African Hairstyles – The “Dreaded” Colonial Legacy

Black person looking at book shelf

│By Nonkoliso Andiswa Tshiki, Gale Ambassador at the University of Johannesburg, South Africa│

My primary school had very strict rules regulating how the African students’ hair should look when we were at school. Hair extensions, for instance, were prohibited. Students were only allowed to have natural hair hairstyles which were deemed neat, such as cornrows. We were particularly prohibited from having dreadlocks; disobeying this rule resulted in expulsion. I am aware that many other school authorities in the rural areas in South Africa forced students to cut their hair so short throughout their schooling career they were effectively bald.

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Unearthing and Decolonising the Rasta Voice

Rasta Voice

| By Robert Youngs do Patrocinio, Gale Ambassador at University College London|

This post will focus on raising awareness of the Rasta struggle to practise their religion, principally using Gale’s Archives Unbound collections, an extensive database of primary sources included in Gale Reference Complete that many university students such as myself can utilise when conducting all types of research. It currently comprises 382 collections (more are added each year), and includes a compelling collection titled: Rastafari Ephemeral Publications from the Written Rastafari Archives Project. The Rastafarianism movement can be traced back to its beginnings in 1930s Jamaica and its strong connections with the coronation of the Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie (1930) who remains a principal figure in the Rastafarian religion. As the political cartoon below illustrates, the Rasta faith is rooted in an ideology which believes that Africa is paramount to black individuals obtaining freedom and escaping their physical, spiritual, emotional and historical oppression and struggle against slavery. As a religious belief system, I think that it is important to become mindful of Rastafari traditions and invest time in accessing elements of this culture, due to the significance of its relationship to the black experience and post-slavery trauma.

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How to Survive in the Jungle of Academia? Top Tips for University Freshers

Student on university campus

│By Torsti Grönberg, Gale Ambassador at the University of Helsinki│

Starting your first week of university can undoubtedly feel daunting. When I think back to my first week at the University of Helsinki, I remember feeling overwhelmed by this strange new world I had thrown myself into. For many students, starting university means starting an entirely new chapter in their lives. Like me, you might not know anyone from your faculty, and you might be living in a completely unfamiliar city as well. University also requires an entirely different level of independence than your previous scholarly pursuits; there’s no one looking over your shoulder to make sure your work gets done on time – you and you alone are responsible for your studies. In this blog post I will detail a few tips and tricks I wish someone had told me at the beginning of my university studies and provide some general advice on how to make the most of university!

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PhDing in a Pandemic: The Impact of COVID-19 on Research and Teaching

Observations concerning the Plague

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

As an archival scholar trying to write a PhD thesis in a pandemic, COVID-19 has had a huge impact on my working life. The closure of archives, museums, and libraries during the lockdowns prevented me and many others from accessing essential primary resources needed for doctoral research. And without physical access to exciting objects, manuscripts, and printed items to help bring texts alive, inspiring undergraduate students whilst teaching them over Microsoft Teams became equally difficult. With COVID cases once again climbing, we are far from being free of the pandemic. But how can we try to minimise the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on higher education and research? And what will the long-term impacts of the pandemic be?

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Chatham House Online Archive and International Law

United Nations Security Council, New York

|By Dominic Powell, recent graduate in Law with French Law from the University of Birmingham|

Providing publications and archives from the Royal Institute of International Affairs, Chatham House Online Archive is a highly valuable resource for students of International Law. With over 6,000 publications on international law, comprising research, analysis, speeches and reports, the archive covers an extensive list of topics. Whether your interests lie in international relations, politics or human rights, or you are looking into more specific areas such as democracy, fascism or transportation, there are publications for you!

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From Archive to Master’s Thesis – Linguistic Analysis of Nineteenth-Century Theatre Reviews in The Times

A combination of The Theatre Royal, Covent Garden and a Pantomime illustration

│By Hanna Kiiskilä, MA graduate in English language from the University of Turku, Finland│

Choosing a research topic is difficult at any level of study. For me, finding the right database guided my topic and set the course for my entire Master’s thesis. At the beginning of the process of writing my master’s thesis in English Language, I had just epitexts (the surrounding information about a work that does not exist within the work itself but alongside it)1 in mind, but once I had read a few nineteenth-century theatre reviews from The Times Digital Archive, it became clear that they were a subject of study I could not pass up! In my thesis Evaluative Language in the Early Nineteenth-Century Theatre Reviews in The Times Newspaper (2020), I studied historical theatre reviews from the point of view of evaluation (their use of evaluative language) and the impact of contemporary politics. In this blog post I will detail the way I used The Times Digital Archive to collect a dataset that determined the topic of my study.

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Disentangling Fact from Opinion in Academic Articles

Magnifying glass over laptop keyboard

│By Rhiannon Green, Gale Ambassador at the University of Durham│

As a university student myself, I know first-hand how important it is to read critically when writing academic essays. One reason we must read critically is because academic articles are constructed from both fact and opinion, and it is necessary to differentiate between the two when using them in our own arguments. This is especially true for articles within the discipline of History which are frequently written with more than one agenda in mind; whilst they do seek to inform the reader on a particular historical topic, and include historical information to this end, it is often used in a way that presents and defends the author’s own opinion on that particular topic. Debates around women’s rights, for example, have seen academics use various arguments and angles over the years, and whilst there are undoubtedly “facts” which are relevant to the debate, historians have often used the facts to present their own angle or argument. In this blog post I will use the resources in Gale OneFile –  a component of Gale Reference Complete and home to a vast array of academic articles – to demonstrate the importance of disentangling fact and opinion in academia.

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Researching Infectious Diseases in Colonial India

|By Jagyoseni Mandal, Gale Ambassador at the University of Oxford|

I am a doctoral student in the department of the History of Medicine at the University of Oxford. My PhD topic focuses on infectious disease in colonial India. A major part of it looks at the scientific responses to, and public perception of, infectious disease during this time period, looking at the situation in both Britain and India. The Gale Primary Sources database acts as a major source corpus for my thesis. In this blog post, I will give an overview of how I use these primary sources, so that other researcher in my field – and beyond! – can understand how they may use Gale’s primary sources in their own research.

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The Mystics of Environmental History and Ethnobotonical Research

Gradina Botanica, Bucharest

By Ayanda Netshisaulu, Gale Ambassador at the University of Johannesburg|

Let me set the scene. Right at the beginning of my postgraduate career, starry eyed and interested in gender history, I was offered the opportunity to join a group of students from the University of Johannesburg and Western Sydney University for a two-week programme in the Kruger National Park in north-eastern South Africa. The programme mostly consisted of Zoology students who understood the importance of land gradients and wild animal feeding patterns. As a Humanities student I felt a bit out of place but I wasn’t particularly bothered considering I was enjoying the safari and learning about rhino’s territorial marking patterns!

It was during this trip, however, that I learned that historical narratives can be extracted from anything. We had been discussing land gradients – which to this day I don’t completely understand – when my History professor asked me: “gradients and the science aside, Ayanda what did you get from what was just said now?” What did I get? I was still trying to get my Humanities brain to catch up to the science of it all! How could I “get” anything? He then went on to explain how, for a historian, there is a story in everything. A historian would be asking themselves questions about past land use, about past peoples and about how they would have navigated this land. How did societies of the past know, for example, to burn the grass to allow for the fresh regrowth that would attract game? Whilst initially I had never felt so out of place, it was during this trip that I fell in love with the historical narratives of the environmental past.

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How The Gale Digital Scholar Lab Made Digital Humanities Less Daunting

visualisation produced using the Topic Proportion tool

│By Jagyoseni Mandal, Gale Ambassador at the University of Oxford│

The global pandemic that hit us last year and continues to affect numerous aspects of life has made research particularly difficult. I can say this from personal experience, as I have had to study for more than a term at my home in India, where I am stuck because of COVID, rather than studying at my university in Oxford. This situation risked affecting both my mental health and my studies; I felt I was running out of both time and resources for my research. But discovering the Gale Digital Scholar Lab has been a revelation, opening up a whole new area of potential research to me, and it is accessible entirely remotely. In this post I am going to share how the Gale Digital Scholar Lab made Digital Humanities accessible to me; how the various tools in helped me in my research and led me to discover more topics around my area of interest.

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