Area Studies

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.

China fights in Britain
22 January 2015

In the British popular memory of the Second World War, China is largely absent. Japan had invaded and annexed Chinese Manchuria eight years before Nazi Germany marched into Poland, so in one sense the war began on Chinese soil. But perhaps it is because of this that we forget about them – they only became our allies because their war with Japan happened, after 1941, to coincide with ours.

'With less competition, we win more medals': The politics of hosting the Commonwealth Games
25 July 2014

Alex Salmond has offered repeated public assurances in the months leading up to the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, which opened on Wednesday evening, that the sporting spectacle will not be turned into a political battlefield over Scotland’s continued membership of the United Kingdom, with the decisive referendum looming in just under eight weeks’ time. Correspondence from the 1970s, however, shows that British diplomats have long considered the act of hosting the Games in Britain to be inherently politicised, as organisers strive to maintain delicate balances within the Commonwealth.

The Diplomatic Fruit Salad: An International Incident
15 July 2014

This week's Object of the Week (and I feel a little like a character from Sesame Street now) was inspired by a fruit salad consumed earlier in the week and features a particularly juicy file available in the forthcoming Apartheid South Africa resource.

The Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand
27 June 2014

On 28th June 1914 Archduke Franz Ferdinand, an incident that stunned Europe and set in motion a series of events leading to the outbreak of World War I. Adam Matthew’s First World War resource contains documents, images and video footage that help to tell the story of the shooting and its aftermath.

The End of the World
28 February 2014

“Ch’iaot’ou is a market of about 100 families and gives the impression of being the end of the world, as it is near the limit of settled Chinese penetration in those parts, and beyond is nothing but t’ussu ti, the wild tribal territory of the Sawbwas.”

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!

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.

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.

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.
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.

Spanking, Social Control and Souvenirs
03 January 2014

Whilst delving into an intriguing batch of Chinese artwork for our project China America and the Pacific, I was arrested by the sight of a man’s bare buttocks. Said buttocks were receiving a thorough spanking via the medium of a bamboo paddle administered by a law enforcement officer who looked decidedly happy in his work.

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