History

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.

Those magnificent men in their soaring machines? Early aviation in The Mechanical Engineer
17 April 2020

Published by the Scientific Publishing Company, Manchester, between 1897 and 1917, The Mechanical Engineer is a remarkable publication. Digitised for Business, Economic and Labour History, the latest of Adam Matthew’s Research Source resources, this weekly paper provided its readers with news on the latest developments in a wide range of industries, often accompanied by detailed technical drawings. One of the great developments of this era was the advent of powered flight, and the paper's coverage of pioneer aviators is truly fascinating.

Publishing history, or On the Origin of Pigeons
09 April 2020

Every day we live history, yet only very occasionally does it become apparent we are living through times that will one day be written into the history books. 

When hard-drinking former marine John McMurray invested his wife's fortune in a bookselling business in 1768, he could hardly have known he would be kickstarting a publishing dynasty that would span more than 200 years, countless bestsellers and seven generations - all named John. How could he possibly comprehend, then, the mark his fledgling business would leave on literary history?

“Please Sir, I Want Some More...”: The Reality of Workhouse Dietaries
01 April 2020

This is a special guest blog by Peter Higginbotham, a freelance author and historian who is also a member of the Editorial Board for Adam Matthew’s new resource, Poverty, Philanthropy and Social Conditions in Victorian Britain.

Oliver Twist’s words in the dining hall of the Mudfog workhouse are one of the best-known literary quotations in the English language. As a result, we all know exactly what workhouse inmates had to eat. Gruel. But how accurate was Dickens’ portrayal?

27 March 2020

This month we are celebrating both Women’s History Month and Mothering Sunday here in the UK. In honour of these celebrations, I have decided to write this week’s Editor’s Choice Blog about Sojourner Truth, an African American abolitionist, women’s rights activist and brave and devoted mother, who defied the odds to become reunited with her son.

20 March 2020

While we all face uncertainty about what to expect from the coming weeks and months, I wanted to use this blog to end this week on a lighter note and highlight some of the fantastic content I was able to find sitting on my sofa.

“The workhouse looms before us”: Administering the New Poor Law
12 March 2020

In 1834, the system of relief for the poor in England and Wales was overhauled by the Poor Law Amendment Act. This aimed to re-organise and centralise the administration of poor relief across the country, establishing deterrent workhouses and strict regulation of outdoor relief to reduce escalating relief costs. Within Adam Matthew’s newly released Poverty, Philanthropy and Social Conditions in Victorian Britain, it’s possible to explore the complex details of this new legislation’s implementation, as well as its accompanying social, political and economic repercussions.

Alexander Hamilton and the Reynolds Pamphlet
06 March 2020

If, like me, you love nothing more than a smash-hit stage musical to ignite a keen interest in revolutionary history then I’d encourage you to look no further than American History, 1493-1945 where you can find a trove of documents from the Gilder Lehrman Institute on the rise and fall of Alexander Hamilton.

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