Cultural Studies

In the Heart of the Sea: stories of the whaling ship 'Essex'
06 January 2016

Ron Howard’s new blockbuster, In the Heart of the Sea, is the latest retelling of the ill-fated final voyage of the Essex. Two years ago I wrote a blog to coincide with a BBC adaptation of the story, in which I summarised the account of Thomas Nickerson, a teenage boy who partook in that harrowing journey. Howard has used Nickerson as the narrator of his film, and this prompted me to look again at the memoir, which can be found in China, America and the Pacific.

The Rector of Stiffkey: Life as a sideshow
16 December 2015

In 1960 the anthropologist Tom Harrisson returned from Borneo to Blackpool, where 23 years earlier he had directed survey work for Mass Observation. His stay was recorded in the MO book Britain Revisited, which took a shapshot of contemporary British life and compared it to what the ‘mass observers’ had seen and heard in 1937. Much in post-war Blackpool, Harrisson found, was as it had been, but the entertainments on the seafront had changed.

Walt and the world's fair: dreaming up a Disney delight
13 November 2015

Walt Disney Parks and Resorts are known the world over for exciting children and adults alike, providing a backdrop for new technology, unparalleled entertainment and constant innovation. Sounds familiar? Ever since the Great Exhibition in 1851, world’s fairs have inspired others, and in the twentieth century the marriage of Walt Disney’s mind to the splendor of the fairs was to prove a winning combination.

The Kill or the Cure: how trade and science changed perceptions of medicinal drugs
26 October 2015

Before the advances in science and trade networks during the nineteenth century, our ancestors, in their isolated communities, had to make sense of the natural world through trial and error. Popular Medicine in America, 1800-1900 documents how physicians used their traditional knowledge of plants and human anatomy to treat ailments, and how they gradually incorporated new ideas and techniques into their cures as science and increased global interaction expanded their understanding.

Fun, Sun and Summer Flings
07 September 2015

Summer in the northern hemisphere is drawing to a close and with it comes the end of peak holiday season. ‘Back to School’ advertisements and darker evenings remind us that the summer holiday is over, but it won’t be long until travel agents are persuading us to book next year’s dream getaway. To cheer myself up in the meantime I’ve been browsing holiday and tourism paraphernalia from the 1960s and dreaming of vacationing in a more glamourous age.

Rough dust gold in a purple bagg: Pirate treasure in colonial America
28 August 2015

Over the past couple of months I’ve been spending most of my time indexing documents for our forthcoming Colonial America resource, which consists of British Colonial Office files from The National Archives, Kew. This material covers all aspects of life in the Thirteen Colonies and beyond, from the everyday administrative grind of council meetings and petitions about land rights to the more evocative subjects (from the comfortable vantage point of twenty-first-century Britain) of battles with the French, parlays with Indians, and pirates – or ‘pyrates’, as most writers of the time rather pleasingly spelled it.

Escape from Spandau Prison
21 August 2015

Migration to New Worlds: A Century of Immigration reminds me of a photo-mosaic. The resource sweeps across several cultures, tens of decades and thousands of miles to explore the mass migration of peoples in the nineteenth and early twentieth century, but this rich narrative is actually comprised of a multitude of stories of the individuals, families and communities that decided to up sticks and ship themselves off to a whole new life.

Brawls, Duels and Marsupials. A Voyage to Tasmania
14 July 2015

On 12 March 1838, a young surgeon by the name of Dr John Hanchett joined the ship Henry at St Katherine Dock, bound for Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania). His journal survives in the archives of the Maritime Museum of Tasmania and paints a vivid account of the trials and tribulations encountered during four months at sea, the relations between crew and passengers and the leisure activities on board an early Victorian emigrant ship. What follows is a potted account of his trip.

World's Fairs: An International Obsession
23 June 2015

As my interest in World’s Fairs creeps ever closer to obsession, my expectations were sky high when, last month, I was lucky enough to attend EXPO 2015 in Milan, the current incarnation of the centuries-old tradition of World’s Fairs. In light of our forth-coming resource, World’s Fairs: A Global History of Expositions, I was fascinated to see how modern expos compared to the Crystal Palace exhibition of 1851, or the futuristic fair of New York in 1964, and experience something comparable to these phenomenally influential historical events.

Jurassic World's Fairs: When Dinosaurs Ruled the Expos
11 June 2015

There are several avid fans of the Jurassic Park film series here at Adam Matthew. Listening to colleagues’ tales of being young and watching the movie for the first time and the awe they felt at the sight of the dinosaurs brought to life reminded me of the fairs of not so long ago and the dinosaurs that captured imaginations even then.

A Right Royal Welcome: Liverpool Celebrates with Cunard's Three Queens
26 May 2015

Liverpool has a lot to be proud of. A vibrant city with a rich heritage, Liverpool has brought us The Beatles, world class football, and striking architecture such as the Liver Building and Metropolitan Cathedral. Liverpool’s docks also carry the city’s legacy as a world famous port. With over 50 ports built along 7 miles over the last 300 years, Liverpool became a hub for commercial shipping and a key location for those wishing to migrate to and from the UK.

“An invention without a future”? The re-opening of the Regent Street Cinema
07 May 2015

Regent Street Cinema, the venue for the first public screening of Louis and Auguste Lumière’s Cinématographe in Britain on the 20th February 1896, has re-opened this week after being restored to its former glory. The small, single-screen cinema, originally part of the Royal Polytechnic Institution at what is now the Regent Street campus of the University of Westminster, was closed to the public in 1980 and has since served as a lecture theatre for the university.

Milan 2015 and the Legacy of World's Fairs
13 April 2015

If ever there was a way to twist my arm and persuade me to visit romantic, historic Milan this summer, the prospect of a huge, international celebration of food is a pretty convincing one. Expo Milan 2015 is just such an event, but my primary interest is not in pizza (honest), but in Expo 2015’s place in the legacy of World’s Fairs.

I wonder which is father...
01 April 2015

The guidelines for creating the archetypal ‘advertisement’, be it on television or in written form, seemed to me to be relatively straightforward; ensure clear product placement, create an element of desirability and use clear, bold branding.

Britain's Banished Men
27 March 2015

BBC Two’s newest period drama Banished sheds light on the lives of the first penal colony established in Australia. The likes of Russell Tovey, Julian Rhind-Tutt, and MyAnna Buring portray the lives of convicts and soldiers trying to serve their time and get by in the wilds of New South Wales. Life seems incredibly brutal in this environment and one would imagine the real lives of the first convicts and soldiers would have been terribly difficult.

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