Empire and Globalism

The Australian ‘Colonial Experiment’
19 February 2016

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’.

A Royal Affair
18 September 2015

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.

The Utter Ruin of Mary Musgrove Bosomworth
02 September 2015

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.

Rough dust gold in a purple bagg: Pirate treasure in colonial America
28 August 2015

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.

The Marquis de Lafayette, a 'Citizen of Two Worlds'
31 July 2015

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.

Brawls, Duels and Marsupials. A Voyage to Tasmania
14 July 2015

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.

Dreams in Treasure Island
24 April 2015

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.

Milan 2015 and the Legacy of World's Fairs
13 April 2015

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.

Britain's Banished Men
27 March 2015

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.

Anyone for a Guinness?
17 March 2015

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.

The Jews of British Colonial America
06 March 2015

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.

‘All people shall continue free Denizons’: New Amsterdam becomes New York
22 August 2014

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.

A Very Regal Rejection of Tobacco
12 May 2014

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

Annoy the enemy upon all quarters!
15 April 2014

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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