“That’s How an RBMK Reactor Explodes…Lies” – Understanding the Climax of HBO’s Mini-Series “Chernobyl” with Gale Primary Sources

A helicopter sprays a decontamination liquid nearby the Chernobyl reactor in 1986. (Chernobyl, Ukraine, 13 June 1986), Historical collections of the Chernobyl accident from the Ukrainian Society for Friendship and Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries (USFCRFC).

| By Harry Walker, Gale Ambassador at the University of Birmingham |

Being Harry Walker wasn’t easy in the Spring of 2019. Alongside sitting university exams, my blood pressure was raised hurling abuse at knights, dragons and zombies on a television screen. Was I playing World of War Craft? No, I was watching the final series of Game of Thrones. Whether you loved it or hated it, it cannot be denied that the medieval fantasy was all that anyone was talking about. Perhaps this is why the excellent HBO mini-series Chernobyl slipped under most people’s radar. Chernobyl is a wonderfully written, beautifully acted masterpiece which tells the story of the terrible nuclear accident which occurred at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in the USSR in 1986. Amongst other qualities, the show has been widely praised for its historical accuracy. In this blog post I will be using Gale Primary Sources to see whether the praise stands up to examination.

Read more“That’s How an RBMK Reactor Explodes…Lies” – Understanding the Climax of HBO’s Mini-Series “Chernobyl” with Gale Primary Sources

Was Oxford University Labour Club “Moving Towards Communism”? How Primary Sources Can Help You Track the History of Your Student Society

Banner reading 'Oxford University Labour Club, Forward to Socialism'

| By Grace Davis, Gale Ambassador at the University of Oxford |

The term “primary sources” gives me slightly traumatic flashbacks to my History GCSE when, as a baby academic, I had to explain how a picture can present a biased interpretation of the world. Now, a more grown-up (though not fully fledged) academic, the idea of “primary sources” is not as scary, but I often still find myself shying away from using them in my academic work. I’m happy to announce, however, that primary sources can be used for more than your university essays! Gale Primary Sources includes millions of pages of primary sources on almost every topic imaginable, including your hobbies and topics of interest beyond the lecture theatre. Once you start unearthing primary sources about things that fascinate you outside your degree, you may just develop greater confidence and familiarity with them and start feeling more comfortable incorporating them into university work too!

Read moreWas Oxford University Labour Club “Moving Towards Communism”? How Primary Sources Can Help You Track the History of Your Student Society

“What we may expect”: The Corrupting Power of Power

A Bloater (fish) from Yarmouth, drawing. "The Utilisation of Bribery." Punch, October 13, 1866, 150. Punch Historical Archive, 1841-1992

│By Ellen Grace Lesser, Gale Ambassador at the University of Exeter│

We have all heard the maxim, “Power corrupts”. This has been altered in recent years, and now you may hear an alternative: “Power brings out people’s true colours”. It is not that power necessarily makes anyone “bad”, but that if a person is already “bad”, this is highlighted when they gain power. Yet is it the power itself that does this to people, or is it the desire for power? In this post, I will investigate the coverage of political bribery scandals from sources in The Sunday Times Digital Archive and The Times Digital Archive to see where the corrupting power of power truly lies.

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The Acquisition of Gale Primary Sources at the University of Johannesburg Supports Efforts to Decolonise the Curriculum

Students studying in the library at the University of Johannesburg

| By the Gale Review team |

The global movement to ‘decolonise the curriculum’ focuses on creating a more accurate and holistic read of history – and our understanding of people and the world – by questioning the canonical primacy given to some perspectives over others. Access to primary sources can play a key role in this understanding. Librarians at the University of Johannesburg, South Africa, have turned to Gale for support. “In 2018 the University of Johannesburg adopted collections focused on slavery and gender,” explains Gale Field Sales Executive Dan Solomon. “Now they have deepened their commitment by purchasing a wide array of Gale archives.”

Read moreThe Acquisition of Gale Primary Sources at the University of Johannesburg Supports Efforts to Decolonise the Curriculum

Gangster’s Paradise: Exploring British Media Coverage of American Organised Crime

│by Matthew Trenholm, Gale Ambassador at the University of Exeter│

Everyone loves a villain. From Robin Hood to the Peaky Blinders, criminality has long captured the imagination of the British public, with the misdeeds of the real outlaws often swept under the rug. (For an engaging piece about the historical accuracy of the TV show Peaky Blinders, check out this blog post by my fellow Gale Ambassador, Emily Priest – it’s great!) American organised crime enjoyed a “golden era” in the 1920s after Prohibition was introduced in 1919. Bootlegging became a big industry in the US as the economy boomed and cultural norms changed. Contemporaries in Britain loved to hear stories of the criminals taking on the law, and this is reflected in the upsurge in coverage of such criminals in the British press.

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Remembering Rosa: When One Word Sparked a Civil Rights Movement

Rosa Parks on the bus, Reid, Tim. "America pays its respects to the mother of civil rights movement." Times, 26 Oct. 2005

| By Emily Priest, Gale Ambassador at the University of Portsmouth |

On December 1st, 64 years ago, one simple word sparked a civil rights movement we will never forget: “No”. So began one woman’s fight against oppression in America, and her name was Rosa Parks. A tired seamstress on her way home from work, Rosa unknowingly became “the mother of the civil rights movement” by refusing to give up her seat to a white man. Using Gale’s Historic Newspapers, and other digital archives, it is possible to travel back to this moment and, through the lens of primary sources, fully appreciate the bravery of her protest and the impact of the waves it sent out across America. On this important anniversary in human history, let’s take a moment to remember Rosa, celebrate her achievements and reflect on our past, in hope of a better future.

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A Rott-en Reputation: Opposing Viewpoints of the Rottweiler

Wilkins, Emma. "Shunned rottweiler regains affection." Times, 18 Mar. 1995, p. 6. The Times Digital Archive

│ By Evelyn Moran, Gale Ambassador at the National University of Ireland, Galway│

As a proud two-time Rottweiler (or Rottie) owner, I’ve always found it odd that many people seem to be frightened, or at least nervous, of this dog breed. Both of my dogs have been absolute softies, more likely to lick an intruder than scare them off! Everyone expects them to be angry and aggressive, but both mine have just wanted a piece of ham to gobble down, and maybe a nap on top of a warm human. So I decided to use Gale Primary Sources to do some digging, to learn more about how the breed has been represented in the press, and how this has impacted attitudes towards the Rottweiler which can (in my opinion) be as loveable as any other breed.

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A Woman’s Role? Why Feminism Is Still Very Much Necessary

Graphs showing gender differences in rates of employment

│ By Chloe Villalon, Gale Ambassador at the National University of Ireland Galway │

With a new decade just around the corner, can we say feminism is a thing of the past? Between the continuing gender pay gap, difficulty accessing senior positions and the continued abuse of women’s rights in many other areas, it seems that women still have things to fight for. Whilst it is obvious that women are treated differently from men, the questions I want to ask are: why is that? And what can be done about it? In this blog post I’m going to examine why feminism is still very much necessary, even as we enter the third decade of the twenty-first century.

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Cultural Appropriation or Swiftian Satire? Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado

“The Mikado.” Illustrated London News, 4 Apr. 1885

| by Masaki Morisawa, Senior Product Manager, Library Reference, Tokyo |

Last year, an American high school student’s twitter account flamed up when she posted prom pictures of herself wearing a cheongsam, or Chinese dress. Some Asian Americans accused her, who is not of Chinese descent, of cultural appropriation. “My culture is NOT your [expletive] prom dress,” wrote one particularly upset commenter. Others, including many Asians living in Asia, defended her actions and dismissed such criticism as irrelevant.

While “cultural appropriation” is a fairly recent term, similar debates have arisen in the past where the borrowing of “exotic” elements from foreign cultures have been criticised as offensive or disrespectful. One such example is Gilbert and Sullivan’s opera The Mikado, a work that is often hailed as the duo’s masterpiece, yet at times has stirred controversy due to its use of Japanese costume and settings. In this post I would like to take a look at the history of Mikado performances and the controversies surrounding them.

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Off with Her Head? The Initially Mixed Reaction to Queen’s Iconic Song ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’

Ewbank, Tim. "A first-class hit." Daily Mail, 4 Dec. 1975, p. 19. Daily Mail Historical Archive, 1896-2004

│ by Lily Deans, Gale Ambassador at the University of Birmingham │

Over the past year, the cinematic world has produced numerous biopics which share the stories of stars many of us have grown up with, love and admire. The most memorable one for me was the double BAFTA-winning Bohemian Rhapsody which portrayed the fantastic story of the most talented (in my opinion!) band of the past century: Queen. The film highlighted not only the unparalleled talent of this eclectic band but also the dedication and effort that went into producing the songs we all now know and love. Interestingly, however, one section of the film focused on the release of the now classic song Bohemian Rhapsody in October 1975 and highlighted the initially negative reception of the song (from some critics). This surprised me, as I have come to know Bohemian Rhapsody as a song that passes through generations with adoration and unyielding success. Thus, when I was introduced to Gale Primary Sources, I thought it would be interesting to research the critical reviews of Bohemian Rhapsody in Gale’s online archive, to see first-hand the opinions and negative comments that were made at the time of the song’s release – and to reflect on how questionable they are in retrospect!

Read moreOff with Her Head? The Initially Mixed Reaction to Queen’s Iconic Song ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’