Cultural Studies

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.

How to commit marriage (and get away with it)
22 May 2017

The object I’ve chosen to highlight this week has been inspired by the fact that no less than five of the staff here at Adam Matthew towers are tying the knot this summer. And it’s clear from discussions during coffee breaks that whether it’s wishing we had our own J-Lo with her slick headset, or wondering what Wilson Phillips might actually charge, representations of weddings form a big part of our understanding of and expectations for the big day.Browsing through the entertainment memorabilia collection in our resource Popular Culture in Britain and America, I came across a press kit for the 1969 film How to Commit a Marriage. A fascinating primary source contemporary to a dynamic time in American cultural life, this item offers insight into Hollywood’s approach to marriage.

“Is it possible to build up one’s own discotheque?” Disco hits East Germany in 1972 with some love tagged on.
21 April 2017

In the imagination, the iron curtain between East and West during the Cold War era seems to be something impermeable. Especially in terms of cultural exchange and particularly in terms of popular culture. The mind may conjure up a picture of drab, dour and joyless scenes in the East versus a liberated and fun West. Not fair at all it seems - the documentaries and cinemagazines from Socialism on Film give a quick put down to this assumption. In this case the cultural export in question is disco music and the place is East Germany (the German Democratic Republic). It turns out we weren't so different after all.

‘See America First’: International Expositions, Nationalism, and Local Competition
18 April 2017

Enumerating the reasons why San Francisco rather than New Orleans should receive federal sanctioning for the 1915 exposition celebrating the completion of the Panama Canal, this illustrated pamphlet urged readers to acquaint themselves with the wonders of the Pacific Coast and to “See America First”. As the first global gatherings of mass audiences, expositions – or world’s fairs – assembled the world in a single site. Designed to showcase the host nation’s progress and achievements, world’s fairs also played an important nationalising function; a task of particular significance for a nation of relative youth like the United States.

Curiosities and Remedies
12 April 2017

Adam Matthew's collection 'Trade Catalogues and the American Home' contains hundreds of catalogues and leaflets related to home remedies, ‘quack’ cures, and items for at-home personal care. These documents provide a fascinating insight into domestic remedies before the days where most people had access to a certified doctor.

Lá Fhéile Pádraig Sona Daoibh! (Happy St Patrick’s Day!)
15 March 2017

Lá Fhéile Pádraig Sona Daoibh! Or for those not fluent in Gaelic (myself included), Happy St Patrick’s Day! Today is the day to honour Ireland’s patron saint; celebrated for converting the pagan Irish to Christianity in the 5th century. Traditionally, festivities include parades, special church services, wearing green clothing or a shamrock and celebrations of Irish music and culture. But, for some, the Irish national holiday has become too commercialised, associated more with drinking Guinness and generally having a good time.

The Tragedy of the 'Ocean Monarch'
03 March 2017

On Thursday 24 August 1848, the Ocean Monarch entered the open seas, leaving Liverpool for Boston, Massachusetts with almost 400 souls aboard. Six miles from the Welsh coast, perhaps 25 miles out of Liverpool, the wooden steam-powered barque caught fire. Attempts to control the conflagration quickly failed, and passengers panicked - some throwing themselves overboard clutching their children.

Fighting for the Right to Love
02 November 2016

This week sees the release in US cinemas of Jeff Nichols’ film Loving, a dramatization of the story of interracial couple Mildred and Richard Loving whose marriage lead to their arrest under anti-miscegenation laws in Virginia in 1958. With the help of the American Civil Liberties Union, they appealed against the conviction and the case went to the US Supreme Court in 1967 where, in a ground-breaking decision, the convictions were overturned and all remaining anti-miscegenation laws in US states were rendered unconstitutional.

Critiquing a Nation: Dickens' Quarrel with America
06 October 2016

America has been the focus of global news over the last few months due to the almost continuous coverage of the upcoming US Election. The election, while obviously a very hot topic in America, is also of interest to people around the world and, in time honoured fashion, ‘outsiders’ are also sharing their opinions and viewpoints. In 1842, it was my [cue shameless name drop] great-great-great Grandfather, English novelist Charles Dickens, who wrote a commentary on America during his first visit to the country.

Early Women Travellers and The East India Company: A Special Guest Blog by Amrita Sen
27 September 2016

In 1617 three unlikely travelers, Mariam Begum, Frances Steele (nee Webbe), and Mrs. Hudson, arrived at the busy port of Surat onboard an East India Company ship called the Anne. What made their journey so exceptional was that during the early years of its operation the Company expressly forbade women from traveling out to the East Indies, despite numerous pleas from its factors and sailors who did not wish to leave their wives behind.

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