Cultural Studies

“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.

Poll taxes, intimidation and impossible tests: the experience of African American voters in the 1950s
16 September 2016

How many people are on the United States government payroll? If you don’t know the answer to this question, and particularly if you were an African American living in the 1950s, then chances are you would not have been allowed to vote. Last Friday, the 9th September, was the 59th anniversary of President Eisenhower’s Civil Rights Act. Although there were criticisms at the time as to its efficacy and even motives, it was significant in being the first civil rights legislation to be passed in 82 years.

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.

The Moon Always Shines on TV
12 July 2016

On this day, 47 years ago, the words “that’s one small step..." were broadcast live, and the world knew that man had landed on the moon. The Apollo 11 mission had finally given the US the upper hand in the Space Race, more than a decade after the Soviet Union declared its intention to launch a satellite.

An Eighteenth Century Hiddleswift
17 June 2016

Celebrity gossip: a sustainable source of cheap entertainment since time immemorial, and the proof is in our primary sources. Pandemonium ensued in the Adam Matthew office yesterday morning, all because Taylor Swift is now dating Tom Hiddleston. We’re not proud of it, but nevertheless we indulged in gossiping heatedly about this new development in Taylor Swift’s eventful love life.

Jesus Christ, this will be fun! Alexander Hamilton on stage
08 June 2016

How could you not love a musical which borrows equally from The Pirates of Penzance and Notorious B.I.G? Hamilton, if you haven’t heard yet, is a musical blending rap, jazz, blues and classic Broadway melodies to tell the story of an obscure Founding Father (‘Yo, who the eff is this?!’) and his attempts to get a radical debt plan passed by America’s fledgling government. Yeah, that old chestnut. I jest; Lin-Manuel Miranda’s occasionally swear-y, Pulitzer Prize-winning show has torn up the rulebook, and this weekend, stands to make history at the Tony Awards where it has earned a record-breaking haul of sixteen nominations.

Thomas Cook and Touring the Middle East
20 May 2016

This week sees the anniversary of the Sykes-Picot agreement. A secret agreement between the Triple Entente signed on the 16th May 1916, it would divide the Middle East and the surrounding areas that were currently controlled by the Ottoman Empire. The plan was exposed by the new Bolshevik government of Russia in 1917 and printed in the UK newspaper the Guardian the same year.

Pomp, circumstance and a crystal palace: The Great Exhibition of 1851
25 April 2016

165 years ago this weekend, the doors of the Crystal Palace were opened to the public for the first time. This architectural wonder of glass and steel housed an array of exotic artefacts from across the globe and would welcome over six million visitors during the Great Exhibition of 1851; Queen Victoria, an unlikely fan of heavy machinery, would visit three times and had her own private boudoir installed inside. For many, the exhibition represents the pomp and circumstance of the Victorian Age.

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