History

Fancy a Cuppa? An Insight into Tea Drinking Habits from the Mass Observation Project
30 July 2020

Four months on from us Brits going into lockdown, the BBC has reported that we have splurged on tea, biscuits and good books.  I have delved into the directives in Adam Matthew’s newly released Mass Observation Project, to take a look at tea drinking habits in the 1980s. One thing for sure is that there is always an occasion for a cuppa.

“One Felt Like A Bouquet of Flowers!” Homemade fashions in Mass Observation Project
24 July 2020

In the spring of 1988 I was newly 5 and was about to undertake the most exciting thing in my young life – to be a real-life bridesmaid.

‘Celebration or bore’: Mass Observers react to the wedding of Charles and Diana
22 July 2020

Inspired by the recent news of the wedding of Princess Beatrice to Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi, I decided to dig into the newly published Mass Observation Project, to see what the mass observers of the 1980s had to say about another famous royal wedding, that of Prince Charles to Diana Spencer.

The Missing Olympics
17 July 2020

This month would have marked the beginning of the Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo. However, this is not the first time Tokyo has had to cancel or postpone the international competition. 80 years previously, the city found itself in similar circumstances, although for different reasons. Often referred to as the “missing Olympics,” material within Foreign Office Files for Japan, 1919-1952 reveals the discussions that surrounded the 1940 Summer Games and their value as a political tool.  

The Druze and al-Hakim: The Religion with No Converts
10 July 2020

Residing within an issue of Victory: The Weekly for the India Command, from Service Newspapers of World War Two, is an intriguing article on the ‘Secret Societies of Islam’. While the article explores three ‘sects’, we shall be delving into the information provided on the Druze and al-Hakim.

Enlisting American History
03 July 2020

The importance of the fourth of July to the United States and its citizens goes without saying. And during the Second World War, the Declaration of Independence and other milestones in American history were pressed into service to bolster morale and motivation among new recruits to the US Army. The papers of Julius S. Schreiber, held by the U.S. National Library of Medicine and digitised for Adam Matthew Digital’s Medical Services and Warfare, 1928-1949 offer an interesting example of how the United States’ birth was brought into military service.

“Save the Amazing Scribbler!” Using primary sources in a library escape room game
01 July 2020

This special librarian guest blog was written by John Cosgrove and Johanna MacKay of Lucy Scribner Library at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York.

What does a stuffed squirrel, an escape room and Adam Matthew’s Victorian Popular Culture have in common? At Skidmore College’s Lucy Scribner Library, we combined all three – and a scavenger hunt to boot – to provide a fun, interactive library orientation for First Year Experience students.

What’s on telly tonight? Guilty pleasures from Mass Observation Project: 1980s
26 June 2020

After 18 weeks of lockdown, many of us are missing the regular pastimes of life before the pandemic. Having exhausted Netflix, I turned to the recently published Mass Observation Project for ideas on what to watch next.

‘“Clothes maketh man”… in part, I have to agree’: Clothing in the Mass Observation Project
10 June 2020

In the age of Covid-19, those of us who are fortunate enough to be able to work from home have still had to deal with a minor, though recurrent, concern: what to wear after making the five-foot trek from bed to desk (or kitchen table, pile of cushions, etc).

Fashioning the frontispiece: The role of clothing in the travel narratives of Isabella Bird
03 June 2020

This special guest blog was written by Edward Armston-Sheret and Innes M. Keighren of Royal Holloway, University of London, to celebrate the launch of Nineteenth Century Literary Society.

At first glance, Isabella Bird (1831–1904) was an unlikely candidate for the role of intrepid explorer. She stood just four feet eleven inches tall and, from a young age, suffered from a debilitating spinal condition that necessitated frequent periods of rest. Nevertheless, Bird travelled the globe, visiting - among other destinations - Hawaii, Japan, Korea and Tibet. In spanning the globe, and in challenging the physical limits of her body and societal expectations of her gender, Bird became one of the most celebrated 19th century women travellers and published numerous travel narratives with John Murray. While much has been written about Bird’s remarkable achievements as a traveller, comparatively less attention has been given to the role that dress played in how Bird chose to represent herself in her published accounts.

‘[T]he heroism of the ordinary person’: on the 80th anniversary of Dunkirk
22 May 2020

This week marks 80 years since Operation Dynamo, when over 300,000 Allied troops were evacuated from the beaches and harbours of Dunkirk during the Battle of France. Although the event has been since immortalised through various star-studded blockbusters, docuseries and history books, I wanted to dig into our resources to find out how those living through the war experienced and responded to news of the evacuation.

Unfamiliar Letters: Annotations in an Early Modern ‘Epistolary Novel’
20 May 2020

As an enthusiast of all things medieval and early modern, working on Adam Matthew’s newly-published resource, Early Modern England: Society, Culture and Everyday Life, 1500-1700, has been a wonderful experience. Among many personal highlights was the opportunity to visit the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and assess their collection of early modern printed books, thirty of which have been digitised for the resource. Many of these books are annotated, revealing much about how their readers engaged and interacted with their books.

James I and note-based passive aggression in early modern England
07 May 2020

It's surely a known thing that leaving a post-it note for someone taking them to task for an aspect of their behaviour - for instance a flatmate who uses up the milk without replacing it, doesn't wash up or who consistently leaves the loo seat up, and so forth - is a classic form of passive aggression. I believe with this 1604 incident discovered in Early Modern England: Society, Culture & Everyday Life we may have one of the earliest instances of note-based passive aggression on the historic record.

Postcards from Paris: From lockdown to liberation under Nazi occupation
01 May 2020

Having recently stumbled across a news story about two Parisian streets left frozen in time after a World War Two era film set had to be abandoned as the city went into lockdown following the coronavirus outbreak, I decided to delve into the America in World War Two resource to learn more about the city of light that ‘went dark’ during the years of German occupation from June 1940 to August 1944.

A Moment on the Lips: The Dark History of America’s “Radium Girls” from American Indian Newspapers
23 April 2020

In 1984, a periodical from the Navajo Times announced plans for a major cleanup effort at the site of a former paint factory located just 84 miles west of Chicago. In addition to neutralizing the potential dangers of a long abandoned industrial compound, the principle reason for this initiative was to mitigate the alarming levels of ionizing radiation emanating from the property. Looming larger than the factory itself, this periodical also provides a glimpse into the tragic story of the “Radium Girls,” laborers for the company who fell victim to gross industrial negligence and later became the faces of a movement for change.

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