History

Fun, Sun and Summer Flings
07 September 2015

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.

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.

Escape from Spandau Prison
21 August 2015

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.

New Online this Fall: ‘African American Communities’
20 August 2015

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.

Graham crackers: the original health food (or, bourbon marshmallow s'mores with bacon!)
06 August 2015

It may surprise you to learn that fad diets are not a recent phenomenon; the 1830s saw a health food craze, founded by Sylvester Graham (1794-1851), sweep across the US. Graham’s philosophy resonates with current trends; championing fresh fruit and vegetables and wholegrains while cutting out fat, meat and sugar.

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.

The inhumanity of brutality is colourless: African Americans and police relations
24 July 2015

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.

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.

Battle of Brandywine Creek: A British victory or a tactical American retreat?
10 July 2015

On a recent trip to Delaware we decided to explore the countryside around Wilmington and came across the Brandywine Battlefield, now a visitor’s site. Having worked on the American History, 1493-1945 project this intrigued me and so we decided to investigate. It turned out that we had come to the site of one of the largest land battles of the American Revolution.

From Sea to Shining Sea
03 July 2015

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.

World's Fairs: An International Obsession
23 June 2015

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.

23 June 2015

If you’re like me and were lucky enough to get a ticket for this year’s Glastonbury festival, you’re probably in a field right now up to your welly clad knees in mud and wondering why you thought you could survive five days eating just pot noodles and Lidl’s own breakfast bars.

The Freed Slaves of the South
19 June 2015

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.

The Ride of a Lifetime
16 June 2015

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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