Using Gale Historical Newspapers to Explore the Representation of Coastal Wreckers

The Wreckers, 1791 by George Morland

|By Ellen Boucher, Gale Ambassador at the University of Bristol|

One of my History modules this year, Outlaws, focused on the robbers, bandits and smugglers on the outskirts of society. For my final presentation for the module, I chose to study maritime wreckers using Gale’s Historical Newspapers, to explore how Daphne du Maurier’s novel Jamaica Inn, published in 1936, fitted into a changing narrative surrounding wreckers. ‘Wreckers’ was the name for those who would strip grounded or wrecked ships of valuable contents. Originally, they have been portrayed as dangerous criminals, in marked difference to other pirates and thieves we studied during this module, whose history has often been romanticised. Instead, wreckers, who were typically opportunists who saw themselves as having a right to the bounty from ships, were portrayed as dangerous and murderous criminals who would purposefully lure ships to wreck. This is the type of wrecker Daphne du Maurier presents in her antagonist, Joss Merlyn, a cruel and violent criminal.

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Examining the Emergence of Gothic Literature in the Early Nineteenth Century

Gothic castle shrouded in mist

│By Holly Kybett Smith, Gale Ambassador at the University of Portsmouth│

The late eighteenth century was a turbulent time for those in power. Across Europe, monarchies were clinging to their authority by threads: the American Revolution saw British imperial rule challenged, and in France, Louis XVI was unseated from his throne, putting an end to the Ancien Régime. Simultaneously, as the French people rebelled against their absolute monarch at home, the Haitian Revolution saw self-liberated slaves free themselves from French colonial rule. Everything, everywhere, was in flux. With all of this in mind, it’s no surprise that the spirit of the era formed the crucible for the birth of the Gothic literary genre.

When discussing the Gothic in academic circles, we tend to ascribe the origins of the genre to one particular work: The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole, published in 1764. This is because Walpole himself described his tale as “Gothic” – the first noted use of this term to describe a piece of literature, as opposed to an architectural style. But one novel does not make a genre, and as the eighteenth century marched into the nineteenth, Gothic literature grew to encompass new components, stretching itself into the shape we recognise today. For more information on the Gothic as it evolved into contemporary horror, take a look at this blog post by my fellow Gale Ambassador, India Marriott.

In this blog post, meanwhile, I’m going to examine the emergence of early Gothic literature as it began to appear at the start of the nineteenth century – and explore how we can study this using Gale Primary Sources.

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An Overview of the Romantic Period using The Times Literary Supplement Historical Archive

Wanderer above the Sea of Fog (1817)

|By India Marriott, Gale Ambassador at the University of Nottingham|

The Romantic period describes an artistic, literary, musical and intellectual movement that emerged throughout Europe at the close of the eighteenth century and moving into the nineteenth century. The Romantic period came as a response to the preceding ‘Age of Enlightenment’, moving away from rational individualism towards a more ‘romantic’ view of the world. Furthermore, many critics have pinpointed the Romantic period as a direct result of the ideals of the French Revolution that emerged at this time, allowing for further revolt against the aristocratic social and political norms of the Enlightenment era.

Romanticism places significance on imagination, emotion, freedom, and individualisation, in addition to suspicion of science and industrialisation post-Enlightenment. Furthermore, Romanticism places an importance on the power of nature and the natural world, which resulted in the creation of the concept of the Sublime, which I will explore further within this article.

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How are Female Protagonists Presented in Erotic Literature?

Montage of images from this post of erotic literature

│By Grace Pashley, Gale Ambassador at the University of Birmingham│

Erotic literature and the representation of human sexuality has been around for thousands of years, whether that be the erotic lyric poems of Sappho of Lesbos or the highly commercialised Fifty Shades of Grey. Embracing one’s sexuality and authentically representing human experience has been and continues to be a contentious topic in the modern day. The Private Case from the British Library, one of the collections in Gale’s Sex and Sexuality, Sixteenth to Twentieth Century archive, brings to light erotic printed books which were previously deemed too deviant and morally corrupt to be available to the general public in the British Museum Library. Whilst The Private Case from the British Library is now a historical collection which is no longer updated, this historical archive provides readers with an insight into the realities of sexuality, desire and contemporary attitudes around sex at the time that these books were produced.

Despite the benefits of uncovering the perceived, or potentially true, realities of intimacy in a period when sexual desire was condemned and criminalised, we must remember that much of the erotic literature is written by men for men. The representation of women in erotic literature is often limited as women are objectified by the male gaze, and not able to voice their own thoughts about their sexual encounters. Whilst objectified, women are still represented as individuals who enjoy sexual encounters, but usually only in service of men, and have little to no agency in these sexual encounters. Yet, whilst it’s important to recognise the male gaze and its impact on how women and their sexual desire is portrayed, The Private Case from the British Library is able to provide researchers with an unabashedly revealing depiction of human sexuality.

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Keeping Your Love of Literature Alive While Studying at University

Image of young woman sat on the floor of a library, reading

│By Chloe Ann Hooper, Gale Ambassador at the University of Glasgow│

Although what inspired me to enrol in an English Literature degree course was my love of reading, throughout my undergraduate studies I found that, after spending hours a day making my way through reading lists, the last thing I wanted to do was pick up another book! Having since spoken to friends who studied the same course as me, I’ve found out that I wasn’t the only one who had felt this way – it actually seems to have been a fairly common experience. I didn’t realise that at the time, however, and thought that I was a fraud for passing the course while not acting like a stereotypical “reader”.

What took my friends and I a long time to realise is that reading a book to study it in class is a very different experience to reading a book for fun. Even after graduation, getting back to reading what you love can be a long and frustrating process which is why I decided to put this blog post together. Chances are that you’re not going to be reading a lot of action-packed mystery novels or YA romance/adventure books while at university, but after exploring Gale’s literature resources I found a few tools that students can use to stay inspired by and engaged with the written word.

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How Might a Creative Writing Student Use Gale Primary Sources When Working With the Horror Genre?

Creative writing header image

│By Holly Kybett Smith, Gale Ambassador at the University of Portsmouth│

If you’re currently studying Creative Writing at an undergraduate or Master’s level, you may find yourself wondering what resources are available – and relevant – to you. Every university library has its selection of critical texts on writing, and the internet puts dozens of author interviews and advice columns at your fingertips, so you may pass over primary source archives at first glance. My initial impression of these resources was that they were the domain of more ‘serious’ academics in the humanities; that I somehow wasn’t supposed to use them, even though I found them interesting. It was worth, however, revising my opinion and taking another, better look. In this article, I aim to share the ways in which a Creative Writing student might use Gale Primary Sources to their benefit. I am focusing on the Horror genre, as this is my area of interest, though much of this advice is applicable to students writing in other genres.

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From Grimm to Gothic and Everything In Between: The Evolution of the Horror Genre

Screenshot of newspaper review of the film 'Scream'

|By India Marriott, Gale Ambassador at the University of Nottingham|

From the dawn of time, humans have been sharing stories of horror. From fairy tales of children lost in the woods to supernatural tales of ghosts and ghouls, tales of horror are interwoven throughout human history. However, in terms of Western culture, tales of horror began to appear throughout the eighteenth century in the form of the Gothic novel, after which several shifts in culture have taken place which impacted the Horror genre, from Romantic ideals, featuring an intensity of human emotion, to Victorian strict morality and rationality, right through to modern slasher films and the numerous subgenres that currently exist within the Horror genre.

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How Ancient Egypt Was Presented in Nineteenth-Century Newspapers

Harrison, C. "The Festive Season in Ancient Egypt. A Little Marketing in the Nineveh New Road." Punch, 1 Jan. 1897. Punch Historical Archive, 1841-1992

│By Tamar Atkinson, Gale Ambassador at the University of Liverpool│

The nineteenth century is generally considered to be the period when Egyptology started to develop as an academic discipline, with key moments occurring during this century, such as Jean-François Champollion deciphering hieroglyphs in 1822 (200 years ago this year!). In correlation, we see a great increase in the popularity and depiction of Ancient Egypt in society as a whole, and what has come to be described as Egyptomania (a great enthusiasm for Egypt within popular cultural consciousness). Consequently, it is no surprise that we see this fascination with Ancient Egypt reflected in primary source documents from the time, as is evident in the visualisation below which charts the frequency of use of the term ‘Ancient Egypt’ in documents from Gale’s Nineteenth Century Collection Online.

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Dissecting the Value of Photographic Histories with the Picture Post Historical Archive

Montage created from sources in the Picture Post archive

│By Phoebe Sleeman, Gale Ambassador at Durham University│

Photographs are something we all now regularly take for granted. I have already taken a multitude of pictures today – some carefully crafted, others on the spur of the moment. What does this seemingly mundane and ordinary act of photographing bring to a study of history, and why should photographs be included within archives?

Photographs are not normative written sources which leads some to be sceptical of their historical value. Others assert that photographs contain less historical bias as they show the reality of what occurred in the past. Neither of these attitudes are helpful. Instead, using Gale’s Picture Post Historical Archive, an example of the intersection of photography, writing and the beginning of photojournalism, I will dissect the value of ‘Photographic Histories’ as an area of study and assess the usefulness of such an archive.

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Researching and Teaching Women Writers Using Eighteenth Century Collections Online

Women writers

│By Ben Wilkinson-Turnbull, Senior Gale Ambassador at the University of Oxford│

The eighteenth century saw an outpouring of writing by women in print. But accessing these important texts, whether it’s for teaching or research, can be difficult. Many survive as unique copies in the rare book collections of institutional libraries, or have not been reprinted since they were originally published. Those that have are often only available in expensive critical editions or affordable anthologies that do not capture the materiality or mise-en-page of the original text. But thanks to Gale’s Eighteenth Century Collections Online (ECCO), many of these texts are now available as digital facsimiles from the comfort of your own desk or classroom.

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