Area Studies

37 days after 37 years: Shapour Bakhtiar’s Iranian revolution
07 February 2017

The revolution which brought the Islamic republic to power in Iran 38 years ago this week was a singular event in the twentieth century, and is still considered something of an enigma by many scholars. Our resource 'Foreign Offices Files for the Middle East, 1971-1981' contains British diplomats’ detailed reports and opinions on the upheavals, among them despatches from early 1979 when, as in Russia in 1917, a short-lived, half-forgotten government tried and failed to establish power before being swept away by the regime that eventually, and famously, consolidated its hold.

The Power of Protest
27 January 2017

Last week millions of people across the world joined peaceful demonstrations protesting the inauguration of Donald Trump and marching in support of causes widely feared to be under threat in his new administration.

‘The captain-general of iniquity’: The impeachment of Warren Hastings
20 January 2017

One of the many good things about living in a place like Britain, where lots of documented stuff has been going on in a small space for a long time, is that wherever you go there’ll be some historical notable who’s been there before you. Last summer I was wandering around the Cotswolds and passed through Daylesford, for many years owned, I discovered using the power of the guidebook, by Warren Hastings, perhaps the most notorious figure in the East India Company at the height of its power and the penultimate man to be impeached before the British Parliament.

02 December 2016

With last week’s news of the death of Fidel Castro and Cuba’s nine days of mourning underway, I thought it would be fitting to explore Adam Matthew’s upcoming Socialism on Film resource to discover how the divisive leader and his legacy have been captured on film. I soon found my answer in the 1961 documentary Island Ablaze, a powerful propaganda film which tells the story of the Cuban revolution and explores its implications for Cuba’s future generations.

Gaston d’Orléans: Prince, Refugee and General
18 November 2016

The Paraguayan War generated significant interest in Europe, and the Foreign Office in London compiled much of the traffic it received into a printed file, for easy future reference. This volume, digitized as part of Adam Matthew Digital’s Confidential Print: Latin America 1833-1969, contains some fascinating insights into the Comte d’Eu’s role in the conflict – and indeed, British estimations of the Prince.

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.

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.

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.

Bathing Parades and Bicycles: The Life of a Missionary Family in Japan
07 April 2016

Whilst working on Church Missionary Society Periodicals, Module II: Medical Journals, Asian Missions and the Historical Record: 1816-1986, I have been constantly entertained and intrigued by the photographs which illustrate the periodicals. The articles surrounding an image can often offer an interesting insight into its production and its significance to the CMS mission.

Sweet Liberty: World’s Fairs’ love affair with the Liberty Bell
05 February 2016

The Liberty Bell, which has long been the symbol of American independence, is now a very familiar object to everyone in the office who’s been working on our upcoming World’s Fairs resource. Many of America’s expositions proudly hosted the bell on the fair site as a central attraction, with millions of visitors flocking to catch a glimpse of this famous national symbol.

Affair of the Spanish Ambassador’s Suitcase
11 January 2016

Published this week, Foreign Office Files for the Middle East, 1971-1981, is now available. Digitising full runs of Foreign Office files stored at The National Archives, this resource spans an extraordinary number of topics and events.

20 November 2015

Before the close of the Nuremberg trials in October 1946, the Mass Observation team sent out a number of directives asking the public’s opinion on the trials of the Nazi war criminals. The primary response was that they were a waste of time, a waste of tax payer’s money and the verdict a foregone conclusion. The thought process was that these men were guilty, and would be found so, and that the simplest, and cheapest option, would have been to shoot them on the spot (though some had some more brutal ideas).

Secrets, Spies and the Spectre of Scandal
30 October 2015

New details emerged last week of Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean, two civil servants who acted as Soviet spies from the 1930s up until their defection to Moscow in 1951. The reaction to their flight behind the Iron Curtain can be traced in documents from the National Archives in Adam Matthew’s Confidential Print: North America resource.

Eleanor Roosevelt's Universal Rights
04 June 2015

In the year that we celebrate the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the United Nations, and the UK government questions Britain’s part in the European Convention on Human Rights, it is a poignant time to reflect on the formation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Central to this was Eleanor Roosevelt who was already heavily involved in social justice and human rights by the time she became First Lady in the White House in 1933.

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