History

The Sailor and the Stolen Pudding
03 January 2014

Whilst researching for our forthcoming China, America and the Pacific project I came across a book entitled ‘Fore and Aft; Or Leaves from the Life of an Old Sailor’, by a chap called William Dane Phelps. As a teenager I sailed on the gaff-rigged pilot cutter, the Jolie Brise. Whilst my adventure on the high seas was fun, it was also at times testing. I was intrigued what it was like to be an actual sailor in the eighteenth century. And the answer is considerably harder!

The Battle of Little Big Horn through America’s Cultural Lens
03 January 2014

One of America’s most famous battles concluded 137 years ago today. The battle saw an overwhelming victory for the Lakota, Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes, while almost half the entire 7th Cavalry Regiment was wiped out, including George Armstrong Custer. In the media fallout Custer was declared a hero, while the Sioux were described (by the New York Times, at least) as “cruel, cowardly robbers”.

Peek-a-Boos Need You!
03 January 2014

What a treat it was to dive into a world of adventure when I was a child; of course, I still do that as an adult, with many novels by my bedside, but bright illustrations and light-hearted storytelling certainly played a huge part in whisking me away to a land of fantasy and endless possibility. For children during World War 1, the topic of war was ever-present in the classroom as well as in the comfort and cosiness of home. Whilst flicking through hundreds of fascinating items for our forthcoming First World War resource.

At Anchor in Bandit-Infested Waters
03 January 2014

One of the things I love about working with the Foreign Office Files for China, 1919-1948 from The National Archives, Kew, is the discovery of fascinating stories tucked away amongst financial reports and shipping regulations. Diplomatic correspondence, whilst generally formal and polite, often hints to more emotional undercurrents, as seen in the numerous manuscript annotations and surprisingly frequent exclamation marks! This is particularly apparent when a document is passed between several correspondents, each of whom add a line to the bottom instead of beginning a new letter, rather like Facebook chat.

Life in the Valley: American Indians of Yosemite
03 January 2014

One year ago I found myself in one of my favourite places in the world, scrambling around the monstrous peaks of Yosemite National Park, California, generally gawping in awe of the picturesque landscape that enriched my view. So it has been exciting to be reminded of the park and descendants of its first inhabitants whilst indexing some evocative photographs belonging to the Newberry Library’s Ayer Collection, featured within Adam Matthew’s forthcoming publication American Indian Histories and Cultures.

The Belle of the Reservation
03 January 2014

Gi-aum-e Hon-o-me-tah looks cosy wrapped up in her Kiowa blanket. Her cheeks are redder than her lips thanks to traditional face paint, and her eyes stare calmly into yours. Elbridge A. Burbank had a talent for capturing eyes; in his portraits of elderly chiefs he conveys solemnness and defiance, but with Gi-aum-e the impression is altogether different. Young and beautiful, her eyes look to the future, not the past.

Fur Trading on a Frozen Land
03 January 2014

Think of a shopping centre today and the image in the below photograph does not immediately spring to mind. This photograph is of a remote shopping centre in Canada owned by the Hudson’s Bay Company in the early 1900s. The Hudson’s Bay Company is still in existence today but ran as a fur trading business for much of its existence. Developing trading posts and buying land, the Hudson’s Bay Company came to dominate the Canadian fur trade by the eighteenth century.

Patriotism of the Pals Battalions
03 January 2014

It’s always fascinating when you come across old photographs of your local area. Not only can you see how a place has been completely modernised, but they also serve as a captivating snapshot of the past, particularly if they show a particular event or people in motion.

Barbie: the formative years
03 January 2014

Nowadays, almost everything in the current market for children’s toys seems to require batteries; if it hasn’t got flashing lights, touch screens and loud electronic noises emanating from it, kids aren’t interested. A far cry from my own childhood when Gymnast Barbie (complete with co-ordinated gym bag, sweat-bands and multi-coloured leotard) was enough to keep me entertained for hours!

The Art of Visual Persuasion: Powerful Propaganda and the Great War
03 January 2014
With the centenary of the Great War on the horizon, the second resource within our First World War digital portal, Propaganda and Recruitment, is due for release later this month. Building on the rich and extensive material within our first resource, Personal Experiences, this new collection offers a vast and fascinating array of primary documents relating to various forms of propaganda, censorship, public opinion, recruitment, training and morale, all drawn from world-class libraries and archives.
National Baking Week: Mass Observation and the Rise of Celebrity Chefs
03 January 2014

It’s National Baking Week, and all things foodie are on my mind. With bumper autumn crops allowing me to indulge my old-fashioned passion for making jams and chutney, and The Great British Bake Off gracing our screens, I am in cookery heaven. In these times of financial austerity, we’re all looking to save money on our food bills and filling the store cupboard with foraged tasty treats gives you such a glorious feeling of preparedness. Like a squirrel with a particularly sumptuous hoard of nuts.

The Forger: J. M. Stuart-Young in Africa
03 January 2014

‘I beg leave to advise you that I stand under sentence of Deportation’ begins the letter, written in Liberia in 1923 and addressed to the British chargé d’affaires. The writer is a representative of a trading house who has got into some kind of difficulty with the authorities.

What’s in a Name? Etymology and Names in American Indian Culture
03 January 2014

A quick Google can tell you a lot about yourself – or more specifically, your name. In my case it reveals that my first name is a Hebrew word meaning gracious (naturally), and my surname denotes that one of my ancestors was the son of someone named Philip (thrilling). While the etymology of our own names might be a slightly narcissistic preoccupation, names and naming systems can provide a fascinating insight into cultural history.

Go West, Young Man!
03 January 2014

Martin Prior Boss left home in 1867 aged 22. He left behind a comfortable, established life as a farmer on the east coast of America, to seek his fortune in the mines of Nevada and California. His letters home are part of a collection from the California Historical Society which is being added to our Global Commodities project this year. They’re adorably newsy and affectionate, and my personal favourite is the one he writes with the news that he’s just become engaged and has decided to stay permanently in the West.

The Myth of California
03 January 2014

California! What other state occupies such a mythical space in our imagination? Despite earthquakes that rumble and tech bubbles that burst, California still draws the restless and wild, just as it’s always done.

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