly to lilting ukuleles. However, if we travel back almost two hundred years, to over a century before Hawaii became an American state, we see the hula at the centre of a moral battleground.

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The power of celebrity

The power of celebrity

The Institute for Motivational Research often employed ‘depth interviews’, an approach to consumer surveys that asked quasi-psychiatric questions to expound the sub-conscious motivations behind consumer choice. In the reports for Quality Bakers, Dichter and his team asked their pool of respondents to describe the qualities they associate with famous actors, with the final report ranking the considered endorsers in terms of appropriateness for the wholesome, energy-giving qualities they wanted Sunbeam bread to embody.

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The End of the World

The End of the World

“Ch’iaot’ou is a market of about 100 families and gives the impression of being the end of the world, as it is near the limit of settled Chinese penetration in those parts, and beyond is nothing but t’ussu ti, the wild tribal territory of the Sawbwas.”

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The Children

The Children's Guide to Harpooning Whales

Anyone exploring the many maritime logbooks in our resource China, America and the Pacific will know how gruesome and perilous whaling voyages could be in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries (I refer you to Paul’s grisly and fascinating post from November). Lots of blood, lots of screaming, lots of death… Definitely post-watershed stuff, I’d have said, wouldn’t you?

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Beatlemania

Beatlemania

Whilst I was visiting the Big Apple last week on business I ventured to Central Park to visit Strawberry Fields; an area of the park that pays tribute to the late John Lennon. The ‘Imagine’ mosaic which lies in the centre of the area is adjacent to the Dakota apartment building. Lennon was returning home to the Dakota building when he was shot dead on December 8th, 1980. Strawberry Fields is a living memorial to the world-famous singer.

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Food: Accept No Substitute

Food: Accept No Substitute

Every January without fail, I am inevitably left feeling the pinch – not just of an empty purse but of my favourite pair of jeans that take a little extra ‘persuading’, shall we say, to fasten (usually holding onto the waistband and jumping a few centimetres into the air whilst breathing in will do it). Therefore, every January without fail, I resolve to do something about it.

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Dishes and Diplomats

Dishes and Diplomats

In 1947, one would have thought that diplomats and civil servants were fully occupied restoring, rebuilding and rethinking the world after several years of a somewhat destructive war. Well in this case one would be a little mistaken as documents unearthed in the Global Commodities collection reveal. A file from the British Ministry of Works shows a lengthy exchange over a controversy between the British Ambassador to the United States of America in Washington and the director of the Victoria & Albert Museum, London’s premier museum for the decorative arts. You may wonder what this spat about.

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Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

I don’t tend to make New Year’s Resolutions. I’m never at my best during the cold, post-Christmas months, and thinking positively amidst snow, credit card bills and the pervading smell of Olbas Oil is a difficult business. Instead, I make my resolutions in September. Maybe it’s a throw-over from school days, when autumn meant the start of a brand new school year. True, we’d just had an enormous summer holiday to rejuvenate and inspire us, with plenty of time to spend trolling off to W H Smith for shiny new stationery. If only it was so easy now!

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A Quiet Christmas: Mass Observation and Wartime Festivities

A Quiet Christmas: Mass Observation and Wartime Festivities

With shortages in nearly everything considered necessary for a ‘proper’ Christmas, Mass Observers during WW2 needed to balance the traditions of the festive season with the strictures and austerity of wartime. Mass Observation set out in a series of reports to gauge not only the morale of the population, but how war would affect their festivities.

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The Sinking of the

The Sinking of the 'Essex’; or, The Whale

Last night’s BBC drama ‘The Whale’ told the story of Thomas Nickerson and the crew of the whaling ship Essex. The story of the attack and sinking of the vessel by a sperm whale also inspired Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. Reading the original accounts of the crew shows that the true story was more exciting, terrifying and harrowing than any work of fiction.

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Pox in the Pacific: Syphilis and the Hawaiian Islands

Pox in the Pacific: Syphilis and the Hawaiian Islands

Upon Captain Cook’s arrival in 1778 the population of the Hawaiian Islands was estimated at around 500,000. By 1848, however, this number had fallen to less than 90,000. Explanations for this exponential decline vary quite considerably, with many historians citing war, famine, and disease as potential factors. Yet contemporary narratives largely focus on one primary cause; the arrival of syphilis. In his study of the Islands in 1853, G W Bates...

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Silence is Golden...

Silence is Golden...

Whilst visiting the big smoke last weekend I witnessed one of cinema’s greatest triumphs – Abel Gance’s thrilling six hour silent epic, Napoleon. Now, I have to admit, I was slightly sceptical. Six hours of silent cinema does not sound like the best use of a frosty Saturday in November, but the 1927 film opened my eyes to the vibrancy and passion of early cinema. Napoleon (played by Albert Dieudonné) tells the story of the first 27 years of...

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'My Leg Has Got to Come Off': Amputations at Sea

During the many Pacific voyages documented in China, America and the Pacific, a regular feature was death and injury onboard the ship. Crew members shattered their skulls from falls, and had limbs mutilated by breeching whales. Many of these men faced immediate death, however a minority faced a punishment that was arguably far worse, as this extract from The Life of Tristram Coff[y]n shows: In 1800 … in the capture of a large sperm whale, Captain...

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Commodities of the China Trade: Bechè de Mer, Shark Fins and Gold

Commodities of the China Trade: Bechè de Mer, Shark Fins and Gold

Below I have shared one of my personal highlights from China, America and the Pacific, which has just been released. This new multi-library collection provides an extensive range of archival material connected to the trading and cultural relationships that emerged between China, America and the Pacific region between the 18th and early 20th centuries. During the eighteenth century American merchants sought to establish trade with China. Their...

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Who Killed JFK?

Who Killed JFK?

Bowling Green State University At 12.30pm on Friday 22 November 1963, three shots rang out over Dealey Plaza Park in Dallas. Lee Harvey Oswald had fired three 6.5mm Carcano bullets from the sixth floor window of the Texas School Book Depository, two of which struck President John F. Kennedy. Thirty minutes later JFK was dead. That’s the official story. The Warren Commission set up to investigate President Kennedy’s death...

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Lest We Forget. Remembrance Day 2013

Lest We Forget. Remembrance Day 2013

It is that time of year again, when poppy sellers fill the streets and shops and even cars begin sporting the distinctive red flowers. In our First World War resource, the second module of which, Propaganda and Recruitment, has recently been published, there is a wealth of material to be explored regarding the armistice of 11 November 1918, from both the joyful celebrations of peace, to the commemoration of and mourning for those who had...

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Kung-Fu Monthly and the Felix Dennis Legacy

Kung-Fu Monthly and the Felix Dennis Legacy

On a recent visit to the in-laws’ we passed a verge of trees in Warwickshire just west of Leamington Spa that was pointed out to me as “Felix Dennis’s forest”. Most familiar with Felix Dennis as the creator of the magazine Maxim and the first person to say a certain very bad word on British television, I was surprised. As it turns out, the site belongs to The Heart of England Forest, a charity created to maintain and preserve native...

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Barbie: the formative years

Barbie: the formative years

Nowadays, almost everything in the current market for children’s toys seems to require batteries; if it hasn’t got flashing lights, touch screens and loud electronic noises emanating from it, kids aren’t interested. A far cry from my own childhood when Gymnast Barbie (complete with co-ordinated gym bag, sweat-bands and multi-coloured leotard) was enough to keep me entertained for hours!

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National Baking Week: Mass Observation and the Rise of Celebrity Chefs

National Baking Week: Mass Observation and the Rise of Celebrity Chefs

It’s National Baking Week, and all things foodie are on my mind. With bumper autumn crops allowing me to indulge my old-fashioned passion for making jams and chutney, and The Great British Bake Off gracing our screens, I am in cookery heaven. In these times of financial austerity, we’re all looking to save money on our food bills and filling the store cupboard with foraged tasty treats gives you such a glorious feeling of preparedness. Like a squirrel with a particularly sumptuous hoard of nuts.

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The Forger: J. M. Stuart-Young in Africa

The Forger: J. M. Stuart-Young in Africa

‘I beg leave to advise you that I stand under sentence of Deportation’ begins the letter, written in Liberia in 1923 and addressed to the British chargé d’affaires. The writer is a representative of a trading house who has got into some kind of difficulty with the authorities.

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The Art of Visual Persuasion: Powerful Propaganda and the Great War

The Art of Visual Persuasion: Powerful Propaganda and the Great War

With the centenary of the Great War on the horizon, the second resource within our First World War digital portal, Propaganda and Recruitment, is due for release later this month. Building on the rich and extensive material within our first resource, Personal Experiences, this new collection offers a vast and fascinating array of primary documents relating to various forms of propaganda, censorship, public opinion, recruitment, training and morale, all drawn from world-class libraries and archives.

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What’s in a Name? Etymology and Names in American Indian Culture

What’s in a Name? Etymology and Names in American Indian Culture

A quick Google can tell you a lot about yourself – or more specifically, your name. In my case it reveals that my first name is a Hebrew word meaning gracious (naturally), and my surname denotes that one of my ancestors was the son of someone named Philip (thrilling). While the etymology of our own names might be a slightly narcissistic preoccupation, names and naming systems can provide a fascinating insight into cultural history.

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Go West, Young Man!

Go West, Young Man!

Martin Prior Boss left home in 1867 aged 22. He left behind a comfortable, established life as a farmer on the east coast of America, to seek his fortune in the mines of Nevada and California. His letters home are part of a collection from the California Historical Society which is being added to our Global Commodities project this year. They’re adorably newsy and affectionate, and my personal favourite is the one he writes with the news that he’s just become engaged and has decided to stay permanently in the West.

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The Myth of California

The Myth of California

California! What other state occupies such a mythical space in our imagination? Despite earthquakes that rumble and tech bubbles that burst, California still draws the restless and wild, just as it’s always done.

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Knit One, Purl One… Willing Hands and Willing Hearts

Knit One, Purl One… Willing Hands and Willing Hearts

Recently there has been a change in the office. The gentle clicking of needles can now be heard at lunch time and conversations about the Bake Off or weekend plans are interspersed with advice on increasing and decreasing, or deciphering a pattern. Over the last few years knitting has become fashionable once more, with clubs popping up all over the place and celebrities gushing about the craft.

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Spanking, Social Control and Souvenirs

Spanking, Social Control and Souvenirs

Whilst delving into an intriguing batch of Chinese artwork for our project China America and the Pacific, I was arrested by the sight of a man’s bare buttocks. Said buttocks were receiving a thorough spanking via the medium of a bamboo paddle administered by a law enforcement officer who looked decidedly happy in his work.

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Patriotism of the Pals Battalions

Patriotism of the Pals Battalions

It’s always fascinating when you come across old photographs of your local area. Not only can you see how a place has been completely modernised, but they also serve as a captivating snapshot of the past, particularly if they show a particular event or people in motion.

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It was The Wipers Times

It was The Wipers Times

The BBC’s long-awaited First World War drama ‘The Wipers Times’ airs this week, written by Ian Hislop and Nick Newman. Taking its title from the trench journal of the same name, the 90-minute drama is “based on the true story of Captain Fred Roberts and Lieutenant Jack Pearson who, in the bombed-out ruins of Ypres in 1916, discover a printing press and use it to create a satirical newspaper to raise the spirits of the soldiers.”

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Fur Trading on a Frozen Land

Fur Trading on a Frozen Land

Think of a shopping centre today and the image in the below photograph does not immediately spring to mind. This photograph is of a remote shopping centre in Canada owned by the Hudson’s Bay Company in the early 1900s. The Hudson’s Bay Company is still in existence today but ran as a fur trading business for much of its existence. Developing trading posts and buying land, the Hudson’s Bay Company came to dominate the Canadian fur trade by the eighteenth century.

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The Belle of the Reservation

The Belle of the Reservation

Gi-aum-e Hon-o-me-tah looks cosy wrapped up in her Kiowa blanket. Her cheeks are redder than her lips thanks to traditional face paint, and her eyes stare calmly into yours. Elbridge A. Burbank had a talent for capturing eyes; in his portraits of elderly chiefs he conveys solemnness and defiance, but with Gi-aum-e the impression is altogether different. Young and beautiful, her eyes look to the future, not the past.

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The Oily Swindlers of the Pennsylvania Boom

The Oily Swindlers of the Pennsylvania Boom

Edwin Drake’s discovery of oil in Pennsylvania in 1859 is considered one of the major catalysts of the oil boom in the United States, but there were some who had already found ways to turn this seemingly useless substance into something profitable. Samuel M. Kier was one such character, and his “NATURAL REMEDY”, or panacea, to aid practically any given ailment (including total blindness, burns, rheumatism, chronic coughing, cholera, dysentery, sprains, bronchitis, asthma, tooth ache, deafness and piles) consisted of bottled crude oil at 50 cents a pop.

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Life in the Valley: American Indians of Yosemite

Life in the Valley: American Indians of Yosemite

One year ago I found myself in one of my favourite places in the world, scrambling around the monstrous peaks of Yosemite National Park, California, generally gawping in awe of the picturesque landscape that enriched my view. So it has been exciting to be reminded of the park and descendants of its first inhabitants whilst indexing some evocative photographs belonging to the Newberry Library’s Ayer Collection, featured within Adam Matthew’s forthcoming publication American Indian Histories and Cultures.

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At Anchor in Bandit-Infested Waters

At Anchor in Bandit-Infested Waters

One of the things I love about working with the Foreign Office Files for China, 1919-1948 from The National Archives, Kew, is the discovery of fascinating stories tucked away amongst financial reports and shipping regulations. Diplomatic correspondence, whilst generally formal and polite, often hints to more emotional undercurrents, as seen in the numerous manuscript annotations and surprisingly frequent exclamation marks! This is particularly apparent when a document is passed between several correspondents, each of whom add a line to the bottom instead of beginning a new letter, rather like Facebook chat.

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Peek-a-Boos Need You!

Peek-a-Boos Need You!

What a treat it was to dive into a world of adventure when I was a child; of course, I still do that as an adult, with many novels by my bedside, but bright illustrations and light-hearted storytelling certainly played a huge part in whisking me away to a land of fantasy and endless possibility. For children during World War 1, the topic of war was ever-present in the classroom as well as in the comfort and cosiness of home. Whilst flicking through hundreds of fascinating items for our forthcoming First World War resource.

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The Battle of Little Big Horn through America’s Cultural Lens

The Battle of Little Big Horn through America’s Cultural Lens

One of America’s most famous battles concluded 137 years ago today. The battle saw an overwhelming victory for the Lakota, Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes, while almost half the entire 7th Cavalry Regiment was wiped out, including George Armstrong Custer. In the media fallout Custer was declared a hero, while the Sioux were described (by the New York Times, at least) as “cruel, cowardly robbers”.

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The Sailor and the Stolen Pudding

The Sailor and the Stolen Pudding

Whilst researching for our forthcoming China, America and the Pacific project I came across a book entitled ‘Fore and Aft; Or Leaves from the Life of an Old Sailor’, by a chap called William Dane Phelps. As a teenager I sailed on the gaff-rigged pilot cutter, the Jolie Brise. Whilst my adventure on the high seas was fun, it was also at times testing. I was intrigued what it was like to be an actual sailor in the eighteenth century. And the answer is considerably harder!

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