History

Critiquing a Nation: Dickens' Quarrel with America
06 October 2016

America has been the focus of global news over the last few months due to the almost continuous coverage of the upcoming US Election. The election, while obviously a very hot topic in America, is also of interest to people around the world and, in time honoured fashion, ‘outsiders’ are also sharing their opinions and viewpoints. In 1842, it was my [cue shameless name drop] great-great-great Grandfather, English novelist Charles Dickens, who wrote a commentary on America during his first visit to the country.

Further Adventures of the Intrepid East India Company Women: A SPECIAL GUEST BLOG BY AMRITA SEN
29 September 2016

The three intrepid women, Mariam Begum, Frances (Webbe) Steele, and Mrs Hudson who managed to travel on board East India Company ships in the early seventeenth century, flouting Company prohibition, continued to cause trouble even after the much harried English ambassador, Sir Thomas Roe, no longer had to directly deal with them. Unfortunately for Roe, the journey back to England was not as tranquil as he might have hoped, for Frances and Mrs Hudson were travelling with him.

Early Women Travellers and The East India Company: A Special Guest Blog by Amrita Sen
27 September 2016

In 1617 three unlikely travelers, Mariam Begum, Frances Steele (nee Webbe), and Mrs. Hudson, arrived at the busy port of Surat onboard an East India Company ship called the Anne. What made their journey so exceptional was that during the early years of its operation the Company expressly forbade women from traveling out to the East Indies, despite numerous pleas from its factors and sailors who did not wish to leave their wives behind.

Poll taxes, intimidation and impossible tests: the experience of African American voters in the 1950s
16 September 2016

How many people are on the United States government payroll? If you don’t know the answer to this question, and particularly if you were an African American living in the 1950s, then chances are you would not have been allowed to vote. Last Friday, the 9th September, was the 59th anniversary of President Eisenhower’s Civil Rights Act. Although there were criticisms at the time as to its efficacy and even motives, it was significant in being the first civil rights legislation to be passed in 82 years.

Send his scalp to the British Museum
08 September 2016

In his classic 1893 the frontier thesis – first delivered at the St Louis Worlds’ Fair – the historian Frederick Jackson Turner gave an analysis of how the experience of this contested space creates a particular culture and forges aptitudes, democracy, mentality, self-reliance, and so forth.

Mathews in the Archive: Assembling the Traces of Performance: A Special Guest Blog By Jane Wessel
06 September 2016

One of the biggest challenges of studying theatre history is reconstructing the non-textual elements of performance: the performers’ gestures and expressions, the costumes and set, the audience reaction. The challenge is amplified when studying illegitimate entertainments or legitimate plays that relied heavily on mimicry. How do we imagine the sounds or conjure the image of a scene in which a single actor, without leaving the stage, performs five or ten separate characters?

Attention Weightlessness! Cosmonaut Training in the USSR
02 September 2016

Visitors to my desk tend to comment on two things; firstly, the fan incessantly running regardless of the season, and secondly, the postcards propped up under the monitor. Bought from an exhibition gift shop last autumn, the cards feature Yuri Gagarin and Valentina Tereshkova - respectively the first man and woman in space – against a back drop of hammers, sickles and rockets, staring nobly out into the office from under their helmets. My interest in - or perhaps idolatry of - these famed cosmonauts was sparked by our upcoming video resource, Socialism on Film, which is being produced in conjunction with the British Film Institute.

19 August 2016

It’s been a dramatic 2 weeks of triumph, teamwork and towering feats of sporting achievement during the 31st Olympic Games, and after years of planning, the eyes of the world were firmly on Rio de Janeiro.

The Olympic Games 1904
11 August 2016

The Olympic Games are a great opportunity for usually unheralded sports to take centre stage, and many of the same events were on display when the modern games first started over a century ago.

Exploring London Low Life: The Forgotten East End: A Special Guest Blog by Professor Brad Beaven
29 July 2016

When we think of the East End in the nineteenth century our minds often conjure-up images of dark back-street rookeries and communities blighted by crime and poverty. Well known polemic pamphlets by contemporaries like Andrew Mearns’ The Bitter Cry of Outcast London and the haunting images sketched by Gustave Doré have influenced both academic writing and popular culture to this day. When imagining the East End in the nineteenth century, very few of us associate it with sailors and the maritime culture that they brought ashore.

Just Little Bits of History Repeating? Muhammad Ali at the Olympic Games
29 July 2016

It has been difficult to miss the build up to this year’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, which starts a week from today, for all of the hard-hitting headlines in the news recently. Whether it be state-sponsored drugs scandals, concerns about sanitary conditions in the Olympic Village, or the ongoing threat of the Zika virus there has been lots to read about over the last few weeks. In light of this a positive look at an Olympic Games of the past might help buck the trend and provide an opportunity to pay homage to a sporting great – Muhammad Ali.

The Power of Etiquette in 19th Century America
21 July 2016

“Everyday Life & Women in America” is a recently revamped resource for the study of American social, cultural and popular history, providing access to rare primary source material from the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History, Duke University and The New York Public Library. The collection is especially rich in conduct of life and domestic management literature, offering vivid insights into the daily lives of women and men through the use of documents such as etiquette advice manuals.

Holding the Manuscript, Pining the Actress: A Special Guest Blog by Robert W Jones
20 July 2016

In 2009, supported by an Andrew W Mellon Foundation Fellowship, I spent a month at the Huntington Library. My intention was to research how eighteenth-century plays were translated from manuscript into performance and later print. My focus was the Larpent manuscripts, the play scripts submitted to the examiner of plays prior to their production.

The Moon Always Shines on TV
12 July 2016

On this day, 47 years ago, the words “that’s one small step..." were broadcast live, and the world knew that man had landed on the moon. The Apollo 11 mission had finally given the US the upper hand in the Space Race, more than a decade after the Soviet Union declared its intention to launch a satellite.

New lands on a plate: British vs French in eighteenth-century North America
08 July 2016

In the popular imagination, colonial-era America is equated with the thirteen colonies of Britain, and indeed our Colonial America resource, module 2 of which has just been released, is made up exclusively of British and British-American archive material. But the reality is that seventeenth- and eighteenth-century North America was contested between rival European powers, each vying for land, resources, trade, military superiority and advantageous relations with indigenous groups.

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