Cultural Studies

Miracles and fairy tales: The “Great Leap Forward” in Chinese newsreels
14 March 2018

This year marks the 60th anniversary of the beginning of China’s Great Leap Forward in 1958. Under the auspices of Chairman Mao, the Chinese Communist Party laid out a programme which aimed to rapidly transform their agrarian economy into an industrial, collectivised, socialist state. Produced by the Central Newsreel and Documentary Film Studio of the People’s Republic of China, newsreel series China Today provides a unique, state-sponsored narrative of bumper crop yields, cultural exploits and factory construction in this period. However, if 1958 was an 'unusual and glorious fairy-tale', 1959 would signal the beginning of a nightmare.

Comrade Woman
08 March 2018

Today marks the annual celebration of International Women’s Day, a holiday first celebrated in 1909. Digitised in our Socialism on Film: The Cold War and International Propaganda resource, Comrade Woman captures the stirring spirit of 1975, the year named International Women’s Year by the United Nations. Produced by the Central Documentary Studios, Moscow, and directed by Zinaida Tusova, Comrade Woman presents an overview of the diverse and vital roles of women within Soviet society.

A Kodak Picture Speaks a Thousand Words
31 January 2018

Eastman Kodak were one of the most recognisable brands managed by the J. Walter Thompson advertising agency’s during the 40 years that JWT managed their account, from 1930-1972. JWT were responsible for making the Kodak brand a household name and behind some of Kodak’s most iconic advertising campaigns. The Kodak collections in Adam Matthew Digital’s forthcoming resource, J. Walter Thompson: Advertising America, give a unique insight into JWT’s advertising strategies and show why JWT were one of the most successful agencies of the 20th century.

Sun, Sea and Heritage Livestock
25 January 2018

Today, 26 January, is Australia Day, which is all the excuse I needed to spend some time on a grey Monday digging though the Australia material in our Leisure, Travel and Mass Culture resource. I was anticipating bright photographs and stylised posters of beaches, and while these were present there’s also some more unexpected content.

“Hollywood Is A Place Where They'll Pay You A Thousand Dollars For A Kiss And Fifty Cents For Your Soul” Marilyn Monroe
14 December 2017

Love her or loathe her, Marilyn Monroe was one of the most alluring starlets to ever grace the silver screen. Holding her audience captive with her giddy charm and flirtatious wiggle, she led a beautiful yet insecure and troubled life. Marilyn once said herself that it is ‘better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring’, and it seems the public haven’t grown tired of their love affair with Marilyn, even fifty-five years after her death.


'Color Uncle Frank Playful Grey Flannel’: The J. Walter Thompson Colouring Book
24 November 2017

In the long-gone days of 2015-16, adult colouring books suddenly became nothing less than a phenomenon. The Independent even reported that the craze had led to a 'global pencil shortage'. Imagine my surprise, then, when working on Adam Matthew Digital’s forthcoming J. Walter Thompson: Advertising America, I came across a colouring book for adults, released as long ago as 1974!

Pictures of Some Things You Want
04 October 2017

Trade Catalogues and the American Home is a fascinating resource which published in early 2017 that allows you to see the changes in American consumerism over the twentieth century. The collection highlights many aspects of American daily life from around 1850-1950. One such aspect: our (and I’m lumping us Brits in with the Americans, here) great love of Stuff.

16,306 Convicts
21 September 2017

Between 1788 and 1868, the British government transported more than 160,000 convicts to Australia. A popular punishment since the early seventeenth century, transportation was second in severity only to execution. Following the War of Independence, however, the defeated Crown could no longer banish undesirable elements of society to their American colonies. Conditions in overcrowded gaols and prison hulks began to deteriorate following the outbreak of war, and continued to slide until some bright spark suggested the establishment of a penal colony far, far removed from English shores.

The World Through Their Eyes; Medieval World Maps
25 August 2017

When tasked with finding a suitable name for a c13th English illuminated psalter containing, amongst other things, a beautiful miniature world map, the historians and prestigious manuscript experts of the last century settled on the disappointing sobriquet “The Psalter Map”. Despite its lacklustre nickname however, Ms 2861, which is held in the British Library and featured in Adam Matthew’s Medieval Travel Writing, is a rare example of medieval cartography.

Unusual Gifts By the Hundred
28 July 2017

If, like me, you find that celebratory occasions for family and friends tend to cluster together (birthdays, weddings, baby showers, hen parties, anniversaries), you may find yourself struggling to think of appropriate and thoughtful gifts year after year.

The Red Star Line in Antwerp, 1873-1934
13 July 2017

In search of a better life, almost two million people emigrated to the United States and Canada on Red Star Line vessels between 1873 and 1934. They came mainly from Germany and Eastern Europe, of which an estimated 25% were Jewish. Only 10% of the emigrants travelling via Antwerp were Belgian. In the 1870s and 1880s good rail connections ensured that many emigrants from Switzerland and western and southern Germany booked their passage from Antwerp, rather than from Bremen or Hamburg.

The Kinsmans: Love and Loss in Nineteenth-Century Macau
03 July 2017

The words that Nathaniel Kinsman hastily penned to his “dearly beloved Wife” aboard a fast boat that carried him against the current of the Pei-ho River, from Macao (Macau) to Canton (Guangzhou) in China, reveal how Americans experienced China in the nineteenth century. They are emblematic of stories that reveal the human side of the Old China Trade, and lie beneath the conventional narrative that regales in opium sales and opium wars, pirates and typhoons, and, of course, tea, porcelain and silk.

‘Fastest, highest, longest and safest’: The Coney Island Cyclone
30 June 2017

Ninety years ago this week, a rollercoaster called the Cyclone opened in Coney Island, on the Atlantic coast of the New York borough of Brooklyn. I am no particular rollercoaster fan – though not a tall man I’m always convinced I’ll be decapitated in the tunnels; in the merry photos taken at the end I’m the pale one hunched over – but when I found myself in Coney Island a few years ago I felt obliged, since the Cyclone is still there, to toddle along (fortified by a Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog) and have a go.

Wonder Women
22 June 2017

Wonder Woman has kicked down doors for female superheroes everywhere this summer with her Lasso of Truth, steely commitment to peace and wholly impractical wardrobe – raking in $600 million in the process. ... While working on Adam Matthew’s upcoming resource Medical Services and Warfare, I stumbled across a biographical collection charting the real-life women who dedicated their lives to the war effort.

Male Model, Nureyev Type: from Soviet Defector to Pop Culture Icon
15 June 2017

My dazzling career prospects as a ballet dancer were brought to an abrupt end at the age of five, when my family moved house and my lessons in the village hall were discontinued. Who knows what I could have achieved, had I stayed? Unfortunately, my insistence on doing the exact opposite of the teacher’s instructions would probably not have gone down well in the strict world of ballet. In my mildly non-conformist way, perhaps I was really empathising with the bad boy of Russian ballet in the 1960s – Rudolph Nureyev who, on this day in 1961, defected from the Soviet Union and caused an international sensation.

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